When Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876, I'm sure he had grand visions of his new invention profoundly changing the lives of people forever.
Count me and my wife as two of them.
For it was a phone call one day during the summer of 2010 as I was preparing to come to work at The Sentinel that forever changed my life for the better.
Photo submitted by BRIAN COX
Brian Cox and his wife, Cody, adopted their children, from left, Austin, Destiny and Justin, in March 2012.
On the other end of the line was a case worker from Mifflin County Children and Youth Services telling my wife Cody that there was a group of three siblings - a girl and two boys - who needed a foster home placement and wondered if we were interested. There are numerous medical reasons why it is very unlikely my wife and I could ever have a biological child, so this was our only avenue by which we could become parents.
As my wife relayed what she had just heard over the phone, she gave me that look to which no person with a soul can say no. So ready or not, in about one hour, I went from being a relatively carefree man with no children to a foster father of three.
Now many of you are probably thinking that I'm overly simplifying things and to an extent, you are right. My wife and I had spent seemingly countless weeks putting in the necessary prep work, meeting with case workers, having our home inspected and getting our background checks completed to become certified as foster parents long before that fateful call came.
But none of it ever seemed truly real until the moment my wife hung up and I realized that my life would never be the same.
The next morning as Cody went to work as a teacher (even though this was the middle of summer, she had signed on to teach summer school for some extra money), I was there at the house by myself with three kids - a 5-year-old girl named Destiny, a 2-year-old boy named Justin and an 8-month-old boy named Austin.
This wasn't learning to swim in the deep end of the pool, this was learning to swim in shark-infested open ocean.
Looking back on that day, I really had no clue what I was doing, which is really no surprise since I had never even babysat by myself, let alone been wholly responsible for three kids living in my home.
While most new parents get the ability to sort of "grow up" with their children, I was a first-day-on-the-job father of a 5-year-old and her two little brothers. I'm pretty sure I was so worried about everything else that I didn't eat anything until the kids were napping at about 1 o'clock in the afternoon, and only then did I hurriedly pour a bowl of cereal and chow it down quietly, hoping I wouldn't wake them up.
There was no practice for me on changing diapers. There was no instruction booklet on how to entertain the kids, how to dress them, what to feed them, what they are capable of, etc. But there was a funny thing that happened that day.
I managed to get through it.
That first day allowed me to realize that I could be a dad. And that is a feeling that is impossible to describe to folks who have never had kids.
My wife and I spent nearly two years as foster parents, all the while hoping to adopt those three bundles of joy. In a strange way, it was incredibly rewarding and yet at the same time it was hard not to hold just a small part of yourself back for fear that the kids would someday be given back to their birth parents - people who meant well for their kids, but just didn't possess the ability nor the means with which to care for them properly.
But in March 2012, that weight was finally lifted from our shoulders. At the Mifflin County Courthouse, the judge put pen to paper. In about 20 seconds he had signed the three adoption certificates and legally made those kids ours forever. It is still what I consider to be the best day of my life.
We started out thinking that we were saving these kids and giving them better lives. Now we know that those kids gave us more than we could ever give to them.
Today, the thought of adoption only ever happens when someone else brings it up. We're a family just like anybody else's.
Destiny is a Girl Scout who loves music (it's a rare day to not hear her singing some song she learned in music class). Justin loves baseball (and bats and throws left-handed which makes his sports-loving dad happy) and wants to play it every chance he gets (which also doesn't disappoint his father). Austin is one of the smartest 4-year-olds I've ever met (smart enough to get into trouble but not quite smart enough to get out of it ... yet) and will get a chance to play tee-ball with his big brother this spring.
Adopting these kids is the greatest thing I'll ever do. Having children teaches you the true meaning of unconditional love. And if it weren't for a simple telephone call one afternoon, my wife and I would have missed out on the lives of three of the most wonderfully sweet and loving kids the world has ever known.
How's that for a profound impact, Mr. Bell?
Sentinel city editor Brian Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.