Ed and Elaine started the adoption process through the agency and attorneys to ensure the number of documents and forms that had to be filed and translated were complete and submitted on time. There were also court hearings they would have to attend throughout the proceedings before they would find out whether they were approved or not. It was an exhausting and consuming process they endured. On February 6, 1959, they were officially handed the court decree permitting them to adopt me. A month later, my name formally changed from Joji to John.
———- MOVING FORWARD ———-
I stuttered from a young age. As if that did not make my life miserable enough, Elaine punished me for it. Whenever Ed was not home, she would have me stand in front of her and recite the meal prayer before every meal.
“B-b-b-bless us, oh Lo-Lo-Lord, and th-these, thy gifts…”
Every time I stuttered or mispronounced a word, she would slap me hard across the face. Her slaps were so forceful that they knocked me off balance, and I’d hit the ground. Then she would reach down, grab me by my arms while digging her nails deep into my flesh as she yanked me back up. “Stop crying. You’re doing this for attention! Repeat the prayer from the beginning again!” she’d snap at me.
This torment continued until I recited the entire prayer flawlessly. The rest of the children witnessed what was happening but were too afraid to look over in my direction. They remained quietly focused on eating.
Over time, I grew more frustrated. Occasionally, after reciting the prayer correctly, I was told to go to my room, forced to skip meals. There were countless days and nights I would repeat the prayer to myself. If I caught myself stuttering, I would slap myself hard across the face. None of it made any sense to me. This prayer, my speech impairment, and slaps across my face burned a hole in my soul. God knows, I eventually grew to hate that prayer.
———- MOVING FORWARD ———-
I visualized myself outside of my body, floating around the room while looking down at myself, lying on the bed. The same feelings I had as a child when I wished for death. The sounds around me were a constant beep from a machine, and voices sounding panicked. I recall looking at the heart monitor as it flatlined, making a steady high pitched beep. As I looked down at myself, I looked relaxed and at peace. Then a flash of light passed through me, and I was back inside of myself. That is when I heard a nurse telling the others that I won’t wake up. “Give it a little more time. Keep monitoring him.” The doctor told her. I remember looking over from my peripheral vision, trying to make some noise or motion, to let them know I was awake, but nobody could see or hear me. I was screaming inside that I do not want to die right now. Wake up! Wake up!