STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Father's Day is this weekend, and today's StoryCorps conversation is between a father and son. Brian Miller was a single father when he adopted Johnathan Emerson almost ten years ago. Jonathan had been abused and had been moving from foster home to foster home. Here, Brian and Johnathan remember their early days as a family.
Mr. BRIAN MILLER: When I adopted you, they had said that you had something called Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, which I didn't understand except from soldiers that came back from a war that had what they used to call shell shock. So, yeah, I don't think you knew how scared I was the first six months.
Mr. JOHNATHAN EMERSON: I think I used to throw things - desks, pencils and pens, I believe.
Mr. MILLER: Yeah. It was probably the first year and you were at school. I used to tell the staff there: if he's not paying attention to you, if he's not doing what you ask, call me. And so one time they did call me and you went around after the calls and you ripped the phones out the wall.
Mr. EMERSON: I was very distraught, yes.
Mr. MILLER: And I thought, I said, I think he's worried that if I hear bad things I'm going to give him back. I don't know, was that true?
Mr. EMERSON: You know, it's kind of hard to explain, but yeah.
Mr. MILLER: Yeah. The first year or two, sometimes I'd have to take the television away for whatever reason. You look at me and you'd say, what till I tell the judge this. And I used to have to remind you, it's over, Johnathan, you're adopted. There's no more judges in your life. I think it didn't sink into you for a couple of years that, you know, the adoption was final.
But the moment that it hit me is when I was in church and you were in some little skit in the Sunday school. And you did something and the whole congregation started cracking up and then everybody looked at me. And I was sitting around going, yeah, that's my kid.
And I remember one day when I worried about you, just worried about, well, what if Johnathan got in a car accident, and I just started crying. And then I said, oh, that must be what parents feel and that's what I feel like.
When people tell me, oh, you know, what a wonderful thing you did, adopting a seven-year-old boy, I said, you don't understand. I didn't do this to save some little child. It's father and son but it's also, it's, you know, you are my best friend; there's no doubt about it. You know more about me than anybody else.
I'm glad we did this.
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INSKEEP: Brian Miller and his son Johnathan Emerson at StoryCorps at Atascadero, California. Their conversation and all the others in this project are archived at the Library of Congress. Subscribe to the Podcast at NPR.org.
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