Pain, But No Regrets: A Father Remembers His Adopted Son Bill Jones is thought to have been the first single man to adopt a child in California, back in the 1960s. His son has since died, but despite the loss, Jones says he never regrets adopting his child.

Pain, But No Regrets: A Father Remembers His Adopted Son

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Friday is when we hear from StoryCorps, where people sit down with loved ones and talk about their lives and we get to listen. Stu Maddux brought his friend Bill Jones to StoryCorps in San Francisco. Jones is believed to be the first single man in California to successfully adopt a child. It was the late '60s and, of course, most kids went to two-parent homes. But the state was having trouble placing hundreds of children, especially older boys. So Jones, who was a single gay man and always had wanted to be a father, decided to apply.

BILL JONES: They were looking for somebody with family in the area, and I had family in the area. They were looking for somebody that had some contact with children, and I'd been a schoolteacher for six years. And so a wonderful social worker set me up with an interview. She looked up at the ceiling, and she said, you know, I think homosexuals would make very good parents. But if I was told that, the committee would be obligated not to make the placement. So I hope that if a homosexual ever wants to adopt, they don't tell me, so (laughter)...

STU MADDUX: Don't tell me you're gay, or this is not going to happen.

JONES: Right, yeah.

MADDUX: So what was Aaron like as a little kid?

JONES: He was darling, but he had been turned down by about five couples. His mother was a heroin addict. When she gave birth to him, he went through withdrawal himself. And by about 2 years old, he knew no words at all. So when I first saw him, I turned him down. You know, children know when they've been rejected. So I found myself down at FAO Schwarz (laughter). I bought a teddy bear. I went back to the adoption agency and I said, I want to give a present to that kid. Aaron heard my voice and came running across the room and threw his arms around my legs. And I just cried. And it was finalized on February 13, 1969. And so we always celebrated our adoption day on Valentine's Day.

His first word was daddy, which made me very happy. His first sentence was I love you. And then we found out that he had some neurological damage. You know, he was a paranoid schizophrenic. And I had so many doctors, but by the time he was 15, he told me he was on drugs. Every day was a struggle with him, except that he was a loving, sweet person. But when he was 30, the phone rang about 7 o'clock in the morning, and it was the coroner. He said, are you the father of Aaron Jones? And I said, yes. He bought $10 worth of very pure heroin and died between two abandoned buildings.

I don't know what I could have done. I tried everything. I don't know what I could have done.

MADDUX: You know, I've always wondered if you had any regrets about the adoption.

JONES: I still cry over the ending. But I don't - I would do it again. I loved him so much, and he loved me, too. And so I was lucky in so many ways.

INSKEEP: Bill Jones, believed to be the first single man in California to successfully adopt a child, remembering his son, Aaron. He spoke with his friend, Stu Maddux, at StoryCorps in San Francisco and their talk is archived at the Library of Congress. You can hear more about this story on the StoryCorps podcast on iTunes and at npr.org.

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