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The next day, while Jim was at work, Shelia Wheeler watched Frank. In her motherly way, she asked him what was going on. "Why didn't you want to come home with Jim?" she wondered. Frank was silent for a bit, then answered: "Once, when I got in trouble at school, [Michael] brought me home and made me drink a bottle of shampoo. I threw up four times." Suddenly it all made sense.
All through the winter, Frank saw a therapist specializing in attachment therapy. Just as at Edgewood, Jim sat with Frank and held him tight while Frank tried to spit at Jim or hurt himself, repeatedly telling Frank, "I am not going to leave you. I am not going to throw you away. You can't push me away, no matter how hard you try." Unlike when he was at Edgewood, Frank had reason to trust those words.
Then came another setback. The Andersons, who had adopted Frank's brother Stephen, had occasionally allowed Frank to visit him. That stopped as soon as the allegations against them surfaced earlier this year. Frank hasn't seen Stephen since and has no hopes of seeing him in the near future, nor any legal right to do so. "I really miss my brother," he says. "How come brothers don't have rights?" His brother occupies his mind a lot these days, and Frank dreams up elaborate plans to track him down sooner or later.
On July 17, just days before his 13th birthday, Francis Scott Coutts became Frank Albert Holland when the adoption was finalized. The small courtroom was packed with DFS social workers, therapists, friends and family, including Shelia Wheeler and Franks' brother Alex. As a celebration, Jim and Frank headed for Six Flags and rode roller coasters until the park closed. As Jim drove home, he could hardly believe that the begging, pleading, letter-writing and advocating was finally over. He looked over at the passenger seat: Frank was sound asleep.
Two weeks later, father and son rode Jim's motorcycle to Florida, partly to visit Tampa, where Frank was born. Frank got to see the ocean for the first time. He stuck his feet in the water "like a cat in a bathtub," says Jim. "The waves would drag me," Frank says, smiling. "I got a bunch of sand in my swimming trunks. Even that was fun."
Their shared experiences these days extend to bedtime readings of Harry Potter books, playing Nintendo and, much to Jim's chagrin, sports. "I am trying to teach him football," Frank says. "But I think he needs to get a book or something, because he still doesn't understand."
And Jim drives Frank to Little League baseball games. "I never thought I would be sitting at a Little League game surrounded by straight white people in South County," says Jim. "I think it has opened me up to experiences. Having Frank be a part of my life lets me appreciate not just Frank but everybody."
And Frank appreciates having a dad, one who says his name in his own unique way. "The first time I met Jim, he said, 'Fraaaank!' He really did. He said my name like he knew me. He still calls me that, except now sometimes he calls me Little Bear. I know Jim loves me even when I am bad, and I love him, too."
Jim lights up on hearing that: "It makes me furious when I think about all the people who said he was too broken. It makes me want to stand on rooftops and shout, 'You were dead wrong about Frank! He is living the life you said he could never have.'"
As for Frank, he doesn't think about life before Jim: "I just think about now."
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