For the Love of Jamie

Cheryl Moore expected a healthy baby to come off the plane from Korea. She got Jamie instead. And then she and her family made a surprising choice.

When they met, Jamie was at day care at Phoenix Memorial, and at 3 he was still in the infant/toddler room. Kids were crawling all over him, leaning on him to learn how to walk, Karen says. She was horrified. Now Jamie is in kindergarten in public school with a full-time aide paid for by the state. He comes to the Beasons' house several mornings and afternoons a week.

"He loves to watch me cook. He loves scrambled eggs and hamburgers and spaghetti," Karen says. And he loves his mom, she adds -- screams and cries when she leaves, although he's okay a little while later.

"Sometimes all it takes is turning on the TV, but I don't tell her that," Karen says, laughing.

Vivian Spiegelman
Jamie was in and out of the hospital (top photo) during his first months in the U.S. Above, part of his mom's collection of hospital bracelets.
courtesy of Cheryl Moore
Jamie was in and out of the hospital (top photo) during his first months in the U.S. Above, part of his mom's collection of hospital bracelets.

Karen's never met Dennis Moore, which bothers her. She knows the situation with Jamie has been hard on the kids. "They blame everything on him," she says. "Or maybe they blame Cheryl, that's the way to put it."

The kids know better than to say so. "Before? Anybody who was handicapped or anything, I was making fun of them. Then I learned that you can't, that you can't just do that," Jacob says.

Colleen, 15, and Jacob, 19, are best friends. They had always hung out, but after Jamie, they got even closer. Without being asked, Colleen brings her mother a box of Kleenex when Cheryl cries, telling Jamie's story, and the kids sit quietly on the other side of the living room, listening.

Before Jamie, Cheryl was all over their lives. They went to water parks and spent weekends in Laughlin and Disneyland. Colleen remembers a family trip to Hawaii.

Then Jamie arrived. "She was spending more time with James than she was with me and Colleen," Jacob says. "I was taking advantage. No one was paying attention."

He started getting drunk, doing crystal meth, going to parties. The kids went to school in Phoenix and stayed at their grandmother's house. Jacob fought a lot with his father. They don't speak -- even now that Jacob's out of rehab, back in high school and hoping to be a police officer someday.

"I talk to him sometimes," Colleen says. Very rarely, Cheryl adds.

"I don't see her very often, not as much as I'd like to. . . . She swears at me on the phone and tells me I'm not her father," Dennis says. He thinks it will take years to mend the relationship. And he almost never sees Jamie. That's because Dennis -- who works security at Maricopa County Medical Center -- gets Tuesdays and Wednesdays off, and Jamie's in school and therapy, he says.

"I don't want to interfere with his treatments. And it's really hard for me to see him, because I miss him so much still, and it's just hard to be away from him and it's hard when I do see him, it's just really hard on me. And I know it's really hard on him, too. It's just unbearable."

His relationship with Cheryl is certainly done for good. Having Jamie put a lot of pressure on them, he says. They started arguing all the time. And Cheryl didn't have any time for him, either.

"We just kind of drifted apart . . . and I got to where I was doing my own thing because she'd get home real late at night or she'd sleep at her mother's so she could take Jamie to therapy, so I'd find things to occupy myself."

Dennis says he got into acting. "This is what I did to occupy my time. Of course, Cheryl, she thought I was running around on her. It was hard on her, too. It's been really hard on her. I have to give her a lot of credit. Even though we don't see eye to eye and we can't really stand each other anymore, I give her a heck of a lot of credit. Jamie is just what she needs, because she won't give up. There's just a special bonding there between James and Cheryl, and it's really great. Unfortunately, it's something she has to deal with for the rest of her life."

The divorce was recently finalized. Dennis is now in a new relationship. And Cheryl sits on the living room floor and weeps.

"It's really hard for me," she says, "because I feel like I might have made some really bad choices in my life."

Cheryl Moore rises long before dawn each weekday morning, making it out of the house by 5:30. She drops Colleen at a friend's house so she can finish dressing and catch a ride to Wickenburg High School. Then Cheryl drives the 50 miles to Phoenix and leaves Jamie at her mom's or Karen Beason's, where he eats breakfast and boards the bus for public school.

Then she heads to work -- she manages a medical practice for a sole practitioner, an easier, if less rewarding, job than overseeing a staff of 45, like she did at Phoenix Memorial. She doesn't take a lunch break, and leaves work at 5:30 to fetch Jamie, then Colleen. They're home by 7:30.

"It's usually 9 or 9:30 before I sit down," Cheryl says. "People go, 'How do you do it?' Well, you just do it because you don't have any choice."

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