Roberto Renfrew-Marquez, James Renfrew, and Melissa Marquez

Recorded July 17, 2021 Archived July 17, 2021 38:34 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby020891


Roberto Renfrew-Marques (36) shares a conversation with his parents, Melissa Marquez (61) and James "Jim" Renfrew (67), about the process of adopting him, the experience they had raising him, and the way they've grown into their life purpose as a family.

Subject Log / Time Code

MM and JR remember the day RRM was adopted.
JR reflects on the letter they received from RRM's birth mother, explaining she decided to give him up for adoption.
RRM reflects on a moment when he experienced a miracle. He asks his parents to share a miracle in their lives.
RRM asks MM about one of her most difficult memories.
The family reflects on the healing that RRM went through.
RRM says as he reflects on how landscaping has given him purpose in his life. His parents also reflect on what has giving their life meaning.
JR shares the way he’s grown through raising his son.


  • Roberto Renfrew-Marquez
  • James Renfrew
  • Melissa Marquez

Recording Location

Virtual Recording


StoryCorps uses Google Cloud Speech-to-Text and Natural Language API to provide machine-generated transcripts. Transcripts have not been checked for accuracy and may contain errors. Learn more about our FAQs through our Help Center or do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.

00:01 My name is Melissa Marquez and 61. Today is Saturday, July 17th, 2021. We are in Rochester, New York.

00:14 And the name of my conversation partner is Jim Renfrew and also Roberto renfrew-marquez and our relationship is Jim and I are Roberto's parents.

00:36 My name is James Renfrew or Jim?

00:39 I'm 67 years old today is July 17th, 2021 and we're in Rochester, New York today. My conversation partners are Melissa Marquez and our son Roberto renfrew-marquez.

00:59 And I think that's all.

01:03 James Roberto renfrew-marquez. I am 36 years old. Today's date Saturday, July 17th 2021. I'm in Rochester, New York. I'm here with my mom, Melissa, Marcus, and my dad Jim Renfrew and I am the Sun.

01:29 So,

01:31 My first question that I wanted to ask you, a Berto, is what are you proud of in your life?

01:40 I am proudest of my family. My whole family, mostly beginning with my parents, for taking me out of a very stressful life, and then meeting my wife and having four beautiful children.

02:06 Now in your answer you hinted that you were adopted by us. Yes. Can you tell us what you remember about being adopted?

02:20 Nothing too much before I was six, I think.

02:26 I remember my life.

02:30 Before meeting you guys, living at Green Chimneys in.

02:36 Brewster, New York.

02:40 And then, I mean, even that was still kind of

02:44 A little hard to remember, but I do remember all the fun times when you guys came to visit.

02:53 And then coming to your house. And then finally, being adopted.

02:59 And dad and mom, convincing me that the rental car that they had to drive by itself.

03:13 Melissa, what do you remember about Roberto's adoption?

03:18 I remember receiving a fax.

03:24 That had a picture of you and being told that you were the

03:32 Yeah. Child that we had been selected to potentially consider adopting and you were beautiful energetic. 7 year old boy.

03:48 What I remember most vividly is when I first saw you, when we arrange to go meet you at Green Chimneys in Brewster and you were walking through a hallway and all your clothes were too big for you. Yet. These big pants on, you had a red shirt on and you had this big winter jacket. Don't forget Swamp Thing.

04:18 I just remember when you came walking through that hallway. I thought my heart was going to burst the love that I instantly felt for you was unlike any experience of my whole life. How much my heart fell in love for you.

04:43 Do you remember Jeff? I remember the first words from Roberto's mouth were. Do you have a TV? And since we're able to say yes to that question. I guess we met the high standard required. What I remember most of all is I thought we would meet a sullen young man who would kind of glare at us. And, you know, just not be warm to us at all, but you were ready for a family.

05:13 That's what I remember. And when we began to take visits at our house, we lived a long way away from Brewster. You come up for different weekends and once for a week and you enjoyed having your own room, I remember that part.

05:33 That's the part. I remember.

05:37 Number two.

05:40 I'm going to go to, I'm going to go to this question. How has your life been different than what you'd imagined?

05:51 Now, he's going to ask first, I'm asking you, so my life is different than what I imagined because after a while of wondering and waiting to meet my parents, my birth parents. I finally got the chance at the age of 21 and

06:21 Seeing the life that they live compared to the life that I grew up with when I got adopted.

06:30 Was big difference. So I guess.

06:34 I probably would have imagined being.

06:39 In trouble a lot in and out of jail, maybe if I live with my birth family and then,

06:50 Now that I'm adopted and have been living with my loving adoption or adoptive family. I've actually done pretty good for my life, took me awhile. But I've done pretty good. I am a landscaper. I've been working for this company that I'm at now for two and a half years if you don't count to take it off. And

07:20 I don't think I would have settled down. I don't think I would have got married might have kids, but I don't think I would have gotten married and

07:30 I did being here. So.

07:33 Loving it. One thing. I remember that was unique, was that we actually had a letter.

07:43 From your birth mother.

07:48 Explaining why?

07:51 She had decided to place you in the adoption process. Do you remember that letter? I do, I don't remember what was on it. I mean, it was pretty down to the points. Melissa. Maybe you can help us. Remember how many children who are removed from birth families for adoption? It's through court process, but in her letter, she explained that she could come to that decision for herself that she wanted to give you a better chance and opportunities. That's what I recall from and Ice your dick, get a better chance. I think one of the things for me that really

08:35 Me when I first read about your history, and I want to feel that in for you a little bit just to make it clearer is. So when we first read about you it was this child was removed from the birth family's home at the age of three.

08:57 And the case worker Tim for my work the case worker and she told us the story about that you and your younger brother. One of her brothers and was like one and a half were found in a park in the middle of winter and that they the police actually knew your family because they experience the other issues and I brought you back and let your birthday dad slapped you in front of the police and the police took you from the home and you got put into a home with a foster family, like a lost her grandmother, and then you witness a very traumatic of that there.

09:43 And that traumatic event, which was something very horrible. And I don't think you were witness to the grandfather being shot and killed in front of the home. And they had to remove you from the home and that you then ended up going in to reach Amex, but you were acting out because not return here, birth family being taken from your birth family, not being returned. And that, by the time you were, when Jim met you, you had already been in the system for so long and so, and had not managed to get back to your birth family and to all that trauma.

10:41 Missing 11, Keith the fact of why I was taken and none of the others were. And when we found out, when we found out, when we talked to your birth family later, all those years. They confirm that. That was a true story.

11:08 So, the thing about you Roberto that I wanted to make sure to share is you despite all of that hardship, all of that true, all of the abandonment. You kept loving, or being open to being lucky and that has made in my mind.

11:36 All the difference in why you healed?

11:40 From all that, trauma over your lifetime because you are willing to love and be loved.

11:48 I don't think it would have been the same if I had stayed.

11:53 Yeah, right.

11:56 That's true.

11:58 Haggar.

12:01 So one of the questions I wanted to ask you Roberto is have you experienced any miracles?

12:09 I have and that was the day. I had my first child, it was on top of, you know, having a forever family, but bringing a kid into this world. Has.

12:23 Pretty big miracle.

12:28 Very expensive 12, but you know,

12:33 How about you? What about your miracles?

12:41 There were several one was, as we are leaving green chimneys, or your final trip, to our home. You're getting in the car. You've got your little dinosaur puppet. Timmy, you had for many years, did I name to me after as you're doing that. You're sort of settling into the back seat of the car, right? Behind us a window shatters.

13:17 Some boy is having a meltdown in the nurse's office, and I just remember thinking myself.

13:24 This is what Roberto is able to step away from.

13:29 And have a more peaceful life. Now. I want to be honest that we had some broken windows are all oh, yeah.

13:40 But every time I think that you were in a way trying to test whether the love was real.

13:50 So, you had a pattern for a while undermining, the relationship to see if we've still hold on to you and we did. I remember one day you ran away from home, went down the street and stood behind a tree and watch to see if we would come after you, it was.

14:13 It was not an easy thing for you to imagine that you could be in a in a forever family as we called it, because up until that time that has not been your experience. So that was it. That was a miracle that somehow despite of all the hurts and pains and difficult, memories and challenging Behavior. That's your we are today. And through you, we have a piece for fantastic grandchildren. Each of them, a miracle in their own way, back that you found love in your life and have gotten married. These are all miracles. These are the things that confirm to me.

14:55 That there's a plan for you of some kind or you did something, right?

15:05 So, those are the Miracles that I think of.

15:10 It's a funny thing because to me before I met you. I saw this picture of you and read this description of you. You are my mind. I was like, this is my catalog child. I'm getting a Home Depot. The love that I instantly felt.

15:38 Even though my baby was seven and I didn't know but I can still feel the welling up of the love that just slowed right through me and I mean, I was like no one is taking my child from me. That my child my baby boy, and I seven year old baby boy is coming home with me.

16:15 There isn't there some other Miracles, too? Because of the adoption, we were able to tap into a lot of helpful people outside of our home. There were various us counselors and psychologists staff people at schools who all work real hard to help us keep it together when times are difficult, even some people from Green Chimneys in effect. They were your family for a number of years. So that's part of the miracle to is, you know, I don't think any family can do it by themselves. Turn the people who have the skills and experience that you need and what work for us is that you trusted those people and, and it worked.

17:21 It's the question. I want to do number five.

17:26 Animals start with you. Mom. Can you tell me about one of your most difficult memories?

17:39 I think one.

17:43 The most difficult memories was as you were reaching the age of like 11 and you were getting bigger and stronger. And, you know, it was one of those times where you are having that, you know, the trauma, you know, what was happening in your body at 11. You were like, still being like a three year and see how they adopted children go through, with being all those cages, but that you didn't have a chance to be with us being locked, being realizing that you were getting to be stronger than I was and that I might not be able to help you calm down and I begin to feel afraid of you and that you could potentially harm me and hurt me but not on purpose, right?

18:43 Until I was so afraid. I think you remember this. I ran out of the house in my rope.

18:51 Somehow managed to grab the cheese and drove the car away from the house. And before I knew it, I was on 490. I was on the expressway and I was like, I left my eleven-year-old. I came back to the house.

19:16 Where did you go? And I felt so horrible that I did that because I was so scared but really it was scared that you could harm or hurt me and I knew you wouldn't mean to it's just that your aggression and rage like sometimes when you had that rage, you didn't remember what you were doing in those moments.

19:45 So that's one of the ones. I I remember what I remember about that is you we had learned a physical method to kind of help contain you when you were having a tough time and you were too strong for your mom to deal with that. I remember you saying I'm not

20:04 Going to do this anymore, count on you, to figure out how to contain yourself. And I believe you got a chipped tooth out of that I did.

20:17 I remember was 13 and you had a fascination with fire.

20:28 Also that you knew you figured out that you could punch a hole in the wall if you were angry enough. And so definitely is you were getting bigger and stronger. It was maybe a little more dangerous, but we were also very successful and getting you into a school that was able to work with you, so you could develop some strength strategies. And also, we got some outside help to actually come into our home so that we could get a break sometimes, 24-hour emergency program through Saint Joseph's. Villa would somebody would come to our house or get on the phone with us anytime of day and that's normally helpful. But as you got older, you develop more of the capacity to know what to do. You can step away, you can find a safe place. You can punch a pillow.

21:28 And all of those things make made a difference in someone who is bigger and stronger Michaels. Pretty big needs to be around. Someone who's bigger that could help. I think it was to help you tan all those emotions and feelings. And that maybe if you got into a rage moment, they could handle it. Let me ask you this Roberto occasionally, one of them gets angry or decides to be stubborn. How do you handle that?

22:22 I know this Rose. I should I do.

22:33 I've actually just recently, probably in the pandemic recently that I just try not to argue, right? And you don't want to things, I had to learn with you. I had to learn to zip my mouth. I think you know your you're

23:00 You want to make your point but kids just want to keep arguing and my eight-year-old, does it a lot? And he won't stop. And after a while, and I'm now telling my wife.

23:15 Not to do it because, you know, I don't like putting race on anything, but she's Italian and she loves to argue. And I look at her everyday and I'm like so between her and my eight-year-old. And now my three year old is seeing with a 8 year old is doing. I've just learned that. Yeah, as your point and just leave it at that and I work hard to learn to do that and it made I could do it because

24:00 You matter to me, right? I wanted to you to get better and better. He's been some moments where you really have surprised me Roberto where I thought I was talking to a wall. All those years.

24:16 I heard you say things to your kids that are similar to what I said to you.

24:23 That's pretty cool. There's even stuff that I quote from old music that I listen to old music that I listen to that. Everyone. My wife says stuff out. I'll throw those in there, but the most difficult is for me is

24:47 I mean.

24:51 Kind of feeling.

24:54 Helpless.

24:57 I mean that way back. Now I'm fine. But, you know, way back that was the most difficult in my memories was feeling hopeless and nobody was there. And what age are you thinking?

25:14 I mean, I wouldn't even I would say probably around 11 because you know at the age of 6 and 7 and 8 years. It's just all boggled. And at that age that's going to be all kind of.

25:29 Everywhere, but then like my own daughter, you know, realizing stuff. Now that she's 11, 12 years old on the same time. I think it's confusing. Confusing time with all the hormones that are starting and you are so, you know, we're like mixed up in ages and I'm what kind of eggs you were? You were my mentality to the asteroids.

26:00 I mean, I see and one of the things I do want to recognizes, you know, when we met you, you were living in a residential treatment facility, right? And you had experienced a lot there, a lot of really good. Hope like, hell, you were messing with this Ronaldo and stuff. But at the same time, you know, it was a hard place to be as a live cuz you were in a facility, right? Form with people with serious, mental health issues, but right loved it, right? And that, I had really witness that the animals at Brewster were used. They were handled it needed to be healed and that you were learning animals. Could be healed. The birds could be healed.

26:52 Children Place will be heal. So that way it's not just being healed. So the kids would be healed and find forever homes, but not only that, we would heal the animals and then set them free.

27:17 But then at the same time, later on because we had,

27:24 All those mental health arrest because of how much you were acting out and how much danger you are putting yourself in and going to the hospital many times.

27:36 Being kicked out of five different school, right? Because I have behavioral issues, then Gemini your dad and I had to make a decision to send you back to a residential treatment facility. And I was very, very worried that you might think that we were abandoning. You did it feel like we are abandoning you.

28:03 Maybe a little bit, but you know what? Where's my parents? Why did they do this to me? Right? But we wanted to get you into a facility. That's why we did that, so that you could get from there. You could get set up to be at the to go into St. Joseph Stella and I really do believe that. That place gave you the skills that you need it to.

28:52 Say goodbye to the bad boy, right? That's like half. What you said? You'd we have that ceremony only one. That's that that's actually another life-changing thing.

29:11 You know, being with my birthday, Emily, who none of them ever graduated or moved on with their lives to be with this family, and I actually did.

29:24 I think we're going to need to go to our last question quickly which is is there something you feel has given you purpose in your life. What is that thing? Landscaping?

29:42 It has it has a I've been doing it for quite some time now, you know, different companies but for quite some time.

29:52 It strikes me. That is so good for you because it's physical, right? There's a physical and do that. I think also.

30:08 Human growth and development, never ends, but you can go to a job and see what needs to be done. Do it and be done to go on to the next job. It's your able to see the possibilities and make it happen. I'm very good at my job.

30:29 It looks like we've been recording and we have 10 minutes.

30:34 So, what about you Mom?

30:37 Which question number 91 with the purpose in your life?

30:49 What's it called, bird? My love. You gave me purpose. There is no doubt. You know, I always wanted to be a mom.

31:06 From the time I was like.

31:09 Yeah, 10:11. Like I realized that I could that I could be that one day. One thing I could do is be a mom and I do remember, like the first time I ever learned that there were children, who?

31:28 Didn't have parents.

31:30 I remember thinking I want to adopt a child not knowing and I just was like when I'm older, I'm going to adopt a child and your dad and I even had that conversation when we were talking about getting married cuz I had, I asked him that I want to be an adoptive mom.

31:51 And would you be willing to adopt, 10 children?

32:03 Well, and you were like, six children.

32:08 There are two things that I remember one was we brought you to visit my parents in North Carolina and you walked in and you went right up to my mom and give her a hug and say, hi Grandma. That was pretty cool, you know, cuz these are strangers and and you just wanted to be in a family so much. My other recollection is your mom's family is much larger than mine. I remember, somebody asked, you, or your mother Melissa, one-time all these children which ones are yours and which ones are like stepchildren. And she just said, if you're a kid and you're in my house, you're on your grandchildren family's attitude about adoption is really important that you don't, you're part of the family. Doesn't matter how you got here, but you're here.

33:05 So I think that gives us all a sense of purpose, and we all look out for each other and sharing each other's lives. And even though your family, Melissa's, mostly in California, has a part of it.

33:31 There was one thing I really wanted to remember about at that. I think made it to me it, I've always been struck with, which is that when you were passed by Tim the caseworker that you, what kind of family you wanted to be adopted by? You picked that, you told them you wanted a Hispanic mother and a white father. And that's the opposite of your birth parents. Your birthday is Hispanic. Your birth. Mom is white.

34:10 And I remembered him telling us. We got lots of people who want to adopt Roberto, but we only got one family that met the characteristics and he was like shocked when he saw our home study and said, oh my gosh, exactly what we're. I wanted. And to me, we're going to when you were talking about the miracle or earlier. Now that I think about it adopted by one of those other 50 families.

34:54 Kind of wanted or motorcycles on and dad like you were kind of hoping we were riding. Sorry son the cutest picture in the blue book. I can see why a hundred people would want to, don't have it.

35:22 Anything else that you can think of that we haven't talked about?

35:29 No.

35:31 I really forgot your gym.

35:43 I think we talked a lot about how you have grown.

35:48 In your

35:50 In your wisdom, your experience, your maturity, but I also have grown.

35:59 My approach to has often been to try to fix things. If something is broken, find some glue or hammer and nails, and fix it.

36:13 And I've always thought the same thing about people. There's something broken. You just fix it. No duct tape glue. And I learned early on that. My, my best method for fixing things was to tell people how to organize their lives. You would call that a lecture. Yes, and I've learned I hope to do less of that and just be with people, nobody really changes by being lectured. I don't think and most people resist being fixed. So I think the secret to the life of our family is really

37:03 Just to be with one another be there. Yeah, I remember, I remember, he said to me, Melissa. If you can just remember to look in your son's, I look in his eyes with love, but that will make all the difference in the world that will help him to heal. So, anytime I was like, especially having to take the umbrellas really struggling. Here. I'm going to try to find a way to look in your eyes and radiate love you. And really Roberto.

37:50 What? I am most proud of is what a loving dad. You are a loving.

37:58 Husband. I love you, son. You give so much love and for what you experienced in your life to continue and build on a life of Love, is more than I could ever hope for in my life. And it's really what I'm the most.