LIMA — A wide smile crossed Sammy Bowers’ round face when he realized the Lima City School bus had turned down the lane where the Baton Rouge Medical and Rehab Center is located. When the bus stopped, he made sure he was first off the bus.
For 13-year-old Sammy, this was not just about singing Christmas carols at the center — it would be the first time he saw his father since Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
A few moments later, a small smile spread across 83-year-old James Bowers’ face when he recognized Sammy and Lima City Council member Derry Glenn ushering approximately two dozen South Science Technology Magnet students and their teaching instructors, most donning red hats or reindeer antlers, into a hall.
“It was just a thrill to see them coming in and to see my two sons leading the pack,” Bowers said referring to his legally adopted son, Sammy, and Glenn, whom he said he loves like a son and they have gained each other through a “mutual adoption.” “I was tickled and very glad because I haven’t seen Sammy for a long while because of the weather.”
Sammy struggled to find the words to describe how he felt when he first saw his father and his wispy white hair and faded brown eyes.
“This has made me really happy because I knew my dad was here,” Sammy said. “I hope he liked it (their concert). It’s a great Christmas now.”
Sammy’s teacher Jill Graham, who teaches students with disabilities at South Science Technology Magnet, told Bowers, “You never missed anything Sammy has been in, and this year you had to miss the Christmas concert — so this is just a little thing we can do for you.”
Dressed in a black pullover shirt and khaki dress pants, Sammy stood next to his father during the singing of the carols, keeping rhythm with the music by rocking back and forth. Every once in a while he would look back down through his small round glasses at his father sitting in a wheelchair in front of 6-foot tree decked in Christmas lights and ornaments.
Bowers held his head in his left hand and wiped a tear from his left eye several times as the students sang the Christmas carols to only him.
Sammy’s adoptive mother also is ill and is not permitted to drive. He has an older brother, but he is not able to drive.
Bowers credits Sammy for him still being alive. On Aug. 1, Bowers collapsed in the driveway into his older son’s arms. Sammy remained calm and called 911 “so he could get help for his daddy,” Bowers related.
Bowers did not regain consciousness until Aug. 16. After a stay in the hospital, he was eventually moved to Baton Rouge Medical and Rehab Center. Still ill, he hopes he can return home soon.
Bowers also credits Sammy for his will to live now and for bringing life into his home.
Bowers knew Sammy’s biological mother and he eventually gained custody of Sammy when he was still an infant. At the age of 70, he and his wife then approached an attorney about adopting Sammy.
The cost of the adoption was $950. He collected all his change including collectible state quarters and presidential dollars and took them to the bank where he converted the change into bills and paid the attorney.
People told Bowers he was “crazy” for adopting an infant at the age of 70, but he said he would not listen.
“Right from the start, there was a bond between me and that boy,” Bowers said. “When I went into court to gain custody of him, the Children Service caseworker went in with me and the gal told the judge, ‘Your honor, this man loves this baby and this baby loves this man and he is well taken care of. There is a bond between these two that is unbelievable. I have not seen a bond as strong between a birth parent and their blood children as there is between this man and this baby.’ “
As Bowers watched the students eat cookies as a snack in the center’s hall, he remininsced about Sammy’s birth. He was born by caesarian section and his skin was blue when he was born. He had difficulty breathing so he was put on oxygen.
They would know if he would survive in the next 36 hours. By midnight, doctors could cut back the oxygen to 65 percent and by 9 a.m. they took him off of oxygen and he took his first breaths.
Later Sammy would tell his father about going to heaven as a baby and seeing Jesus Christ.
“He told me, ‘Jesus talked to me and said He wasn’t ready for me and that He was sending me back down to Earth because I needed you and you needed me,’ ” Bowers said. “I remember that and how hard Sammy fought to live and now I have the will to live — because he needs me and I need him.”