by Dennis Dalman
When Carrie Karki of Sartell first held the baby that was to become hers, it’s as if the voice of God was whispering in her ear, “This is the one.”
That surge of happiness occurred this past April in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Carrie and her husband, Allan, had gone there to adopt an orphaned baby. It was a crucial step on their long, long “adoption journey.” After spending time with their new baby, whom they named Talia Lee, they had to leave the child in Ethiopia for several weeks until the U.S. Embassy gave final approval for Talia Lee to come to the United States. In May, after the agonizing wait, the Karkis returned to Ethiopia to pick up their new daughter. The Karkis now have four children, Talia Lee and their three biological children – Chandler, 16; Keegan, 13; and Avah, 8.
Carrie is still amazed by that first meeting with the baby.
“She was so tiny,” she recalled. “And she just knew we were there for her. I can’t explain it, but she just KNEW. And I knew she was just totally my daughter. There was no question about it. It’s like she was meant to be our daughter. There she was! The child I’d prayed for for so many years.”
Talia Lee is precious to Carrie for a number of meaningful reasons. When Carrie was a child, she always had a very deep-seated feeling that one day she would adopt a child – and probably one from another country. Her favorite Cabbage Patch dolls were dark-skinned ones.
Later, personal tragedy struck twice in Carrie’s family. When she was 13, her brother, Scott Dold, died in a motorcycle accident at age 17 the day before his senior prom. His death left two children in the Gene and Diane Dold family of St. Cloud – Carrie and another daughter, Katlyn, who was 6 months old when Scott died. Twenty years later, (about two and one-half years ago) another tragedy devastated the Dolds when Katlyn was killed in a car accident on an icy freeway near Sauk Centre.
“I was the only (Dold) child left,” Carrie said. “I had been the oldest and suddenly I was the only one. I decided after my sister’s death to go forward with adoption, which had been on my mind for so many years. I decided ‘This is the time.’ I decided not to wait anymore.”
Ten years ago, the Karkis checked into adoption, hoping to adopt a child from India, but they quickly learned the adoption process in India had become problematic and so they let their decision drift for some years.
“I suddenly felt that God kept nudging me to adopt,” she recalled.
Adoption, Carrie kept thinking, was a way to honor the memories of her deceased brother and sister, a way to celebrate life and to love a child in need. She gave the child the middle name of “Lee” because that was the middle name of both Carrie’s mother and of her sister, Katlyn.
Carrie has begun to think of Katlyn as an ever-present spirit and a kind of guardian angel for Talia Lee and others. Since Katlyn’s death, Carrie and her family members have noticed the eerie appearance of a butterfly at key moments in their lives. She cannot explain the coincidences of butterfly appearances, but she now thinks of her sister ever time a butterfly appears.
“Having to leave Talia Lee in Ethiopia for those weeks was so hard,” she said. “I cried a lot of tears, but I kept thinking my sister’s spirit was there, watching over her. That helped me through it.”
When Carrie decided to adopt so soon after her sister’s death, many people questioned her about the timing, thinking she should wait awhile. But, on the contrary, Carrie knew the time was absolutely right, as if Katlyn were there at her side, prompting her to go ahead. Some people also questioned Carrie about why she would want to adopt a baby from another country when there are many children in need in the United States. Some of them were either rude and/or outright judgmental in their attitudes. Because of that she ended a few relationships.
“Some just did not understand my wish to adopt a child of another race,” Carrie said. “I was surprised at how many people questioned us. When it comes to adoption, you have to do what you feel is right for you and your family. It was right to adopt Talia Lee.”
One reason for adopting a child from a third-world country, Carrie said, is so many of them do not have a chance of being adopted or for a life of even reasonable happiness. In some orphanages, they do not even have basics, such a baby formula, she noted.
Despite raised eyebrows and questions from others, Carrie and her husband received tremendous support from so many people, including a social worker who had adopted a child from Vietnam.
“We met so many wonderful people on our adoption journey,” she said. “They helped us keep the faith and helped get us through all of the paperwork, time and investments.”
The process took two years, much of it a journey of frustration and setbacks, but Carrie emphasizes how worth it the journey was.
“It was tough, but it’s worth it,” she said. “I’d do it all over again – oh! – 10 times over again.”
Talia Lee is now 8 months old. She says “mama” and “dada” and has begun to creep and crawl.
“She is so smiley, smiley,” Carrie said. “Having this child is such a blessing.”
“Blessing” is a word Carrie uses often, especially after the Karkis’ trip to Ethiopia.
“We were at an orphanage first, then at a transition house where Talia Lee was kept once we connected with her.
Carrie and Allan Karki spent a lot of time playing with the children. They had brought some bubble-blowing solution, jump ropes and soccer balls, which thrilled all the children, most of whom had nothing to play with and nowhere to play. One day, the Karkis rented a mini bus and took the children to an amusement park where they had the time of their young lives, riding on the rides and enjoying some treats.
During their second trip to Ethiopia, the Karkis were overwhelmed when children ran up to them with smiles and hugs.
“We are the ones who got the biggest gifts,” Carrie said. “We held babies who were HIV-positive, and we were opened up to a while other world. People there who had so little opened up and gave to us. They had a coffee ceremony for us and rice dishes. It was so humbling. It’s a time we will never forget.”
Carrie’s advice to prospective adoptive parents is “Don’t give up.”
She recommends parents do research into various agencies and with which countries those agencies have adoption policies. Because of nasty politics, some countries are now closed to adoption. And even countries that do have open adoption polices, the paperwork, time and expense can be frustrating, she added.
However, Carrie is quick to add:
“It’s tough, but it’s worth it. It’s YOU who will receive the blessing – in fact, the biggest blessing you can receive. So don’t give up. It will be well worth the struggles and the wait.”
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.