Glendon and Josh are alike in surprising ways. When light hits their faces from a certain angle, the resemblance is clear. Sometimes their voices are very similar. They discovered they both have the same odd method for eating the last broken chips out of a bag. And they both, despite difficult childhoods, have a way of holding on and hoping for better.
Glendon Frye, a 34-year-old captain in the Army stationed in Hawaii, is a married father of two. He spent more than half his life in the Army and, with his wife Allison, built the kind of loving, stable home that he never had as a child. His father left when he was little, his mother was unable to care for him and Glendon was sent from one relative to the next until, inspired by a sense of duty after 9/11, he joined the Army at age 18.
Last year he and Allison bought DNA kits from 23andMe, just to see if he could learn more about his heritage. Glendon’s results were confusing. He was a match to someone who could be either his uncle, grandchild or a half sibling. The detective work to find Josh would take months, but eventually, improbably, the two found each other.
Josh Deutsch, 16, was called Josh Frye on his birth certificate. He had been adopted at birth and never met his father, Glendon Frye Sr. His adoptive mother died and his adoptive father developed dementia, so Josh went from one home to another until he ended up in a group home for teens in Antioch, Calif., where he was wasting away during the school day and falling asleep to the sounds of gunshots at night. A cousin gave him a DNA test kit with the idea that maybe he could find a relative who wanted him.
Glendon — this guy out of the blue he didn’t even know — wanted him.
It wasn’t a simple thing, of course. Wanting custody and getting custody are two points on opposite ends of a long, twisty line. Once they confirmed they were half brothers with the same father, the two started communicating and building a relationship. Glendon traveled to California to meet Josh and saw how he was living at the group home.
“He didn’t think that I was gonna show up,” Glendon said.
“I didn’t expect it to be someone like him,” Josh said, and by that he meant many things: someone who looked like a brother but with dark hair. Someone who had his life together. Someone who kept promises.
There was never a time Glendon told his wife that he was thinking of asking his brother to live with them. She just knew. She was thinking it, too.
“It really weighed on him. He understood what it was like because he went through his dad leaving,” Allison said. “He wanted to be able to do something, but he just wasn’t sure to what extent that would look like for us.”
Allison, a teacher with her master’s degree in special education who moved around the world as an Army spouse, had kept their home together when Glendon was out of the country for long stretches and had worked as a teacher in a group home. Her approach to Josh was practical. “It was not, ‘Should we do it?’ but more like, ‘How should we do it?’’’ she said.
Their children, 6-year-old Olivia and 7-year-old William, were excited to hear someone was joining their family. They called him “uncle-brother” and told everyone at school to get ready for Josh. After eight months of bureaucracy and the Fryes’ fierce tenacity, Josh arrived on Oahu in August to a home where he was wanted.
“He’s just a kid who has been through stuff,” Allison said. “Just because he was in a group home doesn’t mean he’s a bad kid. He’s a good kid. He oversleeps or he eats the last whatever, but he’s not a kid trying to run away, he’s not stealing things, not punching walls.”
“Yeah, but I’ve seen all that,” Josh said.
Josh’s life is so different. He’s now a student at American Renaissance Academy in Kapolei where Allison is a teacher. His grades are all A’s and B’s, and he spends his Saturdays out on the ocean with Sea Scouts. Glendon sacrifices his TV football time to help chaperone the boating. For the first time in his life, Josh has his own bedroom and people who hold him to expectations.
“It’s not easy for him to have somebody caring about what he does,” Glendon said.
“He hasn’t really been parented before,” Allison said.
They tell him that he can go to college; that it is obtainable for him. They tell him a B-plus could be an A if he applied himself. They tell him if they’re transferred to another duty station, he’s coming with them. And Glendon, who is his big brother but also his foster father, checks his homework, makes sure he does his chores, gives him an allowance and keeps his promises.
“I never really had that from my parents,” Glendon said. “But I saw my friends’ parents do it, and I saw the parents on TV, so I guess that’s how I learned.”
Reach Lee Cataluna at 529-4315 or firstname.lastname@example.org.