Battle Scars

Robin the week she came to us…what’s not to love, right?!

Tonight while making dinner, the boys were swapping scar stories, as boys do. Steven showed off a rugged mark of a playground fall and Luke talked about a scrape from an old porch board.  Anthony nodded his head forward to show them
one in his hairline and said, “My birth dad told me one story about how it happened, but he lies all the time, so I’m not sure.”

Robin laughed and said, “That’s nothing…my arm was nearly ripped off by a broken window while saving a baby from some lions.”

Right.

It was a few years back when she first noticed the jagged scar wrapping nearly all the way around her left wrist.  Lines and creases mar an otherwise flawless skin, a remnant of a past she can’t remember and most of the time, she’s glad to forget.

We dug out the piles of old Child Welfare paperwork, documenting her ugly history before she landed on my door at six years old. We scoured the medical records, assuming such a vial scar would surely have required medical attention, but with no result.
There was nothing, no mention in a caseworker notes or recorded doctor visit indicating such an accident or even purposeful attack that would have left such a mark.  Nothing.

And so, I said, “Probably you were saving a baby from a burning building…” because what else could I say?

“Or lions,” she said, her young imagination began to work and her eyes widened in excitement.

And so it was set in the historical records of our family, that Robin was a hero in her younger years, capable of great deeds of sacrifice and the strength to fend off lions.

I wrote briefly HERE about a conversation I had with Robin a while back.  I was driving down the road and talking to Mya about how when she was little, she was afraid of the moon shining through her bedroom window.  We laughed about how silly it was and what a funny little kid she was, and since I’ve had her since she was a baby, there is much information to share.  Robin, sitting quietly beside me, said,

“I wish I knew if I was afraid of the moon.”

It’s true. We know nothing about Robin’s early childhood.  And likewise, we know little of any of our children’s lives before they became a part of ours. Only what they remember, and with histories like theirs, they mostly just block it all out.

We don’t know if they were skinny as a rail or plump as a penguin. We don’t know if they always had a dirty face, if they were a walking disaster…like I assume Billy was…or neat as a pin. We don’t know if they talked early or walked late. We don’t know anything about them at all, except that they needed someone and that someone wasn’t there.

And so sometimes, as when Robin fended off the lions…because that IS what happened, we mak e stuff up.  We get creative. We
invent a history with color, with flair, so when those dark visions cast an angry cloud over what should have been a sunny childhood, they have something to hold on to.  Because God knows, they need something to hold on to.

Revival–by Anthony

It’s about 11:30 at night and Anthony just knocked on my bedroom door to show me a poem he’d written.  This work will make more sense if you’ve read other things about or by Anthony.  See a list of links at the bottom of this page.  Here’s what he handed me…

My memories are broken…

My childhood was being ripped away from me

My father…he acted in anger and in violence

I was a child of broken dreams

I was a child of vulnerability

Knowing nothing of my parents crimes

Then I was saved.  I was revived.  I was fixed.

I have been reborn

I live a new life

I love my new life

I can’t live without my new family

I love my new house

I should, and I will, call it my home.

Other Stories About Anthony

 http://backwoodsmom.com/2012/05/another-mother/

http://backwoodsmom.com/2011/09/youve-come-a-long-way-baby/

http://backwoodsmom.com/2011/05/a-simple-truth/

http://backwoodsmom.com/2011/05/mommy/

http://backwoodsmom.com/2011/04/adoption-pending/

 

 

Another Mother

I’m sitting here at 11 p.m. the night before Mother’s Day.  Anthony, age 11, is here with me. He’s sleeping on the couch tonight so we’re talking. I asked him what he thinks about on Mother’s Day in regards to his birth family. As he spoke, I typed word for word (my kids are used to me multi-tasking)  This is what he had to say:

I think of my birth mom on Mother’s Day.  My birth mom had a really hard life. She not only had her kids taken away but she had one die.  And I know it’s her bad judgment but it’s still hard.

My birth mom, she probably misses us a lot. One thing I think she really did wrong is that she stayed with my birth dad. She had a chance to get us back by leaving him, but she didn’t go.  I don’t know why. I’ve actually wondered that a lot since I was taken. I’ve wondered how she feels about that decision. I mean, she picked one person instead of six kids.  I kind of have a hole in me, thinking my mom doesn’t even love me enough to keep me.

I know it’s her issue…but it’s my sadness.

My mom wears glasses, I think. She keeps her hair back and it’s not as soft as most peoples. I don’t remember what she looks like.  She likes horror movies, I know that. And she didn’t usually do much around us. She helped my dad cook and she watched movies. I didn’t really know her that much.  Other than sticking me to a t.v. and feeding me, she didn’t do much and I didn’t really know her any other ways.

I didn’t know my relatives. I never went on a vacation. I’d never been off of the Peninsula before. I didn’t pay attention much to where I was.  I didn’t care.  We moved a lot. I liked being around my sisters. Whenever I was actually really happy and having fun, I was with my sisters.

My dad wasn’t there when we were taken. They expected him to be there.  There were armed men outside. Not like military, but maybe policemen.  The one policeman that was closest to the door had his hand on his gun. That’s when I ran to my mom. The doorbell rung and my mom started screaming, “Don’t take them, don’t take them.”  That’s all I remember about that.  My older sister wasn’t there cause my dad was taking her to the hospital because of when he hurt her face. The thing that gets me is that I never wondered why she was gone. She was usually home.

I was in a guy’s car. I think he worked for the police but he didn’t have a police car. He had one of those magnet things like a police siren. One of those red flashing ones.  I messed with his handcuffs.

We had a one room house with a bathroom. That’s all. We slept on mattresses on sleeping bags all in the same room. I never had my own bed before until I came here. We used to have a bigger house but I don’t know why we left that one. I don’t even know where it was. We didn’t stay there very long. I was small then, maybe four. After that we moved into a house where the floor was rotting so you’d have to be careful where you stepped or you would fall through. Even when you couldn’t see the rot, my sister would fall right through the floor.  We had lots of land there, maybe half an acre.  After that we moved to Homer and we lived in that little one room house. It was fun there because I had an uncle there, and nothing was wrong with him except he got drunk a lot. I had an aunt there too. I don’t think there was anything wrong with her like everyone else.  She was good.

I wonder how my sisters feel on my birthday. Maybe they don’t know my birthday. I don’t know theirs.  I used to know every body’s birthday except my dads. We didn’t really celebrate. We were just happier on that day and treated that person really good. My dad gave extra licorice.

My dad was sometimes a nice guy. Sometimes you didn’t want to be around him at all. I’m going to talk about when he was being nice. He always promised to me that if I ate half my vegetables, I could have a piece of licorice.  But usually we ate on a cardboard box, so I just put the vegetables inside the cardboard box. He never found out.  He kept alternating jobs. The longest I think he ever held one of his jobs was maybe three months. He had a good job. He worked in a cubicle in business with some other guys, so I considered that good. He never came home with rash reports, he never came home angry from that job. It must have been good. I guess he was fired.

I never really got hit much by my dad at all. I don’t know why, but he usually took it all out on my sisters.  He once hit her for chopping onions wrong. That really annoyed me. He took my breath once when he hit me and my sister blew air into my mouth. I told you about that before.

Mom? Want to hear the poem I wrote for you for Mother’s Day? (gets out his Nook where he keeps notes he writes…)

Mothers day is a day to do all the work

While she lays back with a smirk

You give her cookies and make her cake

That way she doesn’t have to bake

She watches us work a part

While she eats her cinnamon pop tart

This day is for you mom,

 I love you with all my heart.

Blockbuster Babies

My daughter Destini wrote this for a class this year…I thought it was really good so I thought I’d share. Destini is eighteen years old and a senior in high school.

                In most cases, “you’re going to have a new sibling” is a surprising, exciting, interesting, unusual experience for a family. For me, this happens about once a year. My parents live as foster parents and have for as long as I can remember.  In my 18 short years, starting at the young age of 5, I have had more than 18 siblings. My house has always seemed a sort of “Blockbuster” of children.

We have ‘New Releases’. The fragile, the angry, the dramatic, the traumatized. We get the young, scared ones whose lives have been nothing short of a horror movie. The small children who have just been ripped from their families…hot off the presses. Straight from the studio, where their few years have been illustrated and documented in an up-close-and-personal tale titled ‘Abuse, Drugs, and Things You’ll Never Understand, So You Love Your Parents Anyway’.

Also in the category of ‘New Release’ reside the older teenagers. Ones who have spent their whole lives in a secret, dysfunctional world where they were probably raised knowing how to cook meth, but not how to spell their own names. These kids usually come shy, quiet, and keeping to themselves. They stay strong, and never cry, because that would warrant either punishment or a complete lack of attention where they come from. They will make you laugh, cry, and find yourself overwhelmed with the desire to hug them. Usually these ‘New Releases’ won’t stay long …they are over-nighters. They’ll often be bounced around from home to home or eventually go back to their families.

The first example that comes to my mind in this category was the beautiful, popular girl from my English class. She sat in front of me, and always had the cutest clothes…and cutest boyfriends. I was always jealous of her, I remember. Until, of course, my mom got the phone call that this particular girl was at the hospital waiting on a foster family. She and her little sister had gotten torn from their mother just hours before after the cops discovered their mother was a well-known methamphetamine dealer. The girl, it was discovered, was already well addicted to meth. She was brought to our house on a long, silent drive, and proceeded to curl up on the hard wood floor in front of the fire place without a word. She didn’t care to wipe off the usually perfect makeup that smeared her face. Her breathing was heavy and she shook as she lay there. Meth Withdrawals. After hours of this, she found her way into the living room where she curled up and fell asleep in a chair. We offered her blankets, food, and pajamas, but she declined with a silent shake of her head. The girl was gone when I got up for school the next morning.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, we get the ‘Old Releases’. They’re often older, with more pain in their eyes. These veterans of the system come as usually one or both of two things: angry or comedic. The angry ones often are beyond fixing. They’ve seen too much…you can see it in their faces. They cover up their pain by lashing out, because it remains the only thing that has ever worked. Sometimes it may seem the only thing that will get them attention. The comedic seem often overly rambunctious. Their jokes, bits, and anecdotes elevate to extrememely loud, so everyone will listen. But they have the same intentions as the angry. They use their comedy to cover up a past full of pain, and unthinkable horrors. Always friendly, always smiling, and always seeking attention. Regardless of how they cover it up, they’ve all gone through the same routine. 11 homes in six years… 15 in seven. The longest placement they’ve had did not surpass a month or two, before getting shuttled on to the next waiting family, who will reject them once more. We had an eight year old boy once who asked if he could stay for a long time… “like three months”.  The old releases, they’ve lived through the ringer.  Their life stories will make you cry by the time they recount the first five years of their lives. They don’t fly off the shelves nearly as fast as the new releases. No one wants the older versions.  Most just go from home to home until they get old enough to get cast out of the system on their own, because by the time they reach a certain age, why does it matter?

Last, there are the Classics, or lifers – either the lucky few who get adopted as babies, or the biological children who just have to watch from the sidelines. I’m a Classic, a biological, the only one who has mom’s nose and dad’s hair color. I watch the different stories from an outsider’s point of view, feeling guilty because I’ve always had parents who love me and I’ll never truly understand. I’m the babysitter, the big sister, and the tour guide. We’ve seen all the stories, from babies with AIDS, whose diapers we had to change wearing rubber gloves, to the little boy who came from a world of abuse and neglect yet still cried for his parents. Classics, we remain the mediators. We help decide who stays and who goes. We know all the stories, everyone’s background. We can immediately differentiate between new and old releases; between the angry and the comedic. We classics, we’ve mostly lived the good life. But we live here to help. We listen to the stories, and baby the ones who have grown out of getting babied, but just need the attention. Classics will stay around as comfort. Classics remain where you go when you need a feel-good moment, or a warm, simple evening. We always stay there.

My house remains the gateway. My house is the editing studio after immediate filming of a terrible story, or the last place an old release will land before their release in to society. We’ve seen all the stories, wiped innumerable tears, and taught the diagnosed unteachable. My parents are recognized as heroes in the foster-parenting world. They’ll rescue anybody, keep the most troubled children, and do their best to fix the unfixable. We live as a myriad of stories, backgrounds, and lost siblings. We are the Blockbuster of misplaced children.

Damn Her

 

A while back I had Billy into the local clinic for a sports physical.  The doctor scanned his chart, did some quick work with his stethoscope, and said, “How long has it been since he has seen the heart specialist?”

“A few years,” I said.  “They told me it was nothing to worry about.”

“You should take him again,” he advised.  “Just as a precaution.  I can hear it pretty strong.”

Billy has two separate heart murmurs.  No big deal, they say.  Lots of people have heart murmurs.

“It won’t affect him now, at 17, because he’s young.  But when he is thirty or forty, it’s going to slow him down,” the doctor warned.

See, there is a valve that doesn’t quite work right in the left side of his heart.  When the blood is supposed to pump down, into the body, a good portion of it goes in reverse and squirts back up into the top of his heart.  This lack of circulation makes him have to rise from a seating position a little more slowly than others…or he blacks out. He’s been known to fall down stairs…hit the floor as he rises from the couch…and face plant in the snow after a long car ride.

His hands and feet go dead when they get cold…turn completely white.  Like this page.  And they hurt.  Once when he was about twelve, while playing outside, he lost circulation to his head without knowing it.  When he came back into the house and stood near the woodstove, the blood came back with a rush…as near as we can tell…and for forty-five minutes…he screamed.  He clutched my arm and screamed, “Mom…help me…”  for forty-five long minutes.   An ambulance ride later the pain subsided.

Other than that the heart condition has not really been an issue. He’s always been cleared to play sports.  And he sometimes tires easily…but he pushes through it because that’s who he is.

The frustrating part is…all of this is caused by a birth mother who chose to drink alcohol and use methamphetamine drugs while she was pregnant.

Most of my children’s lives are forever affected by some form of substance abuse.  Their brains…damaged. Their bodies, ill-formed.  Their quality of life, their futures, their potential in this world, permanently changed because of a birth mother who made bad choices…who delegated these children’s paths, forever, out of her own selfishness… before they were even born.

It won’t affect him now…they say…and yet it does.  At three.  At seventeen. At thirty. Every single day.

We look at each other across the doctor’s office and our eyes meet.  Billy kind of smiles slightly and shakes his head.  I return the look, knowing that we are once again thinking the same thing about his “mom”…as we have many times before.

Something all of my adopted kids have thought at one time or another. When she calls drunk.  When she never calls at all.  When she lies.  When she makes excuses.  When she doesn’t come to see them.  When she disappears from their lives as if they never existed.  When she drank…or smoked…or shot up and destroyed their chances at “normal”…when she walked away.

Damn her, we’re thinking.  Damn her for breaking his heart.

Adoption Day

In February of this year our family grew by two when Steven and Luke came to live with us.  Tomorrow morning, the 19th of December, 2011, we welcome them into our family permanently in the Homer, Alaska courthouse.

These guys aren’t complicated kids. They don’t understand the size of the world and they don’t know much about the things in it.  They don’t know about city buses or traffic rules.  They don’t know there are theaters that play ten movies.  They don’t know about politics or government.  They don’t know about skyscrapers and gangs, borders or the color of skin.  They don’t know about much of anything outside their small world.  And they don’t care.

Because they know how to survive from what they can find on the beach.  They know which sea creature to pull from which rock and that they can eat this one raw, and this one not.    They know about fishing and working with their hands. They know about being tough.  They know about being hungry and they know what to do about it.  These guys know about starting a fire and they can walk outside in the dead of winter in shorts and not be cold.  They know how to make do.  They know how to make a family out of just the two of them and they know how to stick together.  They are survivors in every aspect…and in that way, they make all those worldly “smart” kids…look dumb.

They don’t know big words.  And they don’t make big sentences.

But “adoption”…they know that one. It means they are here for good.

The word “adopted”, to these two, is huge.  They love to say it.  They love to talk about it.  They love the way the word “adoption day” rolls from their tongues.

And they like the way that feels.  They like the way that sounds.  They like the way that…is.

“I will change your name.  You shall no longer be called…wounded…outcast…lonely or afraid. I will change your name.  Your new name shall be…confidence…joyfulness…Overcoming One…Faithfulness…Friend of God…One Who Seeks My Face.”  

 

The Root Of All…

This morning Anthony asked if any of his birth relatives had been approved for visits…like an uncle or cousin.  When I asked why, he said, “I’d kinda like to know my roots.”

Roots.

By definition the root is the foundation.  It is the beginning, the base.   It is the fundamental cause or essence of something…the source of derivation.  It is the giver of life.  My son wants to know where his life source comes from…makes sense to me.

Adoption … screwing up genealogy, one court room at a time…

We are an open to contact adoptive family, unlike some.  As long as the family members are appropriate, we are open.  Mya talks to her mom every couple of weeks.   I applaud her mother’s efforts, though they’ve been limited to phone and there has been no actual contact in seven years.  That effort is priceless in the mind of a child.  I once overheard Robin say to Mya, “At least your mom calls…I don’t even know where mine is.”  A phone call.  A card.  So simple.

It takes little to impress a child who is eager to accept and yearning for some small sign they are wanted.

Last year for a school project Billy had to create a family tree going back four generations.  This is always a touchy subject in my house, as I’m constantly irritated by school assignments that require a child to have information beyond their control.  Nothing like a graded paper to remind my kids of years they’d rather forget and people who they thought they left behind.  His teacher said he could certainly use his adoptive family…they are his family, after all.  But he surprised us by making the assignment even more difficult than it had to be…and he chose to research his birth family.

Looking for roots, I imagine.

With the help of Ancestry.com, we were able to trace his family tree.  We found relatives on both sides dating back as far as the eighteenth century, documenting who he is…his blood line.   It was exciting for him to see those names, even in print on a screen, because somehow it made it more real.

Perhaps, it made him feel more real.

My kids all come from giant families.  Anthony is one of nine children, seven surviving.  Billy and Robin have three other sisters that they know of, Mya has at least four half siblings and Steven and Luke have a family so large we rarely leave the house without passing a relative.  These families mean something to these kids.  They are their blood, their resemblance, and for some, their only good memories in a lifetime of horror.  Older siblings raise younger ones in families like theirs and there are connections there that are irreplaceable for some.

And now Anthony wants to walk that path.  Not birth parents, he says.  (which I would never allow and he has no desire for…) “Just some cousin who might be a nice guy.”  And so the search will be on.  We may not contact, depending on the relative, but the information must be out there.

And I feel that if a kid is old enough to know he has ‘roots’…for better or worse, he’s old enough to know what they are.

 

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!

 

Four years ago…don’t be fooled by that cherubic face!

Anthony got a citation at school today.  He walked in the door and without hesitation explained to me why it wasn’t his fault and the teacher was wrong. She always is. I’m surprised she still has a job with all the times she’s wrongly disciplined my son whilst he, an innocent angel of youth, patiently puts up with her shortcomings as a human being.

He’s so tolerant…he’s so accepting…he’s so Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

Yes, the Anthony we all know and love is brilliant, sweet, hilarious and charismatic. He is also diagnosed Reactive Attachment Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder as well as is a victim of child abuse and neglect to such an extent as most of us cannot imagine.  He has survived the kinds of things we read about in the paper…and wish we hadn’t read.

Children who are early childhood victims of abuse and neglect often develop a lack of trust in their surroundings. After all, they cry and nobody answers, or the answer is scary.  They need food, it’s not there.  They need nurture and none is offered.  They learn very early that their needs are not going to be met and so those links inside the brain that would normally connect need with satisfaction simply do not develop. And as they move into their toddler years and those needs continue to not be met, the connections may actually never develop.  By three years old, say the experts, it may be too late.  Even if they have wonderful families in their later childhood years and move into adulthood with healthy surroundings…they sometimes never regain those lost phases of basic trust development.  Their brains simply lack the capacity to trust, to connect, to love.

And trust, as most of us know, is pivotal in positive and healthy relationships.  Trust, especially subconscious trust, plays a role in every single aspect of our lives, whether we realize it or not.

So when Anthony came to me with a citation and tells me all the reasons it’s not his fault, I wasn’t the least bit surprised.  I was, however, surprised when the teacher told me the citation was for being argumentative and talking too much and that he’d not thrown a chair, knocked over a desk, threatened anyone or cussed.   Because not so long ago, the calls were a whole lot different. Not so long ago, we wondered if he’d ever be okay.

We wondered…if he was salvageable.

Four years ago he came to us with a chip on his shoulder and a view of the world consistent with trauma and neglect.  He was angry.  He was volatile.  He was damaged in every possible way and it showed in his every action.  He was, without a doubt, the most difficult and challenging child I’d ever had before or since.

And so the work began.

The first step in ‘fixing’ Anthony, if he was to be fixed, was to create a trusting relationship between him and someone else. Lucky me, I was the obvious choice.

Anthony went off to first grade just two months after his arrival and we began to see behaviors develop in the classroom that were nearly unmanageable.  He would crawl under tables and not come out. He screamed, yelled, cussed, argued, threw chairs and basically rebelled against all forms of authority.  Because remember, in his world, authority figures had destroyed his life.  Authority figures had failed him in every way imaginable and then removed him from his family, who though they abused him horribly, he loved them ferociously.

Authority figures had pretty much removed all sense of control over his own life…and so he sought control.  Over anything.  Over his environment and surroundings, if that was all he could manage.  Just something he could grasp on to and manipulate. Because if you can manipulate, you are not lost.  And Anthony, at times, must have felt completely lost.

And so when Anthony went to school…I went to school also.

I walked him to the classroom, helped him with his backpack, got him to his seat, pulled up my own tiny chair, and plopped myself down.  I rubbed his back, played with his hair, spoke soothingly in his ear as he settled in to work.  And for the first two hours of school, if I followed this routine, he would sometimes make it through the school day without a total meltdown.  Sometimes.

I would then return to school early, before the bell. Often, when I walked in, the secretary would just say, “The principal is down there with him…” and I’d nod my head and switch into intervention mode.  I’d enter the classroom and often find him curled in a corner, pulling his own hair or banging his head on the floor.  Anthony was barely able to function outside of my watchful eye.

This is a child who looked his principal right in the eye and, at seven years old, said, “It’s a free country and I don’t have to listen to you.”  And he probably had some statute ready to back up his claim.

And so first grade continued like this, with me at his side daily.  I volunteered in the school so I could be there, just in case.  Once the music teacher found me in the gym, decorating for a carnival.  He walked Anthony to me, one hand on each shoulder and simply said, “I can’t do it any more today.”  And then a teacher with undying patience, who loves my children, turned and walked from the room.  I took him home that day, half carrying him from the building as he screamed his hatred for me through the halls, in front of the office where the secretary was sweet enough to not look up, past strangers who entered the building and surely must have thought me a horrific mother, and out the door.  We went home and sat together, side by side, him pressed to my arm, and watched a movie together because sometimes discipline is not the answer.

Sometimes…he just needed my side.

After a while, as his attachment to me begin to develop into something somewhat healthy.  He began to behave normally as long as I was around.  But God forbid, I round the corner or leave the room.  I could literally stand on one side of the gym during P.E. and watch him begin to lose it… I’d walk towards him and as soon as he saw me coming, his behavior would change dramatically.  The closer I was, the more in control he became.

I was his safety net, said his therapist. I was his stronghold…his grasp on all that was good and okay in the world.  I was his salvation…the hand that reached into the tornado inside him and pulled him to safety.  Without me…and it could have been anyone who was simply ‘there’ for him…he feared he would spiral away into a realm in which he may never return. And he may have been right.

We moved into second grade and before the school year began, I’d made the decision to homeschool Anthony while the other kids went off to school.  It was a way for us to bond.  It was a chance for us to spend time together.  It was a way for me to not spend the next nine months in the school building, plastered to the boy.

And it worked.  For nine weeks we were together at home, studying.  I found, in those weeks, that my son was brilliant.  His thought processes were unfathomably deep.  He shared with me his history and began to relate the abuse from which he’d come…and survived.  He began to trust someone for the first time in his life…to truly feel like he could rely on another.

And then the good state of Alaska Office of Children’s Services informed us it was illegal to homeschool a foster child.  And so he went back to school.  And I stayed home. I just couldn’t be there every day anymore. I needed to devote some time to me. Some time to the other children.

Three weeks later Anthony saw his birth family for the first time in seven months and following that one hour visit on New Years Eve, 2008, he began a spiral that ended with him stabbing another child with a pencil, terrifying the other second grade students to the point that he was not allowed back into school without a “shadow” or personal attendant who’s goal was to keep him, and the other students, safe.

Thankfully, that plummet initiated a recommendation by his therapist that he no longer have contact with his birth parents.  That was the last time he saw them.  And he’s been on the mend ever since.

And so third and fourth grade passed with only a few serious incidences.  Only once did the principal have to chase him into the parking lot.  Only once did I find him curled in the coatrack hitting himself in the head.  And only once did the bus driver have to turn around and bring him back to the school, just five minutes into the route.

Progress, I say, is what you make of it.

Four years from his arrival into our lives at the age of six, we’ve reached a point with this child that he is a joy…nay, an absolute wonder, to be around.  He still lights up when I enter a room and requires continual hugs.  He still gets into trouble at school.  He still argues continually, and probably always will.  He sometimes, though rarely, loses his temper.  But he’s learned how to transfer that need to control others to his own actions and…to some extent…he’s learned to control himself.

And he did it not because of the therapists, myself, teachers and aids who tried everything we knew how to ‘fix’ him…but rather he did it in spite of our flailing efforts.  He did it, on his own.

Honestly…there was a time when I didn’t think that possible.  There was a time when his first grade teacher said to me, “Keri, I don’t know how you take him home at night,” and I wondered the same thing.  There were discussions as to whether we would adopt him or not.  There were times when we thought it wasn’t a matter of “if” he went to jail, but how soon it would be.

And now…the unimaginable has happened.  He got a citation at school…for talking out of turn.  He got a citation at school, for not making good use of his time and doing what he does best…arguing.  And though I should have been upset with him. I should have been angry that just two weeks into the school year he has already gotten a notice sent home… and I did give him a talking to…

All I could think was, “Damn….that’s AWESOME!”


The Unfixable

He was fifteen when he came to me.  And even on the first day I knew he couldn’t stay. I knew it wasn’t the right fit… he was broken beyond repair and a danger to the other children. I could see it in his eyes…he was ruined. I know that sounds callous…but it’s the reality. He was a throw away…lost in a system that seemed determined to destroy the child he’d once been.

What’s his story, I asked the caseworker who dropped him off.  His story, said the man, is he’s been abused by every adult he’s ever come into contact with.  There was no child left…just a shell of a victim.

So I took him into my home with seven other kids and gave him a bed, some good food and a short glimpse of what a family looks like.  He settled in, smiled a lot, and was friendly enough.  The girls put tiny ponytails in his long curly hair, the boys played video games with him side by side, he jumped on the trampoline, ate cookies like he’d never had one, and…that’s all I really remember.  Sometimes, after they leave…I block them out.  It’s the only way.

I remember his brown eyes. I remember his crooked smile.  And I remember the moment he broke my heart.

We stood on the porch side by side, him taller than me by several inches, a shadow of the man he would become.  A man with no model of what a man should be.  A man with no footsteps to follow.  He stood at my arm as the caseworker walked up the drive.  He clutched his brown paper sack, everything he owned in the world crammed inside.

The worker stepped onto the porch and the boy turned to me.  I looked at him and no words came.

“I know I can’t stay,” he said quietly.  “But I wanted to.”

The worker took the bag from the boy and he turned to give me a hug.  I wrapped my arms around the lanky boy who’d shared our home for just four days and I began to cry.

He held me. And he comforted me.

“It’s okay,” he said.  “I’ve done this a lot.”

And then he left me there, standing alone in my shame.

My Lost Boy

Written in February, 2007…

Edited in June, 2011, for confidentiality…

              As I step into the small room I am greeted with the smell of boy.  It’s a common smell to mothers.  Dirt and candy.  The boy’s room is like other eleven year olds; even if he’s not.  I plop his clean clothes down on his dresser top amidst the Hot Wheels and a radio controlled truck, and sit on the edge of his bed to say goodnight.  I bounce slightly on the soft mattress. He’s curled in the covers, legs tucked up to his chest, face to the wall.

              I see then that he is crying.  In his hand is a photo, curled and folded along the corners.  I know what it is.  We’ve been down this road before.

             “What’s up?” I ask, though I know.

            “Will I ever see my dad again?” he asks.

             The boy came to me in the back seat of a police car three years before.  His foster father had been arrested, as well as the one before that, and he needed a place to stay the night.  I’ll take him, I told the tired officer as I guided the scraggly boy with too long hair into my full house.  We had six kids inside already.  What was one more?  But only for the night, I said in vain, a few days at most.  The police officer made a call and assured me they would come for him within a week.  “Sure,” I said.  “I’ve heard that before.”

             He came to us with a few clothes, all too small and nothing else.  We were his tenth family and everything he owned could be scrunched inside a paper sack.  I look around the room now, piled high with toys, clothes, books he could barely read.  I was searching for a clue as to the right words.  This boy sought answers.  I had none.

             “You know why you can’t see him, right?”

“Kind of.  I know he was bad.  His friends were bad.”

“Do you remember?”

“Parts.”

“Tell me?”  I said.  I knew I was pushing it.  He’d never really disclosed to me.  We’d talked before, nothing concrete ever coming of it.  He’d been to councilors, therapists, for years, to no avail.  He wasn’t talking.

                “It’s like there’s a wall inside my brain,” he says, still staring at the picture.  “And sometimes the wall gets little holes in it and I can see through.  There are words on the other side that tell it all, but they’re all scrambled up and I can’t read them.  Sometimes the letters change around and I see things.  I see the divorce fight.  I see those people that did the bad stuff.  And then the holes close.”

                I cannot speak for a moment.  I’ve heard such adult insight from children like him before.  These kids who’ve seen too much, they know things, express things the rest of us cannot understand.  This boy is like that.  He’s a thinker.

So much forgotten.  Too much remembered.

                I’ve been told about the ‘divorce fight’ before.  It’s what he uses to refer to an incident where he watched his father put his mother’s head through a glass coffee table.  And the people who did the ‘bad stuff’, well, he’s not there yet.  Maybe in time.  Maybe its best he doesn’t remember.

 “Maybe you’re not supposed to see yet.  Maybe you’re not ready,” I reply to the back of his head.  I lay my hand against his shoulder and he doesn’t flinch like he used to.  There was a time when…well, there was a time.

That first day in my home the boy was eight years old.  Clear blue eyes and sandy hair.  Small for his age, a bit too skinny.  At bedtime he came to me, looking up for a moment as if he had something to say, but wasn’t quite sure I was okay to say it to.

                “I don’t like beds.”

                And so he slept in a chair.  A big, round, easy chair with soft cushions and a back that reclined.  He slept there for three weeks.  In his clothes.  He wouldn’t change, wouldn’t undress, wouldn’t do anything involving bedtime.

                When we finally moved him into a bedroom we found out about the windows.  No windows, not without curtains; no way.  That was the rule.  He said there were things looking in.  I assured him nobody could get up that high on the second floor, but reason is not a part of fear.  And it was a fear.  I could see in his eyes there was no bargaining with treats as we had to get him into the bed.  And so I put a curtain over the glass.  Not good enough.  The edges moved in the air current and that would never do.  Somebody could peak in through the gaps, he told me.  So I pressed the edges of the cloth against the wall and duct taped it closed.  No more window.

Problem not solved, only the symptom.

             “Do you think maybe when I’m eighteen I could see him?”  He brought me back to the present.

              “I don’t know.  It’s not about age,” I tried to explain.  “It’s about being ready.  Both of you.  He’s not ready for that conversation either.  I’m sure of it.”

                It’s always about the father.  A boy needs his father and though my husband is his new ‘daddy’, nothing will ever replace the rejection of that man who claimed to love him a long time ago.

                He doesn’t ask for his mother.  Maybe out of loyalty to me, I’m not sure.  But he didn’t really know her.  Never lived with her much.  He used to visit her when she showed up for the meetings the caseworker arranged every week.  She sometimes didn’t come.  That’s often the way of it with these parents.

The boy was nervous at first, to see a mother he didn’t know.  He hadn’t seen her in more than a year.  But she popped back into his life at will and for reasons I’ll never understand, it was allowed.  She stuck around for a couple of months, enough visits to get his hopes up.  Then one day at the end of the hour she told him she was moving away, to Kansas, and would never see him again.  No hugs, no tears, just simple fact.  He didn’t cry that night.  He just stuck a little closer by my side until bed.  Then he slept in the chair again for a while.  I heard him tell his little sister their mother had flown far, far away in a tornado, like Dorothy, and was never coming back.  It was a better truth than the reality.

                I could hear the boy breathe now as he tried to control himself, but I knew he couldn’t.  It was one of the side effects to being born addicted to drugs.  From birth he was limited, and from then on society continued to batter him with more challenges as if someone were saying, ‘how much can this kid take before he breaks.’

                He’s not broken yet.  Only wounded.  But he is a survivor.  He’ll overcome.

                I know he needs space, but not too much.  He wants me there.  He battles his demons and I wait.  I look around the little room and I see remnants of that child who slept in the chair.  A bookshelf leans against one wall, not stuffed and scattered but organized and categorized by height, color and meaning.  His closet nearby holds neatly hung shirts, spaced just so, and shoes lined along the wall.  The carpet is clean, his desk top symmetrical.  The only pile is the heap of dirty clothes from when he plays outside.  They say he’s making order of an otherwise chaotic life when he organizes his things with such vigor.

I believe it.  I’ve seen his file.

                We were his tenth home.  He’d started his tour of the foster system at the age of two.  His baby sister was twenty-one days old when they were taken the first time.  Welcome to the world.  From there they were bounced around from place to place.  Two weeks here, two months there.  Then finally separated.

                On his third day in my home the boy said to me, “Can I live here a long time?  Like three months?”

                “Well three months isn’t very long,” I said, not realizing his history.

                He narrowed his brows in thought.

                “How bout till I’m thirteen,” he said, thinking he’d come up with a bargain, something we could both live with.

                No concept of family, I realized.  The term forever had no meaning to this boy.  I made a phone call to see about his plan for permanency.  There wasn’t one.  I’ll keep him, I said, and his little sister too, with the same knowing blue eyes.

And they didn’t argue because nobody else wanted them.

            A cat leaps onto the bed, fat and shiny black.  He’s called Fraidy.  The boy named him.  They came within weeks of each other, the cat and boy.  The boy arrived on the porch, the cat underneath, both abandoned, wild and afraid.  The cat, frail from neglect and too young to be away from his mother, hissed and roared at us.  Much like the boy.  Fraidy would come to nobody.  But he came to the boy.  Walked right up to him and rubbed his leg.  He must have seen himself, his history, his pain.  Each night at bedtime the boy wanders the house.  Come here Fraidy, he says, as he searches until he finds the fat black cat.  The cat comes to him, like a dog does.  The boy doesn’t pick him up, he doesn’t have to.  Just turns and walks to his room.  Fraidy follows and together they sleep, cuddled and warm.

                “Why didn’t they just do it?”  He asks now, turning from the wall to cuddle the cat.  I wait, unsure of the question.

                “If I ever had kids and they said stop doing drugs and I can have them back, I’d just do it.”

                “You’re a stronger person,” I say, and know it’s true.  “Some people weren’t made to be parents.  Some were.  You’ll be an amazing father someday ‘cause you know what it’s like to be you.”

                “But they just didn’t care what I was doing.  They didn’t be parents.”

                “Your mom and dad aren’t bad people, just weak people.” I cross my fingers behind my back.  “The drugs got hold of them and wouldn’t let go.”

                “I’m never going to do a drug,” he says.

                “No,” I tell him.  “You’ll never do drugs.  You know what it can do.”  And I pray I’m not lying.  Statistically, he will.  Some day he’ll forget how he feels now.  He’ll wash it all away with whatever he can get his hands on.  I hope I’m wrong.

                “Did you do your reading tonight?” I ask, thinking it’s time to change the subject.  To calm him down so he can sleep.  There’s school in the morning and I know how much he needs sleep to function.  It’s another one of his ‘issues’.

                “Yeah.”

                “What did you read?  Something new?”

                “Fudgemania.”  He loves that book.  It’s far below his sixth grade level, but then, so are his abilities.  At the last conference his teacher tells me he’s still pretty far behind.

Three years ago he couldn’t read at all, I remind her, let’s keep it in perspective.

             I took the boy to see a specialist a while back, to assess his future.  It’s bleak, I was told.  Drugs and alcohol affect his ability to learn, to reason, to make good decisions.  There’s too much damage.  He’ll never go to college, says the man.  He’ll likely not make it through high school.

                Just wait, I tell the well-meaning doctor, you’ll see.  The boy couldn’t read, so I taught him.  He’s impulsive, so I guide him.  He gets scared, so I hold him.

He is not a lost cause.  He is my cause.

            I start to leave and hope he falls asleep before he has a chance to think more about what made him cry in the first place.  It’s that thinking time that gets to him.

             “Think of good things,” I remind him as I often do when I tuck him in to bed.  “Look at the quads and imagine you’re riding them.”  I point to the wallpaper border that circles half way up his wall with prints of ATV’s and mud.  He’s grown a lot.  Not much left of the child who first came.  But they’ll always be there, those scars.  Damage brought about by birth parents that didn’t deserve him.

             As I rise to leave the room the boy speaks again.

“How long have I been here?” he asks.

“Three years,” I paused in the doorway.  “You were with us three years on August twelfth.”

“It seems like longer,” he says.

“It does,” I agree as I turned out his light.

“I’ll see you in the morning, mom,” said my son from his big bed next to the open window.

“Okay,” I reply, shutting his bedroom door.

“I’ll be here.”

I Am From…

In school this year, Billy was assigned to create a video called, “I Am From” that told the story of who he is.  Each slide was supposed to start with “I Am From” and there were requirements as to what kinds of pics he had to have.  Some modifications were made by his teacher, because Billy’s history is not as easy to document as some kids.  But this is what he came up with.  I changed a few pictures tonight to make it more ‘current’, but other than that, this is all Billy’s doing.  Need I warn you it made his teachers cry like babies?!
TURN ON VOLUME!

Father’s Day

With Father’s Day upon us, I’ve spent some time trying to put together a piece about what makes a “father” become a “dad”.  I’ve scribbled down some poetic mumbo-jumbo.  I’ve come up with some passable ideas.  But the more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became, wondering…what is the definition of a good father?

And then I realized something.

Nowhere in the title, does “Father’s Day” have the word “Good” in it.  Nowhere is it stated that Father’s Day is only a celebration of those who are “good”….because after all, who is to decide what qualifies as a good dad?

Sometimes…a man is simply doing the best he can do within the realm of his own circumstance…ability…or intellectual limits.  Some people simply cannot meet our expectations. Sometimes ‘good’ is really just ‘good enough’….and one man’s mediocre is another man’s best.

So…

For the dad who’s not naturally nurturing, but finally tells his son he loves him one quiet night on the phone after years have gone by…and it was worth waiting for.

For the ‘man’s man, who wasn’t there much when his kids were small, but awkwardly holds his new grand-daughter in awe and wonders how he missed this the first time around.

For the single dad who was thrown in…sink or swim…and keeps bouncing off the bottom but is flapping his arms as fast as he can.

For the ‘moms new boyfriend’ who doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into but he likes the way that little guy looks at him out of the corner of his eye and wonders if he can trust this one…and it makes him want to make this work.

For the guy who’s never really done anything right in his life…who screws up time and time again and doesn’t know his kids…but just knowing they are out there somewhere makes him want to be a better man.

For the dad who didn’t have to be…and stepped in anyway.

For the dad who knew his kid’s lives would be better…if he just stayed away.

For the man who works a double shift and misses the game…because providing the dollars that paid for the uniform is important too…and it’s all he knows how to do.

For the one who doesn’t offer a hug, but gently punches a small arm as it passes…and the child knows it’s a ‘love tap’.

For the father who doesn’t know he’s a father to the daughter who wonders why he left.

To the dad who lost his kids because the drugs got ahold of him…And for the dad who took them in and called them his own.

For the father who by some flip of the coin drew the long stick and manages to do most everything just right.

And for the daddy’s who give their lives, so that others might have a chance to live.

Happy Father’s Day!

My Overcoming One

The tiny boy with the bright blue eyes
Looked up and said to me
Can I live here a long, long time?
Three months, if you’d agree.
Three months? I said, to the blue eyed boy
That isn’t long you see,
For an eight year old to have a mom…
A dad…a family.
He looked out the window at the dog outside,
The yard, the tire swing tree,
He thought a moment, looked up and said,
How bout till I turn thirteen?
Such low hopes, I  thought, of the blue eyed boy,
to want so little from me
Just a mom who cared, a roof and food
Until he turned thirteen.
I looked down at the innocent boy
Who knew not what a family could be
And wondered about the life he’d had…
That he wanted so little from me
Not a special toy or money or games
Did he ask for in his plea
He just wanted a place to live for a while,
To stay for a month or three.
What must have happened to this small boy
What horrors did befall?
To want for nothing, save for grace
Just three months, that is all.
Nothing else did he desire,
Just someone to call him son;
He is a survivor, my blue eyed boy,
My overcoming one.

Robin Wonders

I rarely talk with my long term kids about their early childhood in front of the other kids.  For some reason I’ve always hesitated…I didn’t really know why.  But one day I told the story of when Mya was a toddler and she was afraid of the moon outside her bedroom window.  We all had a good laugh…and then, when the car fell silent, Robin quietly said, “I wish I knew if I was afraid of the moon.”  
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I don’t know anything about me.  It would be nice to know things like that…if I was afraid of the moon.” And then it struck me…one of the many things kids in care miss out on…evidence of their childhood.  And so I wrote this about how I think she must feel.

Robin Wonders

My mama says to her daughter, ‘you were afraid of the moon. You used to hide and cuddle if you’d see it from your room.’

I look up at the mama, who doesn’t look like me. My sister who is darker, my daddy just like she

I wonder, in my quiet way…was I afraid of the moon? Did I run to my first mama, when I saw it from my room?

Did I hide beneath my blankets; or boldly push them back? Was I chubby, was I scrawny, did I crawl into a walk?

Did my mommy hold me tight against her chest and fall asleep…Does she miss me? Did she want me? Does she ever…look…back?

Do I have a little brother or a sister just like me? When she holds them does she push me from her painful memory?

Or does she never think about the blond haired girl; as tho…I’m just a cold dark place…she never dares to go.

Did she fly in a tornado, to a far and distant land…where mommies sometimes go if they cannot take a stand?

Did she release me when she left, and gave me to my mom? Did she know I’d be so happy? Did she know she could be wrong?

I love her just for being, and for giving me a life. And I hate her for what she wasn’t…what she isn’t…is that right?

Can I have these fighting feelings, twisted in my heart and still be healing slowly…can I long for her at night?

I have a mom and daddy in this new and faithful home. I’ve brothers and I’ve sisters who love me like their own.

I wonder if it’s right sometimes to feel the way I do. To wish I knew those little things that mommy’s only knew….

Is it okay to wonder…I want to know this too…Was I loved…am I remembered….was I afraid of the moon?

This I Believe

My daughter, Robin, came to us when she was six years old.  We were her tenth family.  This year for a school project she created a piece for a website called, “This I Believe”.  This is her story, completely unedited.

THIS I BELIEVE

By Robin Riley

Ninilchik Middle School, 7th grade

There are kids in the world that don’t have parents.  That don’t have a mother that tucks them in at night and a father who teaches them how to cut their food.  I have both of those things now but I didn’t always.  I once upon a time felt I didn’t belong and I never would. I blamed myself for my parents mistakes (the parents I never really knew). I would think that they didn’t want me or that if I was a better child they wouldn’t have given me up.

You see people sometimes do things without thinking of the consequences for others like my birth mother when she was pregnant with me and she did things like drink and use drugs, which affected me.  At age 9 I could barely read and the teachers told my caring new parents that I would probably never be able to read but little did they know in the years to come I would spend hours reading and when I would finish a book I would find another and then another.  I think my new family showed me something and that was if someone tells you that you can’t do something go out of your way to prove them wrong.

My new family gave me strength to know that it’s not my fault for my birth parents mistakes.  At this point in my life I actually thank them for giving me up because my life is so much better with my new family.

I believe in adoption because I know what it’s like to have your hopes and faith in people stomped on and crushed.  But to take a child in is to restore that hope and faith in them.  It is like opening up their eyes to make them see color for the first time—to show them the real meaning of the word love and to make them realize that there are so many things in life that they can conquer.  When you take in a child, you become their foundation.  This…I believe.

And Justice For Ally

She felt the pull of death and it was welcome.  She lay silent, worn from screaming, her voice unheard as she lay in the shallow box.  She saw him coming, smelled him above her before he came into her blurred site.  She didn’t curl into herself.  She couldn’t.  There was a time when her body reacted on its own, trying to save her.  Now she lay still, waiting for the end to take her soon.  Cold hands touched her face, ignored her whimpers, and shoved the box back under the edge of the bed.  Unable to turn on her own, the tiny babe lay in her own waste, naïve and pure, unable to comprehend the horror of her own short life…and closed her swollen eyes to the world that stood back and let her die.

And now she lies in the peace of the Lord, her battered remains tucked discretely under a small marker in a field…where nobody has to think about her.

But somebody does.  Someone wonders what happened to the sister who didn’t make it out.  Some small boy remembers her in his prayers and in his nightmares.  And there was a time…not too long ago…when he wondered if it would have been better if he had joined her in that box under the bed.  For there is no joy in a world where abusers walk free.  A world where insider trading is a capital offense punishable by a life sentence and those who beat their children until they no longer breathe are offered self-help classes at the expense of the state and second, third…even fortieth chances.

Ally.  The boy whispers her name sometimes when he thinks nobody can hear him.  Ally, he says and he closes his eyes.  Ally.  She was real.  She needed us.  And nobody heard her.

Against All Odds

 

 

Found in Cooper Landing, Alaska…fighting it’s way thru the asphalt

“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it learned to walk with out having feet
Funny it seems, but keeping it’s dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air
Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else ever cared”

                                                                                   2Pac

 

Against All Odds

There was a child born once in the darkest place

She evolved in the crack of a concrete case

Where trodden feet in life’s fast race

Trampled her stems at a grueling pace

She took root where there was no base

Where sun never shows its nurturing face

No guiding heat, no air to breathe

No warm embrace to fill the seed

With light.

But early in her augmentation

She realized her situation

Would require more than determination

If she were to reach that destination

A place so far above her station

Where those beneath her in consternation

Stood above her, bold and brazen

Failed to guide her, took her breath

Squashed her to the brink of death

No light.

But somewhere deep in the darkest crevice

With strength rare seen her stems were steadfast

She grasped at chances, stood strong regardless

And wove her way up towards the precipice

Against all odds, out of the darkness

She felt herself emerge in brightness

Grasping, reaching, strong of core

Always looking for the lore

Of light.

Years passed by while she on her journey

Knowing no life but that of yearning

Strived upwards, always, reaching, stretching

Never giving up the need

That one day she, a concrete seed

Would blossom high above the street

May she always remember the fear of night

And her lifelong struggle to find

The light.

A Simple Truth

Tomorrow afternoon our son…will become our son. Legally, at least, though he’s been ours for four years.  I’m going to share a few words from a pre-adopt interview. Not to impede on his privacy, but because sometimes we forget that a child has a voice…if only we’d listen.

When asked about his birth family:

“I realize what they had done to me. They hurt me. I have a picture of them in my mind. I don’t want a picture. I have bad memories and I don’t want them. I can’t tell if he loved us at all. He had a problem with anger. What they did to me is not right. I have a bond with them…it’s a bond of not liking them. A kind of enemy bond. I have a reason to dislike them. They don’t deserve me. Not a chance.”

When asked about his new family:
“They are doing this right. I don’t get hit. I want to stay. They love me. You can tell how they act. They hug me goodnight. They say I love you. I’m not nervous about staying here. I don’t get glares like I’m not wanted. I don’t get hit…you should never hit a child. It feels safe to talk. They want me to feel happy. They make sure I’m where I need to be to feel good about myself. My new dad talks about protecting us…It means trust. They would save me. They would keep me from dangerous things. Family is a big bond.”

When describing a BAD family:

“Hitting. Running away. Harming the children. Not caring for me. Saying bad things. Not getting kids the things they need.”

When describing a GOOD family:

“Loving you.  Caring for you.  Watching out for the kids.  Defending the kids.  Get them things they need like food.  Doing things together.  Good to me.  Talk to me.  Teaching the kids.  Being a good influence.  Being there for you.”

I’m sharing this because I want us all to take note. He didn’t mention: Toys.  Video Games. Vacation.  Gifts. Or Money

.As we raise our children in this materialistic world, we often forget the difference between what they need…and what we think they need.  Because when it comes down to it, even the child knows that he needs to feel safe…and he needs to feel loved.  And that’s just about all that really matters.

I Remember Her

I remember the way her hair smelled when I tucked her in under my arm.  How she snuggled so close, trying to crawl back into the womb from which she did not come. I can feel her fragile arms wrapped around mine, her tiny beating heart pulsing against my side as she lay her soft cheek on my chest and held on for life.


I mean I can feel her.

I see her sparkling eyes just weeks after she came as her failing body was nourished.  How she ate and smiled and grew. I see her mouth spread  and her eyes widen at the site of food. I remember her asleep at the kitchen table, chicken leg wrapped in one tiny hand, satisfaction across her face.


I hear her slurred speech, her warped words, her beautiful broken voice soar with glee because she was simple and the most basic  things brought her such peace.


I feel her sweet breath against my face when she whispered in my ear that she loved me.  Her desperate hands clutching my shoulders like it was a pivotal moment in time that we both needed to remember.  And I do.


I remember every moment of the two years she was with us.  I remember the way my soul felt the day I had to give her back.  


And how it aches still.

Adoption Pending

He came to us in the summer, four years ago with a chip on his shoulder, a mouth with no filter, and a yearning for something solid.  Just six years old, he’d seen things…oh yes, he’d seen some things.

The parents’ rights have been terminated.  The threat of reunification is long past and his memories are beginning to fade.  Visitations stopped long ago, thank God.  Oh, the confusion that must cause in the child who so desperately wants the parents in that little room to be just like the ones waiting in the car.

We’ll sign the papers, he’ll be our son and nobody will ever tell him he can’t call us mom and dad again.   A new name.  An altered birth certificate.  His history…on paper, if not in the dark corners of his mind…will be erased.  We’ll be expected, in some ways, to forget who he was.

But he won’t forget. He’ll idealize the good times and try to block out the bad.  He’ll seek their faces in grocery stores. He’ll secretly pray for them at night after I tuck him into bed and read him a story. He’ll think of them on his birthdays and holidays and at his graduation.

He’ll be raised with love and morals, and with a healthy family. We’ll adore him…we’ll call him son…and he’ll love us like crazy.

And he’ll always wish we were them.