Aaron’s head hit the “For Sale” sign with the finality of something that cannot be reversed. Finished. Over. All done. He sat there, stunned and uncharacteristically motionless for several seconds. It’s a good thing he was wearing his bike helmet. Sometimes, we don’t get second chances.
Ethan had a remarkable bus driver. He had driven my little boy each day, even through the summer, in the year’s time since Ethan’s move to the therapeutic day school. At the end of every morning’s circus act, when we finally arrived at the door of the bus, this driver, still a kid himself, welcomed my son aboard and carried a bit of my burden, allowing me to believe that Ethan’s day wasn’t going to be a total disaster. And then one day, he was just gone.
The weather has been perfect, with the crispness of an October day that beckons my old Levi’s and favorite cotton cardigan. Without any way to know when times will turn, I am keenly aware that I may not have another opportunity for a walk in the woods.
In the land of child welfare, when your parental rights are terminated, that’s the end of the road; you are no longer the legal parent of the child. You no longer have legal rights or anything to do with decisions regarding the child that was born to you. You have nothing to say, and it cannot be reversed.
The rule is: we only eat in the kitchen.
“Mom, can I have a cheese stick?”
Sometimes our days need just a bit of flexibility.
“Can I have a cookie with frosting and sprinkles?”
But not that much.
“Only at the kitchen table.”
You gave birth to that beautiful child, and that child is the link between our families. We are connected, as always we will be. I want to do right by my child, who is actually your child, and now our child. Each of us is a person, and there is good in each of us.
The flowers were shades of peach and pink, Grandma Evie’s favorites. My precious grandma, my baseball fan grandma, the ice cold milk and M &M’s grandma, the one who always had a piece of Doublemint gum for me, was sick. She had to go to the hospital, and I would not be able to make it to St. Louis (which had been our family’s only vacation destination for many years) for a few more days. I fancied myself as Grandpa’s favorite; he had let me braid his thin, white hair and even hide his cigarettes without consequence. He had died many years earlier, and my relationship with Grandma Evie had grown fierce and strong since that time. Though I have inherited her pear shape, tall frame, and love of sweet things, our rhythms had always been quite different. She loved perfection and order, and I thrive on chaos and “close, but not quite.” I have a fond memory of Grandma Evie running the vacuum as the sun rose and as I tried to rest alongside my sleepy newborn. She came to help, and that is just what she was going to do.
She would never have expected the flowers, and I only imagined her reaction when she would first see them. It was probably because she was a patient of intensive care, and they were holding them for her until she could safely enjoy them. As I sat on the hot metal bleachers only half-watching Gabriel’s little league game, I anticipated the phone call that I would receive, and our conversation that would have something to do with pineapple cake and the meaning of life. And she would tell me that she loved the flowers, and that they were her favorite colors. That’s what I thought, but they really had not been delivered. We forgot, we are sorry, there was a mistake. The order was never fulfilled. Can we send something else? No, actually, you cannot, because SHE DIED.
Today is the last visit with our post adoption support person. I will miss her kind words and calm voice, how she never stopped seeking resources though I was sure I had sifted through what was out there, a million times over. After a particularly tearful and physically taxing encounter, Amanda surprised me with a card. Inside were Peter Marshall’s words:
“When you long for life without difficulties, remind yourself that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.”
These words, holding fast by way of magnet to the stainless steel refrigerator (which, by the way, I will never love), remind me of my deep connection to those people that have and will continue to take me where I am, to fill me up to face the next day, and to offer a hand when I do not even know what I need.
And when this day is done, I will know that there will, more than likely, be another, and that the sun will rise again, and that I will have a chance to be something to someone, if only I have the courage to try.
I felt a little hope as Ethan’s bus pulled up this morning; the driver was a longtime friend of mine, one that cares deeply for her own children and seems to understand and embrace those that don’t always march in step.
Though I have had my last cup of coffee with Grandma Evie (as we sat by the hotel pool watching the children swim), and though your child will soon bear my last name and never again yours, and though I will miss my extra hour in the garden because Amanda will no longer be taking my boys for adventure, I will look far down the path with gratitude for what I have been given, and with the hope that I will be able to spot the joyful squirrel burying his find, the first bloom on the wild raspberry bush, and the filtered light as the brush opens up to make way for the sun. It may be a while, but just know that we are on our way.