Mighty

“You’re not my parents.”

Though we may never be able to fill her up, we won’t stop trying.  If we were to surrender the fight, the hope would be lost.  It would be gone forever.  The door would slam once again, as it always has in the past, and here the story would end.

Yes, we signed up for this.  We, as foster parents, have signed up for the grief, the pain, the verbal pillaging, even the remnants of trauma of past years.  We signed on the dotted line, and often I think it is a good thing that we never really know what the future will hold for fear that this awareness would hold us back from answering that call.

You could feel the anger permeate the air as if it was a physical substance, pushing into the path of those fools who stood in the way and flailing through the night air in a course of bitterness.

The strength of this anger could not be contained by two adults who became weak in the wake of fury late on that Saturday night.

“You don’t love me.”

How I wish I could tell you what love is, how it is much more than the privilege of downloading games on an iPod, how love means defining boundaries, commitment, and the tenacity to keep hanging in there when all around you the branches are breaking.

Our friend Kelly is a giver.   She walks miles in support  of causes that help those in need: children with brain tumors, people that have been affected by cancer, and, I am sure, many more.  Sometimes I wonder what motivates Kelly, what drives her.  I am sure that it must come from inside, from her spirit.  Kelly just wakes up and does what is kind, pure, and good.

Every so often, several of my children will act out on the same day; I am sure they somehow know I am vulnerable.  They stop mid-fight and decide, instead, to “get me.”  One is yelling at me, perhaps calling me, “Idiot Mom,” and another is slapping my legs as hard as he can while catapulting shoes all over the mud room.  If it’s a really bad day, one of the older ones will be cutting me, slashing me with her silence.  If they see me cry, will they somehow feel like they have conquered the evil master?

They retreat.  Sometimes, one or another comes forward with his best effort in a tiny heart, the word “Mom,” and perhaps his own name.  This is his peace offering, and something that now brings me to tears in a good way.  He can see the hurt, and he wants to make it better.  And he does.

Sometimes, though, the past hurts are so very deep.  The anger from another life lived is so raw and so undefinable, that the targets become those that are standing by, trying to carve a path toward promise.  There is no “sorry” here; there are definitely no hearts.  Just a mighty torrent of fear, anguish, and the deepest kind of pain.

Inside, I know she is a giver, just like our Kelly.  She would, and does, step up to help as she can.  I have seen her light…and I have seen it flicker and try to go out, doing its best to burn those that stand in the way.

Time and again, we are reminded that this is not about us.  And time and again, we must remind ourselves that we are human and that we, too, must be given the grace to grieve alongside her.

We know now, after half a dozen mental health hospitalizations among several of our children between this November and the last, when the force is bigger than us, and when we must call for help. We know now when our love just isn’t enough.

We know that we signed up for this.  When we answered the call, when we set another spot at the table, when we embraced, and when we have been embattled, and when we have laughed and prayed together.  We were not prepared, but we never could have been.

“I would rather spend the rest of my life here than go home with you guys.”

And maybe, deep inside, that might seem easier than working out what this is really about.  But when the urge for hot Cheetos hits, it seems like a pretty good time to offer the olive branch and to call home.

We want her to come back.  We know, though, that there is plenty keeping her there that has nothing to do with us.

So we signed up to fan the flames, to try to make peace with an uncertain past, and to know that if and when there are words and understanding, our collective healing can begin.

And we would do it all over again, even many times, because when we signed up for this, we were not answering a call but a calling, a privilege to do a work bigger than we are, to do God’s work.

And when she is ready, we will be waiting.  We will put the lights, sirens, and fierce words behind us as we share another bag of hot Cheetos.

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About 1maniac1989

From childhood, I have wanted to take care of children, to bake cookies, cakes, and bread, to hear music, and to tend to flowers in my garden. I am blessed and lucky, and I am able to do all of these things. I live with my beloved husband, Dan, and our many precious children, in DeKalb, IL, which, perhaps in my opinion only, is the most beautiful place on earth. Sincere thanks to anyone who has taken the time to visit my blog.

4 responses to “Mighty

  1. Diane

    So many adoptive and foster parents have to deal with the remnants of the pain, questions and un-understood emotions left to our children by their birth parents and/or their birth circumstances. Yesterday I read in the news about the newborn that was left buried under some asphalt by a walking path in Los Angeles, and I could barely keep from sobbing. How tragic it will be for that child to bear the burden of their birth circumstances, once they are old enough to be told. How can we reconcile that? Thank God you provide a safe haven for your kids. Thank God you love them despite their angst and inner torment. Love you always, Patty.

    • All of this is so hard to understand. That story is crushing. On a given day, I think I know where I am going, and then things can turn around so easily. I know you know what I mean. Lots of love back at you!

  2. Donald Overbey

    Patty:

    I hope you understand that your mom and I have the utmost respect for the way you have executed your calling. We are concerned, often, how this will play out long-term but recognize this is your life and you are fulfilling it with your own plan and doing so in a brilliant manner. I know of no one who does as much for children like you care for as you do. The other thing is that you are a magnificent writer. Your chronicles of life with those in your care are phenomenal and really bring home the enormity of what you and Dan have accomplished.

    You realize, of course, that I could never cope with all the issues you sort out every day. I do not have the patience nor the will to overcome the barriers, soothe the ills, and help them find where they should be, someday.

    It would be a boon to caring people for you to, sometime in the future, be able to write a book about your adventures, heartaches, successes, and highlights of your life with these very fortunate children. We want you to know how much we respect you and Dan for all you are doing for mankind and that we pray everyday for positives to emerge so that you can see firsthand the results of your efforts.

    Obviously, I can’t put into words my pride in you, but I want you to know that I love you and all the things you are doing with all the people you are touching!

    Love,

    Dad >

    • Dad, I can tell you put lots of thought in to your response. One thing I do know is that I have inherited some of my expressive tendencies from you! Thank you for the kind words, as always. Lots of love!

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