“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.