To Another New Year

IMG_3718I am no Pollyanna, barely even hopeful most of the time.  I try to dwell somewhere in the realm of realism and function best when my sense of humor, if not the absurd, stays firmly intact.  But, as 2013 draws to a close, like many, I tend to reminisce and become a tad introspective.

To make this exercise a largely positive one, I thought about listing all that was good about 2013, all that was affirming, noteworthy, and ultimately memorable.  I scanned my calendar and felt fortunate that I could come up with a hearty, if not incomplete, list.  But as I started to write, it became apparent that for everything that was good about the outgoing year, there was plenty that was not.

And it would have been easy, so easy, to stubbornly inhabit that space—to focus on the negative as I squarely kicked 2013 out the door, determinedly declaring “good riddance.”

But I don’t want to bid adieu to 2013’s challenges.  The challenges of 2013, indeed of every year previous and every year to come, are what define me, what make me better, stronger, smarter.  A life of nothing but pleasure and ease, while perhaps initially intoxicating, is not a life.

We are here to learn and to grow and to become the best versions of ourselves possible; and to do that, I believe, we can’t always get what we want when we want it; it means that sometimes we are dealt a hand we weren’t expecting, never even saw coming.  It means we have to struggle and to cry and to feel pain and negotiate loss.

So, I will not start 2014 with a belief that it will be the best year ever—because it won’t be.  It will be a year, like every other year, with a balance of tears and laughter, sickness and health, struggles and comfort.  Some moments may be devastating and some may be astounding.  But if I am lucky, it will be a year of learning and growing; and instead of seeing the new year as a “fresh start,” I hope what I have learned will ultimately help to shape what comes next and that I will carry 2013’s lessons with me.

I am here and you are here.  To 2014, a year like and paradoxically unlike any other, and to all it holds and can hold—the good, the bad, and everything in between.

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801 Days Later

For the last two years, two months, and nine days, the first and most important task we have had to accomplish before our now-eight-year-old son Edgar started his day, indeed before we started ours, was to ensure his anti-seizure medicine–and, for a long time, medicines–had been administered.  It was a daily and vital ritual comprised of equal parts science and faith–that the process, these at times varying and ever-evolving concoctions, would stop his seizures, would relegate epilepsy to something merely in the background.

IMG_4860But this morning, as my small warrior sleeps, I find myself thinking about the profundity of this moment–how, when he wakes up during this Christmas vacation, he can play unencumbered and without interruption.  I don’t need to find him among a tangle of stuffed animals or follow him as he navigates his playroom to ensure he takes every last bit of his medicine.  Instead he can do simply and justly what eight-year-old children should be doing on a treasured day off from school–follow his bliss, wherever it takes him.

And for me, today, the first day without the layer of protection I have relied upon since the moment his neurologist told us he had epilepsy, I am going to watch him spend his day medication-free.

The science supports this move; but, today, for me, it’s much more about the faith.

Open and Shut

IMG_3970I have checked my email two dozen times this morning hoping each time I click on “Inbox” there will be a note, a sentence even, telling me she has changed her mind, that she made a mistake in what she wrote last night—that she wrote it in anger, frustration, or sadness and that the light of day has made her realize this is not a relationship she would ever want to sever.

August’s birth mother, when his adoption plan was created, initially requested six visits per year.  We settled on four and have been steadfast in adhering to our agreement.  Even when she was not able to come to a visit, we continuously endeavored, sometimes amidst our own frustrations, to find a work-around that would make sense, understanding that our son’s positive contact with his birthmother is a gift unparalleled.

It hasn’t always been smooth—far from it.  The most recent attempt at a visit ended up heart-wrenchingly sad: a four-year-old boy, eager to see his birth mother, understanding precisely who she is and why it’s important that he see her, deliberately and thoughtfully garbed in a Christmas sweater and dress pants and armed with a handmade gift, wandering through the food court of a nearby mall, hand-in-hand with his mother who was watching the minutes tick by far too fast with his birth mother nowhere to be found.

When the only reasonable option was to leave, lest we prolong the inevitable result, August cried.  I lifted his forty-five pound body in my arms, and between heaves and tears he said, with the full force of his four-year-old sense of injustice, not to mention cause-and-effect, “She lied to me.  I don’t ever want to see her again.”

I brought him to the car, gave him kisses and some water, and then we talked.  I told him she didn’t really lie, though it may seem that way to him.  Something happened and she couldn’t come.  I asked him to please consider seeing her because not seeing her would hurt her feelings.  He said she hurt his feelings, so we paused.

By the time the ride was over, August consented to seeing her again.  I allowed him to dictate the terms:  the zoo in the summer.  I proposed the plan when we got home and in return received an email in which his birth mother–in two mere sentences–declared she was not going to see August anymore.

I read her words too many times, thinking it was quite possible I was misreading them, that they were an illusion.  When it became apparent that they weren’t and that her mind had been made up, I had to tell my son.

From the outside looking in, especially for those who know and understand the inevitable bumps with which such relationships are often strewn, this may seem as though it will ultimately be in our son’s best interest: If someone no longer wants to or can’t participate in a relationship with another, forcing it can only lead to disappointment and heartache.

But as an adoptive mother, August’s mother, I know the benefits and the potential benefits this relationship has—had–for him, for us, and for August’s brothers, both of whom never had an opportunity to even meet their birth parents.  I know and understand the loss.

But at this moment August feels the loss, and for him my heart hurts.  My wish then can only be that the love he feels from his family, his friends, indeed the world, will help to ease that loss, understanding full well that when we’ve had something—someone–in our life and then suddenly we don’t, that easing is the best we can hope for.  Filing is not an option.

August is a light in and to this world, a gift; and his birth mother gave him a selfless and tremendous gift in not only making an adoption plan but spending the time she could with him afterward.  I cannot presume to know the battles she faces, the pain in her life.  My hope, though, is that one day his presence will bring her comfort and that she will seek him out.

He will be here, and we will walk with him, toward her—when she is ready.

What’s in a Name?

Almost two decades ago, on a Sunday afternoon, as my husband and I were quite busy shoveling popcorn into our respective faces, watching a movie marketed almost entirely to children, we knew precisely two things:  (1) Parenting was not for us; and (2) Our first child would be named Oscar Farias.

How did we know this?  Well, my husband’s last name is Farias; so, when we were reading the movie’s credits—merely a feeble excuse to finish the last vestiges of our popcorn–the name Oscar Farias understandably caught our attention and then promptly and more than a little unwittingly took up residence in our souls.  We thought Oscar was a great name—one everyone has heard of but seldom actually hear.  And it sounded quite right with Farias—maybe not mellifluous, but surely good. IMG_4459

My husband turned to my buttery face and asked between his own mouthfuls of popcorn, “If we ever have a son, can we name him Oscar?”  I said, “Sure,” and that, I think, is how we decided to start a family.

Our Oscar Farias was not born for another nine years; but born he most certainly was, named in our hearts and minds nine years prior in a darkened movie theater as we sat in a butter-induced stupor.

IMG_4357And seeing his name in print is still a surreal experience for me.

Since his arrival in 2004, we have, of course, seen his name in print countless times—his birth certificate, his first and subsequent efforts writing it, on his schoolwork and report card, on the programs of his now-dozens of violin recitals.  But there is something about seeing it on an award, on a recognition for a job well done, that moves me—even confuses me–because it still doesn’t seem entirely real.

On a late afternoon in 1995, in mere seconds, we went from truly believing parenting would best be left to others to naming our first son.  We staunchly carried his name with us for nearly ten years, waited for him to arrive, then handed it to him.

And look what he’s done with it.  Already.   In just nine years.

Oscar Farias.

First just a notion, a fervent wish even, then our son.

Bill

DSC_0023“Listen, Bill, I think I told you the last time you called.  I can’t hire you back.  I wanted to give you a chance.  I feel for you, I really do.  But you broke my laptop.  Then you said you couldn’t pay for it.  So I had to file an insurance claim.  Bill, I can’t run a business like that.  If I have to keep filing claims to pay for the things you break, my rates will go up.  I can’t do it. “

Pause.

“Bill, you really need to get some help.  You’re having a tough time right now.  I’m not the one you should be turning to.  You might need to talk to a professional.”

Pause.

“Bill, I’m going to have to hang up now.  I can’t continue this conversation.  Please don’t call me again.”

This happened in our local grocery store.  At the deli counter.   In front of people.  Mystified, perplexed people.

My nine-year-old.

On a fake cell phone.

We don’t know who Bill is or the nature of his apparent troubles.

We surely don’t know what kind of business our son is running or why he needs a laptop and an insurance policy.

What we do know is that the Stop & Shop deli may never be the same.