Sunday, January 17, 2010
Goodbye, Little Buddy
Many times in this world, someone comes into your life for while, and he brightens your world. That has been my story lately. Yesterday we said goodbye to our foster son Rodie. (That's not his real name, but it's what we usually called him.) It was a very bittersweet moment. He really was a bright light to us. Such a beautiful smile, so loving, so needy, and so much fun. He was a handful at times, and almost always demanded a great deal of attention. But that was to be expected. He is, after all, a small child, one who missed out on some of the development he should have had before he came to us.
But he gave us much more than he took. He always ran to greet me when I came in, sometimes with his hands held up, asking to be hugged, sometimes with a toy to show me, but always with a huge grin on his face. He loved to show me his cars, and even learned to share them with me, especially if I was doing something else and wasn’t paying attention to him. He loved to be read to, and I have to say those were some of the sweetest moments. I have re-learned the joys of Green Eggs and Ham, Go, Dog, Go!, and children’s Bible stories as they can only be known through the insistent, repetitive delight of a child. I have memorized most of One Fish, Two Fish and tangled my tongue repeatedly over Fox in Socks. (By the way, I hope you know that Dr. Seuss was a towering genius.)
I’ve changed many diapers, and Shan has changed many, many more. She really bore the burden of caring for Rodie. My daughter Rachel and I have simply been the second string. I’ve spent many meals trying to get Rodie to eat, and telling him over and over to chew and swallow (he has a habit of just holding food in his mouth, probably because he had only soft foods and had never learned to chew before coming to us). I’ve taken the dog food up repeatedly to stop him picking it out of the bowl to dribble on the ground for our smallest dog.
I’ve also laughed and smiled as he threw the ball for the dogs and wrestled joyfully with them, squealing and shouting. I’ve tried my best to puzzle out the things he says, and watched with delight as he learned to speak, going from four words when he came to us, to full sentences when he left. Watching him has been like watching a video on fast forward. He learned so much in his time with us.
One of his favorite games was to stand on the bed and be pushed over backwards. In fact, we could just point at him, and he’d fall over, squealing with delight.
I have also seen him meet and start to fall in love with his adoptive parents. They are marvelous, loving people, who are already making a great home for him. He’ll have a big brother who has been praying for a little brother or sister for a couple of years, and who has been showing off his picture at school.
Yesterday was bittersweet, with the sweet outweighing the bitter. Perhaps that is because we have always known we would only be temporary parents, a waypoint on his journey to a new life. Perhaps it’s because we know that what is ahead of him is love, attention, learning, and joy. It helps that we know we’ll get updates on him periodically.
I think, though, the thing that helps the most is knowing we did good things for him. Having him with us was joyous (and tiring), but knowing we did something for him is the best reward we could have.
After everyone was gone yesterday, we went to see The Blind Side. In case you don’t know, it’s the story of Michael Oher, who was picked up off the street and nurtured by the Tuohy family. Oher was a huge young man with great athletic skills, and has since been selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens. It is a marvelous movie, with a great message, but his story of neglect and redemption might not have been the best movie for us to see the same day we turned R over to his new family. I shed tears like a fountain all through the movie. The fact that so, so many children are essentially thrown away really hit home with me.
Then again, maybe it was exactly the right movie to see yesterday.
Every last one of us has the opportunity to help a child. It might be your own child. It might be a foster child, or a kid you coach, or one you never see who benefits from the money you donate. The need is great, but the joy is greater.
May you all have the joy of helping a child.