In Her Place

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…”  Psalm 37:7 NIV

          She’s there.  Always.  Out of sight, yet in my mind.  Her actions have touched my life significantly, and I feel an intimate connection with her.  Sometimes I search her name on the internet, and wonder if it’s really her, or just someone who shares her name.  She holds a part of my heart that none other can, and she’s an absolute necessity to my life’s happiness.  The odds of meeting her are slim to none, yet she’s occupied a portion of my thoughts from the moment I first saw his face eighteen years ago. 

Just two days after we sat in a parking lot on our seventh anniversary listening with yearning hearts to Wayne Watson sing Watercolor Ponies and praying for the Lord’s guidance as we began our search to adopt, her son was born six weeks premature with a myriad of health problems.  It would take eighteen months of medical care, hospitalizations, foster care, and legal machinations before we’d even know he existed. 

We were called on a Friday to see if we were still interested in adopting.  Up for grabs was an eighteen-month old boy.  It had taken nine months to become certified and another nine had passed before that call.  Yes, we said, absolutely yes!

So sure were we that we’d be chosen, we spent the entire weekend stalking babies in shopping carts to inquire their ages.  We had no idea what an eighteen-month old would be like

We were competing with two other couples for this child and I wanted an edge.  I called the state agency and was amazingly put through to the director.   “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” she said, “so give us your best squeak!”  And we did, providing a picture storybook of our immediate family, home, and pets plus a pan of brownies for the selection committee, and a large floral bouquet for the director.  Squeak!

It worked.  Our grease came in the form of a “Congratulations, you’re a new mommy and daddy!” call the following Thursday, and the next day we were taken to the foster home to meet our son.  The caseworker warned it would take six weeks for him to adapt, trust and bond enough to come home with us.  She said he was shy of strangers and not to feel bad if he didn’t come near us for a while.  She said we should be patient and not expect him to go anyplace with us for at least two weeks of daily visits so he could get used to us.

She was wrong.

The first day he crawled into our laps and laughed with us.  The second day he pushed his face to the screen door of his foster home and sobbed as we left.  The third day he readily left with us to meet his grandparents and cried piteously when we left.  Both foster mother and caseworker wrung their hands and asked how quickly we could have our pool fence completed.  It was the longest ten days of our lives!

Pure joy filled our home.  We’d smile in the mornings as we lay in bed listening to him playing with his busy box before bringing him in to cuddle with us.  Sleeping beside us, we would trace the outline of his chubby little face, smile at the cowlick on the right side of his forehead and stubborn whorl in the center of his head.  Did she have a cowlick, too?   Where did that whorl come from?

Every milestone brought her to mind and I’d journal my thoughts to her, capturing the amazement of the moment to share or questions to ask, if not in person, at least in my heart. 

Did she think about his first words or first steps?  Would she have laughed to hear him call semi trucks La-las?  Wasn’t it funny that he went to sleep when someone threw a blanket over his head?

Did anything smell better than a freshly bathed baby still damp and with water sparklets on eyelashes?  Would she ever hear the patter of a toddler in a footed sleeper?  Did she know the sheer terror of seeing an egg sized bump appear when he smacked into the edge of the chair? 

Did she have a father who would make him giggle and tumble over with laughter, like the grandpa he had now?  Would her sisters and brothers have been as doting as the aunts and uncles he had now? 

 Would she have shared his love of dinosaurs and seen the humor in heaving his stuffed pterodactyl out the window to see if it could fly when traveling 60 mph on the freeway?    Would her heart have flip-flopped joyously when he gave her the globe- shaped card proclaiming “World’s Best Mother Ever”? 

Would she have cried when the teachers reported something was different about him and gone to no less than five different physicians before agreeing to a diagnosis and treatment?  Did he get his handwriting from her?  Was rainbow sherbet also her favorite ice cream? 

Would she have taken him to church and wept for joy when he received Jesus?   Would she have thought he glowed after being baptized and sitting proudly beside the pastor on the church’s first pew?   Would she understand his need for Brown Bear when he went away from home?

Would she have jumped from the bleachers and cheered when it was his turn to bat?  Would she have smiled when he went through his first puppy love?  Would she have been shocked to find stubble growing on his chin and notice his voice getting deeper?   Did she know he could happily consume a gallon of milk a day?

Did she try drugs in high school and get caught by the dean of students hiding in the bushes across the street from the high school, too high to care that he was caught?  Had she ever struggled with schoolwork and the stigma of being in special education classes?   Would she have yelled at him and grounded him and had her heart torn in two trying to figure out a way to get through to him? 

Could she have had a better solution than agreeing with him that school wasn’t working and he should get on with his life after five years of trying to pass?  Would she have been amazed and pleased as we were when he succeeded in finding and keeping a job for almost two years?  Would she look up to him, not just for his height, but because his heart is in the right place and he’s become the fine young man that every mother wishes for?

Would she long to have him three again, or five, or even ten, but at the same time appreciate the extraordinary man he is?  Would she take every moment she could to hug and kiss him, and tell him how wonderful he is?   Would she stare at him through misty eyes and thank God for the precious gift he is in her life?

I think if things had been different for her, she would.  But because they weren’t, I’m more than thankful; I’m blessed to be the one in her place.

My story, Real, appears in Chicken Soup for the Adopted Soul, March 2008.

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