Please Note: Fiction articles are from past experiences and may not represent current life events...
Finding the Way Through
It's a maze, you know. Once it begins, it's a never ending trap of twists and turns and crossings over until you know there's no turning back and only by going forward can you ever stop it. Only, by the time you get to the middle, you realize that maybe the end isn't worth it. Maybe all the trouble you've gone through, all the hills, valleys and mountains you've conquered were the real quest and now you're faced with nothing ahead except more tangles of lies. The years spent traveling down endless roads that were suppose to lead to salvation, now are dusty with disbelief and your soul trapped languishing in the dust kicked up by your running. Only you weren't really running to anywhere in particular. Oh, you thought you were; you thought you were running to an end where there'd be a wonderful party awaiting to say: Congratulations! You made it! Arms waiting to embrace you and keep you warm and make you forget all the cold nights you waited for him.
Now, you're drowning in half-truths and soaking your body in outright lies. They felt warm for a while, a security blanket that you gratefully wrapped yourself in to try and keep the coldness at bay. But the blanket got thinner and the cold started seeping in anyway; wrapping itself around your ankles and slowly crawling up your leg until one day you woke and realized that it had slowly worked at devouring your heart. The shield you had protected yourself with was now strangling you. You've forced it away from your eyes and you can see what you carefully put into shadows for so long. The road behind covered with your tears and the road ahead a twist of mazes you're not sure you can ever get through.
So now what? You ask when you finally make it to a crossroad. What direction to take? So many to choose from, which is the right way to go? Not one shows an end in sight and maybe they're all filled with more deception. Do you take his hand and follow again? Do you try to get him to walk with you, knowing full well, he'll fall behind? Or do you try to find your way through, brave it on your own and listen to that tiny voice that yearns for new discoveries? Maybe, just maybe, you can listen to your heart once again, let the rhythm of its beat fill you with its calm that soothes you, and eventually, find yourself.
You dig for courage that you know was once there and force yourself to make a choice - any choice. The fear of making the wrong one drags on your heart. You question yourself and your very beliefs that got you this far. One choice is all it takes - one decision to change your life. Can you do it this time? Finally, you choose a road you know is there but can't see out of fear. You stumble upon entering, but pick yourself up and continue on. You turn back several times, but stop yourself short of going back all the way, convincing yourself that this is it. This is the moment of truth, of courage, of finding yourself and who and what you really are. Are you brave and ready to face the world without him or are you crawling in his direction to seek comfort within his arms again? Each step is weary, a small slip toward the future. You feel the strength drain from your body, but continue on. At times you crawl, at others manage the ability to run. The road seems endless, but yet you know there is no other choice at this point. You've come too far to turn back, and you'd never find the way this far again.
One more small step and you think maybe you're nearing the end. The hills seem less steep, the turns less frequent and you feel as though you've received a second wind. You walk with your shoulders back, strides long and assured, now that you think you've reached your goal. You are no longer strapped in fears of failure, of falling, of lies and deceit.
Your arms and legs move freely, the self-imposed weights long gone. You realize now that they were self imposed. All along you thought he held you back, trapped you, kept you from being you, when in reality it was you yourself that kept you imprisoned. You found your own circles and freely went to them. It was you who pulled the blanket securely around your neck until you thought you would suffocate. Now that you can see clearly, you know it will never happen again. It took half a life time to see it, to see yourself, to know who you really are, but you do see and you know you'll never be blinded again. Sure, you know shadows will certainly fall and some may even follow you, but your own strength, your own inner light will guide you now. It was there all along and now it's strong enough and getting stronger with every step you take.
So you take yet another step and marvel in the awe of your being. Another step and a smile breaks from within and shows the world who you've become. No matter if anyone notices or not, you know, you feel it and you are there. You're free to continue forward, free to cross the obstacles that are sure to come, free to take his hand, or allow him to stay on the sidelines watching you pass by. You're free to show yourself and the world how you've made it through.
The Adoption Choice
(names have been changed)
Frankie sat in his high chair with his head thrown back. Without warning, he lurched his body forward with all his force. The rain washed in and slipped salamanders under the doors. Lightening flashed and thunder rattled the windows as Frankie's wail filled the basement hallway and my heart. I had been told he had spent most of his infancy and childhood strapped in a highchair in dirty diapers with little to no food. I don't know at what age he was removed from his birth home, only that I was there with him and I had no idea how to help relieve his pain. I questioned the behavior plan of strapping him into a high chair, allegedly to calm him. He was nineteen, just two years older than me. In two more years, as an adult, he would be transferred from one institution to another. I desperately hoped it would be to a place that had a better plan than this.
The storm persisted and Frankie continued to throw himself back and forth. His eyes met mine and even though he was non-verbal, I knew this was not the place nor correct treatment for him. I could see it in his eyes. I could not take him out of the chair. The only other place for him to go was to his bed/crib and it wasn't time yet. It would take two people to move Frankie and the only other person working the noch shift was my supervisor who told me I would be fired if I removed Frankie from his chair. I sat next to him and talked soothingly to him, and tried to rub his back between lurches. Frankie rocked and wailed for two more hours and during that time, I knew that I would find a way to make a difference in people's lives - people like Frankie, people without a voice.
Twelve years later filled with employment working with disabled adults and children in other institutions, group homes and finally my own non-profit organization, I felt I could still do more.
Adopting a special-needs child seemed to be the next logical step. It had been my plan from an early age to adopt children. My husband, James, and I had been together for five years before getting married and it was about ten more years of us building our relationship before we chose to adopt.
We had several circumstances gently push us in that direction. The first was the court ordered placement of my husband's nephew within our home. Charles was twelve at the time and had seen his share of the juvenile courts. We gladly took Charles into our home, ever hopeful of our love being able to help him to turn his life around. After a year, counseling combined with our love wasn't enough. He continued his violent behavior and we ended up turning him over for violations of his court order. Yet, we still felt that somehow we had managed to make a positive influence in his life and show him how family life could be.
The next push came from my step sister, Ashley, moving in with us. My mother's husband wanted nothing to do with his own daughter. Ashley was experiencing trouble at school, in the neighborhood and at home with lying and stealing, and again we were thought of as an alternate placement opportunity.
Ashley lived with us for about a year and a half before she had ostracized herself with her lying and stealing at school and with families in town. We dealt with the behaviors at home by trying to find the reasons behind them and getting her to talk about them. She was involved with therapy but I don't think she ever shared even one piece of truthful information with her therapist. Eventually, she returned to her parents where her lying continued even beyond her moving in with a boyfriend and getting pregnant. We hope that she will use some of the parenting skills we showed her with her little girl.
When Ashley left our home, we felt a strong loss. We missed the challenges of having a teen in our home. It was then that we discussed adoption in earnest and began checking out adoption options.
There are plenty of choices for adoption. We knew we did not want to adopt from over seas. We felt with the available children in the U.S., there would be plenty to choose from. We knew we did not want a baby. Most of the agencies we found, specialized in finding babies to adopt from other countries. Many adoption agencies will gladly take your money to help you locate the 'perfect match' in a child. The only problem was we didn't have money to give them. We scoffed at the idea of paying someone $20,000 or more to find a child. There had to be an easier and cheaper way.
We eventually learned that through our own State government, we could adopt an older child and our costs would be minimal and even possibly reimbursed once the adoption was finalized. We also discovered that most of the children available are older and because of this, most also have special needs. Whether the needs were behavioral issues, developmental, or simply an age factor (some are considered beyond the age of probable adoption), many children awaited and still await loving, patient, caring homes. We felt we had what was needed to offer a child a loving family life and contacted our State Department of Health and Family Services. Thus, we began the process that would change our lives forever.
During our first visit with Allen, I had never seen a smile as big as his. His face shone as we entered McDonalds. He ran to the playground and immediately started talking to whoever happened to be sitting or playing in the area. My husband ordered our food while I sat in the play area and watched Allen. His 50 pound, nine year old body bounced through the tubes and down the slide over and over. He budged past other children and ran up the slide and through the tubes to the ball pit. When he saw that the food had arrived, he ran to the table, bounced on the chair and devoured his sandwich.
When he came to his last fry, he asked, "Can I save this for my mom? She likes fries."
James and I nodded and said yes. Allen slowly took his fry, laid it on the table, opened a napkin and gently placed the fry inside.
He wrapped the fry and asked me, "Will you save this for me until I get home?"
He then ran from the table, reached the slide and then ran back to us, took the napkin, opened it, took the fry and dunked it in ketchup stating, "My mom likes ketchup."
He rewrapped his fry and went to play again. On the way home, he decided his mom didn't like fries all that much and ate it himself.
When we returned to the foster home, no mention of the fry was made. Allen ran from room to room gathering household items to show to us as we sat at the kitchen table with his foster mom.
"He sure is talkative," I commented.
Mrs. P. nodded and replied, "And, he'll say anything you want." To prove her point she called Allen over to her. He ran to the table and stood smiling by her side.
"What day is it?" she asked.
"Tuesday," Allen said correctly and his wonderful smile widened.
"No it isn't. Today is Saturday. Now, what day is it Allen?" Mrs. P. stated.
Allen's body sagged and he looked at the floor, the smile no longer plastered across his face.
"Saturday," he replied.
"That's right, now go play." Mrs. P. sat back in her chair and grinned, her point made.
Stunned, we continued our visit with Allen. He showed us his room, his puzzles and his already packed boxes. We didn't mention the 'what day is it' incident until James and I were alone in our car and on our way home.
"Why would she do that to him? He was so proud that he knew the day and she stole that from him," I said.
I knew the answer, but needed to hear the words, just in case I was wrong, as I hoped I was.
"So she could ridicule him and show us how much better she was than him."
"He doesn't belong there," I whispered, hiding my tears from James by looking out the window.
"I know, but does he belong with us?"
We answered that question together. "Yes".
Several visits and three weeks later, Allen was brought to our home by his foster family. We hugged as a family for the first time as our life with our new son was about to begin.
The Fire Within
The flames were a small flicker, growing as the seconds ticked by. The fire extinguisher, so simple to use, became useless under my panicked fingers. A few bottles of water from the mini fridge in my room bought precious time until I could calm myself enough to re-read the directions on the extinguisher and use it in all its glory. The flames found new items to grab and eat while my small decisions used precious time. One extinguisher wasn't quite enough however, but three seemed to do the trick. Luckily we kept one on each floor of our second story home and an additional one in the first floor laundry. Although I was comforted by using all three, unbeknownst to me, the futon mattress continued to smolder. My attention was then turned to getting fresh air into the densely smoked filled room. The old house didn't want to relinquish its grip on the storm window, so a hammer crashing through the glass was necessary. The sweet scent of night air didn't come as a rush as I had hoped and expected, but strategically placed fans forced a clean breeze through the smoke.
A simple phone call, was all that kept racing through my head. I had left the area to take a simple call, taken downstairs simply because our old house interfered with phone reception and all that could be heard while upstairs was static. It was necessary to take the call downstairs. In the span of seven minutes, my son rummaged through my room and found an old book of matches, kept as a memento of a wedding attended eons ago and stored in the bottom of a junk filled fish bowl. He then proceeded to, as he put it, "start my shirt on fire". Thankfully, it wasn't a shirt he was wearing at the time.
What would cause him to do such a thing? I screamed this at him over and over again in my panicked state. What the hell was he trying to do? Did he realize he could have killed us all, burned down our house, killed all our pets? His response was, "my brain told me to do it". I answered that his heart should have been strong enough to tell his brain to shut up.
Once I calmed, my son's emotions took over. He screamed and yelled and threw things as I tried to remove everything from his room. I had decided that even if it was still good, it was going to be thrown away so he could see the effects of fire. You start a fire in your room, everything burns, you lose everything, clothes, toys, books, blankets, everything. Most of it was smoke damaged so I wasn't lying about much of it. He refused to help and made it difficult for me to bag things up by smashing things, dumping a toy box out onto the still hot floor, screaming and getting in my face. I took a brain break and went to my room and let his father, who had come home early from work at my request, take over. The yelling from my son continued, so I couldn't get the break I desperately needed and ended up going back across the hall to continue with the quest of cleaning. Everything went downstairs and into the back of the pick-up truck to be taken to what we deemed 'the pit'- the place for refuse that gave us joy a couple times a year with bon-fires. The computer, the desk, clothes, stuffed toys, three toy boxes of years of Christmas and birthday gifts, all went outside. As we cleaned I realized how much of a fire hazard his room actually was. Two book cases full and over-flowing. I thanked the creator for not allowing the flames to find those fragile pages. Three hours and many tears later, my son's bedroom stood almost empty. One toy box half full, one dresser, a few hanging clothes to be brought down the next morning and laundered and a few books and photos. He was told his room would remain that way, forever as far as we were concerned, as a constant reminder of the devastation of fire.
Now, we are working with the therapist to discover why he did it and how to prevent it from happening again. The 'why' was the easy part to figure out. He was told by a 'friend' that her boyfriend was going to be transferring to his school and was going to beat my son up because this boyfriend knew karate'. In order to miss the first day of the new school year when this boy was supposed to begin his reign of terror on my son, my son instead, decided to make sure he could not go to school. My son, with his cognitive disability, and sordid past of abuse from birth parents, could think of no other way to prevent the expected abuse from happening.
The prevention part is harder. How do you get a sixteen year old in the throws of hormones, who has a traumatic brain injury and cognitive disability to understand that simply talking about things can sometimes do more good than taking action - especially, when the verbal skills aren't there to begin with? This is something that we ourselves will have to find out, hopefully with the support of my son's therapist we'll be able to find a solution and I'll be able to answer the phone again.
A Day for Mothers
My son did not ask why we didn't have Mother's Day and for that I was thankful. Every Mother's Day fills me with trepidation about whom or what will be hurt or broken. Allen's actions are in retaliation to a birth mother that he no longer has contact with and because of his cognitive disabilities, cannot verbalize his obvious pain. The one thing he did receive from her was a brain injury which left him moderately retarded and with a small degree of nerve damage.
My first Mother's Day with my adopted son filled my heart with joy at the thought of having this wonderful child calling me Mom. This was to be my Special Day!
My Special Day ended when my cat, that I had bottle fed and raised, died mysteriously. Allen was the only one who knew where to find her. The only certainty is that Allen was somehow involved in her demise. Knowing from classes, reading and his therapist, that I, his adoptive mom, would be the object of trapped feelings and emotions he could not direct towards his birth mom, didn't alleviate my sorrow, but it did help me understand him.
My second and third Mother's Days were spent coping with Allen's hate, sorrow and pain directed toward me with a greater intensity than on any other day. I was argued with, hit, kicked, sworn at and told how he wished I had never adopted him. Again, I tried to understand his pain and come to terms with my own pain of knowing I was the target of his anger on this "special day for mothers."
The declaration of not having a Mother's Day, was an attempt on my part to alleviate some of his stress.
Even with years of therapy ahead and several years already behind us, he may never come to terms with this one special day devoted to moms.
What I do know is, that I don't need extra hours of sleep, breakfast in bed or flowers brought to me with hugs and kisses. I can get these things any other day of the year. I'm happy to know that I have a wonderful son who loves me 364 days out of the year. A son who on most any other day of the year is willing to cuddle with me, play games, take bike rides or even walk the dogs with me. In 364 days I can get all the hugs and kisses and love I need to fill my heart and help me prepare for Allen's one special day when he tries so hard to cope with his loss of his birth mother and a day devoted to his new one.
Some ask me how I do it, others just think I'm insane - a glutton for punishment. Why would I choose to adopt two special needs children? Why would I put myself through a life-time of care taking, direct supervision and the possibility of litigation due to extreme behaviors? Well, for starters, I'm not in this alone. Oh, sometimes it feels like it, as my husband suffers from clinical depression and has more off days than on, but still, I have occasional support.
I take care of the house - which at the current time I am learning how to enclose a front porch which I am turning into a private study for myself and my daughter whom I home school. I take care of the finances - and, yes, at times it's a bone of contention between my husband and me even though we have, and have always had, separate banks accounts. I take care of numerous animals including seven cats, three dogs, two ferrets, one gold fish, two pet sheep and the most recent addition to our family, a ten month old Appaloosa (another whole story in and of itself). Throw on top of all of that working full time (plus hours - depending on the week), volunteering several hours a week tutoring English and answering a parental stress line, and, of course, taking care of special needs children.
That's where the question of sanity level comes in. My son, who we adopted at the age of ten and is now sixteen, recently set his bedroom on fire because he was threatened with physical violence on the first day of school - and this was before school even started. My daughter who was adopted just last year, and is turning thirteen soon, displays a wide variety of passive aggressive behaviors all aimed at 'getting back at mom' I prefer to think it's her birth mom that she's really aiming at. Thus my reason to home school (besides her negative school behaviors including running around the classroom smacking her ass screaming 'bitch, bitch, bitch') was made in an attempt to bring us closer together before the throws of puberty set in. Well, guess what? Puberty is on the horizon and I don't feel that I have the strong relationship that I had hoped for.
So where does my insanity or sanity come from? I'd like to say that it comes from my own upbringing, but I think that would be a lie. I was raised in a chaotic household with a mother who suffers from bi-polar disorder (so I now have a lot of experience to fall back on when dealing with my son who also suffers from bi-polar disorder amongst other diagnoses), and a non-existent sperm donor who people say is my father. Maybe, it's that I'm so used to chaos, that I don't know how to live within a regular level of stress - whatever that may be.
I choose to believe however, that my ability to conquer, adapt and overcome the stressors that face me every day are not due to me lacking something in my life, but to the contrary. I have everything I have ever wanted. A nice home, and two children who I know in my heart will grow to be strong, wonderful adults who contribute to their own communities in any way they can. I have a good husband who has occasional wonderful moments and I love my job(s). I think that's the key. Most days, I love what I do. I love taking care of my children - although a break (besides going to work) would be much appreciated. I enjoy watching them grow and learn. I enjoy taking them to new activities and seeing how they discover that they can do new things. I love seeing their self-assurance grow even if it means that they use their new found confidence to challenge household rules. Simply put, I love my life and the level of insanity that comes with it. So maybe I'm not sane at all, maybe it's all an illusion. Whatever the case, I don't think I'll ever have an answer that will satisfy everyone, so I guess I'll just work on making myself happy and hope that everyone else can jump in for the ride.