Goodbye Michael

Dear Michael,

The situation being what it was, when the adoption was severed, I was not able to say goodbye to you, or tell you that I love you.

Do I still?

I wasn’t sure at first, when everything happened. But I think I do love you, now.

I’m still afraid of you though.

~~~~

You were five when we met, my brother’s long awaited foster son.

The adoption was finalized when you were six and Patrick was four.

Your brown eyes had more hurt in them than I have ever seen, before or since.

We loved you buddy, we did.

Remember how much you loved Brownie, when we came to visit in Myrtle Beach?

After all these years, the love you showed to her still stands out to me.

That sweet little boy, begging to sleep in the garage with the puppy, so she wouldn’t be lonely and afraid.

I finally took you out to check on her. You knelt down on her blanket and whispered, “Shh girl, shhh, don’t be afraid. Mikey’s right here.”

You cuddled right up to her while she licked your face, and you both fell asleep.

I wish that Michael could have been preserved and saved, before all the bad things happened.

~~~~

I know it was hard for a little boy to come into a family that never understood why you missed your mom.

Being infertile had practically driven his wife into a place of thinking another woman’s child could become her’s and fill the emptiness both husband and wife felt.

That was wrong of them.

But in case you ever wonder, they did love you.

Your birth mom loved you also.

But you know what Michael? Even at age five, you loved and protected her more than she ever did you.

I don’t know if anyone ever told you, but your birth mother was raised in foster homes herself.

I know she caused you and Patrick a lot of pain and trauma. But when you grow up, I hope you will forgive her.

Mostly for your own sake, but also because she just had never been given a fair shot at life herself.

~~~~~

And so we met, and there I was, charged with babysitting two traumatized foster kids for ten days while the foster mom and dad you hardly knew went to Venezuela for ten days.

Supposedly it was a work trip that my brother couldn’t get out of, but his wife could have stayed home with you.

I thought then, “I’m not sure they are prepared for the sacrifices parenting entails.”

And they weren’t.

But is anyone?

~~~

My nephew *Michael’s adoption was severed six weeks ago. He is 15.

I don’t know if I have the right to have an opinion about it or even tell his story.

But I feel that his memory, the memory and story of him, and even Michael himself deserves to be un-amputated.

*Not his real name.

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My Favorite Boy

He’s still little, Aidan is. Six years old and only started kindergarten in September.

We bonded over the summer when I introduced butcher paper and bright markers into his world.

He drew towns and cities and worlds for hours on end. Cars, ships and houses.

“Draw your house here Midth Angel.”

He didn’t talk much then, and still has a hard time with words. But he can draw, and tells complex stories with his drawings.

Dith is me and MidulAngelo. He prodects me at home. We met on de Ditantic and daved people.

[Met on the Titanic.]

Aidan loves me. I know that he does and I don’t know why. I love him right back.

When his family of five arrives at my facility he he’s always the first in the door. I see him before he sees me and I don’t deserve the look on his face as he scans the room to find me.

He runs to me like a whirling dervish, yelling “Hey, Hey!”

Heads turn at the noise of him, but I don’t shush him. Not this golden child.

Hands out for a happy high-five, I say, “hey buddy, how are you?”

As is with most kids, the niceties are lost on him and he launches right into what he wants to talk about.

Something something, we saw it! Indiscernible and dis is Baby Groot.”

Brushing dark hair out of his big brown eyes, he looks up at me with complete trust. Plastic Baby Groot is offered with outstretched hands.

“Tee him!”

Oh sweet little one. Did you know that I can’t always understand what you say? Is that why you started bringing the Target ads, to show me your favorite super heroes?

Dis is de Iwon Man Wego but Twny Start is not weally in dere-a-uh.

(In Aidan’s vocabulary, some words at the end of a sentence have two and often three sing-song syllables.)

You funny little fella. You roll your eyes at me when I tell you I’ve never seen the movies you bring and place in my lap.

The Avengers. Guardians of the Galaxy. Captain America. Thor.

“My sons have seen them though,” I say.

“Ou can’t have doose boys. I’m woure boy,” he proclaims, pointing at his chest.

Wake the deal-uh,” Aidan insists, holding out his hand to shake on it.

“Ok buddy, you can be my boy while you’re here today.”

Then for the briefest of moments I allow myself to remember another boy who was mine for a day. The newborn son who lies in a cold grave near his grandparents, his birth and death dates the same.

It seems forever ago, but it wasn’t. It’s just that the girl I used to be was also buried that day.

“Would my son have been like Aidan? Overjoyed with the smallest of attentions? Elated with a big empty piece of paper onto which he could draw his own universe?”

“Is he mad at me that he died? Does he think it was my fault? Does he love me?”

“Does he know that I was so young and afraid? That I thought the doctors knew best when they sent me home that night?”

“Who would he be now?”

I still ask those things, the questions without answers. This side of Heaven, I’ll never know.

I do know this though, grief paralyzed me after he died. Then shame strangled me.

“Her baby died. I’m not sure what happened. But she’s not even taking care of her two-year old. Her younger sister comes every day and stays there most nights.”

The gossip was right. I didn’t take care of anyone then, not even myself.

All I did was lay in bed and relive over and over not fighting back when the doctor said, “Oh you aren’t in labor. It’s too early. Go home and rest.”

I relived giving birth with just my husband in the room, him screaming for help when I told him what was happening.

Relived how peaceful it felt when the baby moved against my legs and I thought for a few seconds that he might not die.

The flashbacks of holding him never stopped. He struggled to breathe, before they took him to “see if there was anything that could be done for him.”

“He’s little though. Don’t expect a miracle.”

But the worst thing was constantly reliving my sister entering the room 45 minutes later, holding the baby.

“I found him next to the sink, on the counter. They said he died and nothing could be done. They were waiting for the doctor to finish stitching you up before they brought him back. But he’s moving. He’s not dead.”

I relived reaching out for the baby. His chest slowly rising and falling. Then faster frantic breaths, his tiny fingers jerkily grasping, his head moving from side to side as he fought for air.

My husband screaming again at the call button speaker.

Then, the baby just didn’t take another breath. I relived the deathly silence. Over and over again.

For months afterward I stayed in my dark bedroom clutching the blanket he was wrapped in, my wet tears mingling with tiny drops of dried blood. (My blood, not his. He was perfect.)

One day my two-year old son came in and patted me on the cheek. Silently, he touched my face. Sweet little fingers tried to gently pry open my eyes.

“Mommy get up. Mommy come back. Mommy come play.”

So I did.

The empty shell of me tried to live a semblance of a life. I mostly failed. But I was up walking around and to everyone in my life, that seemed to be a huge improvement.

I prayed for months after my son died, that God would give me a dream of the baby.

I so desperately needed to see him somewhere besides that tiny casket. Somewhere besides being lowered into the hard red dirt.

Over a year later God answered that prayer.

I dreamed I was in church when a laughing toddler with wavy dark hair and big brown eyes peaked over the pew in front of me. His chubby little arms stretched towards me, smiles wreathing his face.

I reached for him but before I could hold him, the dream ended. I awoke with full knowledge and memory of my baby as I saw him, his soul alive.

I started the long journey of healing at that moment in time. Bitterness of soul lingered, but my wavering faith was completely replaced with sure knowledge that I will hold my son again one day.

I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
~2 Samuel 12:23

As I settle in to draw with Aidan and his brother Cody, the journey of healing continues.

One tear slides down my cheek onto the three feet of butcher paper.

I’m surprised by this. I don’t often cry for my baby anymore.

Aidan notices. “Don’t cry Midth Angel. Whass wong-uh?

“I think it’s just dust in my eye. I’m ok. Tell me what you want our zoo to look like. Where shall we put the tigers?”

Aidan roars at me, curling his fingers like claws. “Draw them here, in front of me,” he says with a pretend tiger-ish growl.”

So I do.

In the end I decide, “maybe I’m just crying for all the boys.”

The ones taken, and the ones given.

“The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Dear son, we’ve been waiting for you
Thrilled beside ourselves that you’ve arrived
White coats came in, heads held low
Talked for a bit, shuffled outside

We closed the curtains
And held each other
And cried
We said hello
At the same time
That we said goodbye

And smallest and wingless
Leaving as soon as you’d arrived
But sadness is just love wasted
With no little heart to place it inside

We closed the curtains
And held each other
And cried
We said hello
At the same time
That we said goodbye