After going through 200 adoptions applications, they were happy to finally become parents. That happiness was taken away too quickly and taught this man some major life lessons.
My heart raced as I heard the words. We were going to be foster parents to a two-month-old. We got to this point having failed at straight adoption, 200 applications within a year and a half time. Seven times we made it to the final decision, including four times in one week on four separate children and sibling groups yet we were always the runners up. All this washed away with the one phone call.
When Aayden arrived in our lives, it was surreal. I had hardened from the agony of the 200 stories I had heard. Many lives tied to an atrocious story too visceral for any newspaper or television news hour. I lost faith in humanity, yet I felt empowered to help.
Aayden and I bonded over football, our bellies triumphantly watching Matt Schaub lead the Houston Texans towards the playoffs. It wasn’t easy, going out usually resulted in gawking stares of others. I made sure my fly wasn’t down, but it probably had to do with the fact Aayden was African American, my wife at the time was Caucasian and I, Indian. To me, I just saw a child in need of parents and that we could fill in that role.
Though our foster parent training had provided us hours of education on how to be foster parents and that this was temporary, it was hard not to be attached. We became attached; it’s what you do if you want to be good parents. For two months, we bonded. I remember hissy fits over belly time and after every bath a sense of relief as he tinkled.
The door knocked on a weekday morning, my heart sinking to my toes. Aayden’s caseworker arrived. We had been told the day before but still were in shock and disbelief. I handed Aayden over to her and the sense of loss immediate. My mom tried to console me, explaining how she felt about my brother, whom I never met. He was born, Feb 15, 1970. He died the next day.
Months passed and another call. We say yes. A two-year-old is supposed to be coming to our house that night. When she arrives, we find she isn’t two years old but only two months old. I remember saying, same age as Aayden. Her name was Destiny. Destiny and I bonded over drool. I held her way up to the sky, and a slow drool drifted downward toward my forehead. She also abhorred belly time getting tomato red and angry. We also bonded with Destiny as well but two months later the same phone call. It was still a loss but not as devastating. We had decided that we were done trying to foster and adopt, but our case worker told us to give it one last try.
Every moment with my daughter, I now cherish but then, it was still surreal. There was always this innate fear that drove every moment. Knocks at the door and phone calls just made my hair stand up. As I look back to my childhood, I see that I did to my daughter what my parents did to me. I hated them for suffocating me, being so overbearing that I was glad to have a “four-hour” buffer from them when I went to college. I didn’t understand how such a devastating loss could impact them and how being born seven years later was a miracle.
Their fear was never wanting to know loss again no matter what it took. For until I got divorced, my childhood was something I resented and never understood. The divorce was a blur, but I remember the one thing my daughter said, “Don’t worry dad, I’ll be your best friend.” The day my daughter moved with my ex-wife out of state, the sense of loss echoed. Sad as it seemed, I fought so hard to prevent loss from happening and though this wasn’t the same thing it sure as hell felt like it.
I learned how to be me again, and the first people I reacquainted with were my parents and my best friend, Jaleel. Jaleel moved thousands of miles to take care of me. I realized why my childhood was the way it was. I understood my parents for the first time and the brother I always wanted I had in Jaleel. It wasn’t all Hollywood. I made severe mistakes and even eventually kicked him out choosing my Hunter S. Thompson lifestyle over what I needed at the time. I learned what grace and forgiveness meant, as they never stopped caring for me during my times of need even as I piled on the mistakes and hurt them.
To my daughter, I was both the helicopter parent and the crazy uncle spoiling her rotten. When you are a “partial parent,” it’s hard to find out where you belong. Still battling the emotions, every monthly visit and daily Skype video call goodbye that same feeling of loss. Once I understood what I had put my parents through and that what they had done though understood wasn’t good either, I finally became a dad.
I realized that I wasn’t going to always be there. That I needed to teach my daughter not only what to do but especially how to think and I stopped being over protective. I didn’t need to be the one that gave her a ton of gifts. I just need to give her time. I realized that goodbyes will always be sad, but that shouldn’t change how I am a dad to my child.
Photo: Flickr/ Snapshooter46