Valentine’s Day. Hearts, pink, candy, and love. Kim and I never really got into this holiday. To be forced to be romantic one day while every day is an opportunity for love seemed a hallmark plot for me. But Valentine’s Day is now a day I love because in 2013, via skype, we first saw the kiddo we had been hearing about since December. Our son Mike. Our hearts began a new journey that day, we were lucky that guardians of the world looked after us all…because it could have been the day our hearts broke forever.
Today is the 11th of February. Flash back 2 years ago: crazy prepping, getting time off, and getting a good web cam, getting to meet him. Then the phone call from our adoption worker. Mike had made suicide threat and had been hospitalized; maybe our first visit would not happen.
Kim and I were shocked. Mike had had suicidal ideation in the past but we thought moving into family, he had moved him past this. He was not yet legally ours and all we knew is he lived in North Dakota. Even if we could have found out where, we would not have been able to get to him and that ate us alive.
Neither of us slept. We prayed, a lot. I would sit up after Kim had gone to work at night just thinking baby we are coming, baby please hold on, baby please feel us. We called our caseworker and just said even if the visit had to be skyped in the hospital, please do not cancel it. He needs to know we are here, no matter what. We overnight mailed his welcome book, with pictures of family, friends, his new home. Inside we tucked his first valentine from us. His room may at times look like a bomb went off, but he always knows where that book is, always. Mike returned home on the 14th to his foster family and to a skype call that had to start with the elephant in the room. My wife’s first words to our son were “we will never give up on you, do not give up on us.”
My son…deer in headlights. Looking at his book, then at us. Asking questions, scoping us out, no eye contact. His hair floppy from bad haircuts, shirt way too big and cheap, his manner shy. A far cry from my artsy, well coifed kiddo today. The hour went way too quick and as we were setting up more calls, his caseworker asked if he had any questions. He finally looked into the camera and said, “what took you so long?” We were told after we hung up, he cried and said, “finally.” From then on it was 112 skypes from February 14th until March 21st, his homecoming.
We had heard that his “attempt” was Mike being dramatic (foster moms words, not ours). When a child with a history in foster care threatens harm, you must call. We found out however from talking to Mike finally alone without foster mom the sinister side of this. In school Mike was called a fag, all the time and in small town America it was chalked up to being his fault for being so obvious. Yep, if your blood boils at the statement good, it means you are alive and human.
Mike was cornered by a kid who basically told him he should die, deserved to die. The icing of the abuse cake was this…Mike was happy, he found a home, he was also scared by what that meant and after 9 years of false hope was on edge. The parting words from this kid were, “once they meet you, they won’t want you either.” Coupled with a psychiatrist telling him that we were crazy to adopt a 16 year old with his issues, it pushed my kid to the edge.
His attempt was not dramatic; it was primal fear of yet another rejection. He stepped into the path of an oncoming train. An off-duty cruiser happened to spot him. If the cop had dove for Mike 5 seconds later, I would have a dead child. The train would have hit and killed him. Again, people chalking his pain up to drama. 5 seconds later and my son would have been dead. This is where the gloves came off and we became his moms, legal work completed or not. We micromanaged everything at his school and foster home until he was physically with us. We probably drove some folks at DHS in ND to drink. We were in our way ruthless; our son was coming home to us and not in a body bag.
5 seconds and my son, the kid with the dancing blue eyes and fierce heart would be no more. Children in foster care are 5 times more likely to commit suicide. In 2014 -325- children lost their lives because that 5 second grace period never came. There was no one to pull them back.
So my challenge this day of love is take 5 seconds to be kind to someone, you never know what it may prevent.