Archive for November, 2012

National Adoption Month Cont’d: “Nice Looking Kid”

November 29, 2012

As National Adoption Month comes to a close I will share with you another excerpt from my book “It’s Heart Work: Being The Village That Raises A Child”.
Last time, I shared with you the chapter about meeting my first and oldest son, Bryant.  This time I’ll share about meeting my younger son, Branden.

Although Bryant and Branden are now adults, I still remember these days as if they were only yesterday.  And even having experienced the rollercoaster ride of being a single adoptive mom, they still bring a smile to my face.  I hope they will for you too.

Chapter 13 

Nice Looking Kid

 Approaching two years together as mother and son, Bryant and I agreed that neither of us really liked being an only child.  He wanted to be the oldest, and of course wanted a brother rather than a sister.  That was just fine with me, because being a single parent, and based upon the history of my relationship with my mother during adolescence, I was concerned that there would definitely need to be more male energy in the house.  I stressed to him the importance of showing me that he was capable of being a good role model for a little brother.  

Still actively involved with the Bay Area’s Annual Black Adoption Fair, I participated in the planning, set-up and facilitation of activities for the event which was being held at a local Junior College and Bryant accompanied me. 

Busily running around all day there were hundreds of children of all ages with whom I came into contact however there was one child that captured my eye and heart off and on throughout the day.  He’d stood out in my mind as a quiet, yet spirited child whose sweet milk-chocolate skin and kissable forehead pulled at my heartstrings; and although, as I recall, we never spoke a word to one another verbally, the eyes of our souls spoke volumes. We all went home tired at the end of the day. 

 Several weeks later the fair photographer developed the photos, which a colleague and co-worker with the fair brought by my office for me to take a look at.   Guess what big brown eyes jumped out of the photos to speak to my heart once again?  I laughed as I viewed one of the photos of him posing with the “Sylvester The Cat” character.   I was told that I could not have it because she had to make sure that he got the photo which he himself had requested, sought out, and waited to have his picture taken with Sylvester- -a child after my own heart!   

I noticed his nametag, and saw that his birthdate was the same as my father’s- -interesting.  What was even more interesting was when I got home I laid the stack of approximately a hundred photos on the dining table at home while I began to prepare dinner.  Bryant decided to browse through them, and out of the hundreds of photographs, when he came to one photo, he paused and commented “nice looking kid”.  I stopped and walked over to see which kid he was speaking of, and imagine my shock when I saw that it was the same child who had caused my heart to swell! 

Following  a series of phone calls, conversations, and paperwork, I was finally on my way to my first “date” with the “nice looking kid” who’d already made an indelible imprint upon the hearts and minds of Bryant and me.

For the initial visit to meet Branden, I went alone and didn’t tell Bryant that I was going. However, he somehow instinctively knew and had told my friend “Auntie Gloria” whom he’d spent the day with while I was away, “My mom is going to meet my new brother”.   

In my excitement there was a profound sadness which began to overtake me as I arrived to pick Branden up from his current foster home, which was located in an impoverished neighborhood of Oakland.  The home was dark and cool, as was the foster mother.  She opened the door to the house, which in my memory seemed colorless, with a very flat tone and expressionless face and told me to come in.  She called Branden to come downstairs and showed very little interest in my reason for being there. 

Down the stairs came that little face we’d looked at time after time over the past several months.Though still as cute as a button, there was a sense of dimness and deprivation to his countenance.

In my attempts to interact with and help him to feel comfortable with me, I him asked him what I he liked to do and what were his favorite toys to play with.  He named off some things, and when I asked if I could see them, and he said “I don’t have any”.  Not really believing that to be true I turned to asked the foster mother if he did have any in his room and  I was told that he did not- -. period.  I looked up the long, dark foreboding stairway to what I assumed were the bedrooms, but decided to not even ask to see his room. 

Branden and I left for our “date” and when we got into the car his energy immediately ignited Within a block away we were chatting like popcorn.  He asked if we were going to get on the freeway.  I told him “no” and he wanted to know why.  We continued to talk. However, when we passed the freeway entrance he blurted “Hey! Back up lady and get on the freeway!”  I laughed so hard and I’m sure he probably wondered what was SO funny!  This would be just the FIRST of the many laughs I would hold in my heart and memories during my budding relationship with my new son-to-be.

 When we arrived at the “4-star restaurant” of the children’s eateries, McDonald’s, there was the usual Saturday flurry of kids all over the place.  While we were waiting in line to place our order, a man asked, “Are those all your kids?”  I looked around and pondered the thought “they’re all our kids’ but before I could say anything, the child who had already implanted himself in my heart proclaimed “I am!” and we both knew it!

 After hamburgers and all the “trimmings” we went to play at a local park and took pictures before I returned him to the foster home. 

I arranged to pick Branden up the following day for a Sunday outing to church and dinner so he and Bryant could meet.  We were all excited! 

On Sunday morning Branden greeted me warmly with a hug and held my hand as we walked to the vehicle.  I introduced him “Branden, this is my son Bryant; Bryant this is Branden”.  “Hi”,  “What’s up?”  We were riding in the van with my friend “Auntie Emelda” so I sat in the front passenger seat and allowed Bryant and Branden to sit in the seat behind us.  “Where are we going?” Branden asked.  “To church” I replied.  “Oh” he said, unenthusiastically. 

As Emelda and I talked on the way to church, I had one ear tuned in to the seat behind us. All I could hear was Branden chatting away.  He commented on everything he saw outside the windows as we passed down the street. Bryant seemed slightly amused by him but didn’t say much.  At church Branden loved the music, clapping his hands and even dancing with a little smile on his face.  He talked out loud during the service, needing to be directed to several times to be quiet and sit down.  He decided he wanted to sit in my lap.  After church we went and got something to eat and we were all tired.   

After we dropped Branden off at the end of the visit I asked Bryant what he thought of Branden.  With a smile, he said “he talks a lot, but he’s funny” (that would be the ongoing consensus and theme of their relationship).  When I asked if he thought we should consider having him for his brother he said “yeah”.

If you would like to read more about my life with Bryant and Branden,

 Purchase YOUR copy today!

In E-Book:  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54353

OR

In Paperback: http://www.hearttalkpublications.com/Products.html   

Proceeds from all sales benefit For A Child’s H.E.A.R.T., Inc. , (www.forachildsheart.org) the non-profit organization which I founded to provide services to current, former and transitioning foster and adoptive youth.

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NATIONAL ADOPTION AWARENESS MONTH: “It’s A Boy!”

November 8, 2012

I’m a little behind schedule calendar-wise, however when it comes to and from the heart it’s always in and on time. My blogfor the month of November is dedicated to National Adoption Awareness Month.

You may or may not know that I am an adoptive parent, and worked as an Adoption Social Worker almost 30 years ago! (Sounds ancient doesn’t it?)

I have chronicled much of my experience in my memoir:

           “It’s Heart Work: Being The Village That Raises A Child”

This month’s blog will be comprised of excerpts from my book. I hope your enjoyment will pique your interest in purchasing your own copy today, whether in

Paperback http://www.hearttalkpublications.com/Products.html                                                      OR

E-book:  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54353 

Proceeds from all sales benefit For A Child’s H.E.A.R.T., Inc. , the non-profit organization which I founded to provide services to current, former and transitioning foster and adoptive youth.

So enjoy your first look at “It’s Heart Work:…” 

                               Is He Talking To Me? – It’s A Boy!

“Mom!”, “Mom!!”, the young voice called out again as I patiently waited my turn in the cashier’s line at Toys ‘R Us in Monterey,  California.

“Is he talking to me?”  I heard myself say.  I turned my head just in time to see the familiar little brown face, with wide-eyed excitement, peering right at me, and waving a toy in the air.   I don’t remember any details of that toy or if we even bought it.  What I do remember, however, is that my heart leaped to a whole new dimension at the recognition of its new role: “Mom.”  And my heart hasn’t been the same since.

That was on the first day of Bryant’s and my very first face-to-face meeting.  We actually spent the entire weekend together .   Prior to that, we’d only seen pictures of and read about each other. We finally got to talk on the phone the night before meeting. I was thirty-one years old at the time, he was nine, and we both wanted a family – badly.   

During my own childhood, I was an only child until age eleven. As long as I can remember, I always loved children. People even told my mother to watch out for me, because they knew I would have a house full of children one day, and would perhaps get an early start at it. Others commented that I would probably be like my godmother, who loved and cared for tons of children but never had any biological children of her own.

From a young age, I sensed deep within that I would one day adopt children. However, in my plan, there were to be adoptive AND biological children. Well, to those people’s dismay, and mine, at age thirty-one I adored and cherished four precious godchildren, but none yet to call my own, either by birth or adoption. Even after working for two adoption programs, my friends and colleagues teased me over the fact that I’d managed to leave the agencies without “stealing one of those kids.” 

One day, while chatting with one of the therapists where I worked, she remarked, “Evelyn, you need some children.” Amazingly, less than 30 minutes after that conversation, I received a phone call from a former co-worker and friend who still worked for the county adoption agency I’d left in Monterey a little more than a year before. She told me there was a little boy on her caseload whom she was seeking a placement for, and that she and the staff instantly thought about me. I couldn’t believe it – especially since I hadn’t submitted any application for adoption. She then went on to say, “He even looks like you.” My response to that was, “Yeah, right. He’s a little Black boy, I’m a Black woman; of course we look alike.” (She and the rest of the staff were Caucasian). We laughed. 

In August 1988, I began my intimate journey into a nine year old’s heart. Then, on that beautiful, warm October day in 1988, in that Toys ‘R Us store, Bryant’s heart and mine officially entered a mother-son bond, evidenced by Bryant’s special term of endearment towards me.

Little did we know that that weekend would prove symbolic of our lives together in the years to come. It included a day of calm play and laughter at the ocean in Pacific Grove, as well as the thunderous, and sometimes scary, adventures of the Blue Angels’ air show at the Monterey County Fairgrounds. 

I stopped at See’s Candy store on the way to work that Monday morning, and reported to work with candy suckers which exclaimed, “It’s A Boy!”

NATIONAL DOWN SYNDROME MONTH: Growing Up With An Angel

November 2, 2012

[The month of October went by so fast I didn’t complete my blog series for National Down Syndrome Month.  So before beginning November’s blogs for National Adoption Month I submit Part 2 for your reading enjoyment and enlightenment]

 

Growing up with my “Angel-Sister”, Kim was an experience with which I have nothing to compare. Although she’s my sister, with the age difference and her “differ-ability” our relationship was/is not a typical sibling relationship.  Being an adoptive parent never having given physical birth to a child, in many ways I feel that she is my child of whom our mother was the surrogate parent. J

As excited as I was to have her, I would later realize and understand there were many other emotions my mother may have had having given birth to her.  Not only did she not expect to become pregnant in her forties; neither did she expect to give birth prematurely to a special needs child.  I recall over hearing conversations she had with others questioning what she may have done during her pregnancy, like drinking beverages with artificial sweeteners, to cause my sister to be developmentally disabled.  She wasn’t aware at that time that Down Syndrome is a condition in which the baby has an extra chromosome. As an adult therapist now, I can understand the guilt, fear, amongst other feelings she may have experienced.

Just purely elated to have my baby sister I didn’t question or even care WHY she was the way she was.  In my eyes, and heart, she was just perfect the way she was.  I recorded each of her developmental milestones in her baby book, and wasn’t bothered that she didn’t walk until she was two years old.  The only times I remember feeling that she was “different” was when I saw classmates’ siblings of the same age were doing more things than she was.  But I didn’t dwell on it.  (BTW, NBA player Gary Payton’s brother and I were classmates, and Gary was born the day after my sister. J)

Before Kim was born I’d met one young man with Down Syndrome.  He was the son of a family friend and was about the same age as me.  I remember being told that he was “deformed”.  Although he lived out of state and we didn’t visit often I always had a special affection for and fond memories of him.  I don’t really remember explaining Kim’s “disability” to others.  I took her almost everywhere with me and she was always accepted without question.  Probably because she was just so darn cute!  J

Leaving home to go away for college was probably the most difficult thing in our relationship for both of us.  I intentionally chose a college which was only an hour’s drive away, so I wouldn’t be too far away from her. Before then we had really only been separated from one another once, more than overnight.  We actually took our first vacation together, without our mother, the week following her first birthday.  We flew to Los Angeles and stayed with our “play Aunt and Uncle” for three whole weeks!

The first few times I came home from college it was hard because when I’d leave and not take her with me, she’d cry and most of the time I’d cry too. My mother would call to see if I made it back to school alright and ask me to speak to her because sometimes she would still be crying “I want Twee-Twees” (her word for my middle name, Louise).

Some of my most fond college memories are taking her to stay with me during the Summer.     My friends and classmates adored her!  I attended U.C. Davis where the primary mode of transportation was bicycles, so I would put her in the child seat I had attached on back for her and we’d ride to and around campus!  She LOVED it!  If I had a class one of my friends would meet us on campus and watch her while I went to class.

One of the funniest and most fun times was when an older classmate and I decided to throw a birthday party for his daughter and Kim.   We invited our friends and we all had birthday hats, whistles, food, cake, crepe paper, pin the tail on the donkey—the whole works!  Kim and my friend’s daughter looked at us as if we’d lost our minds!  We had!!! 😀

Still today, if I run into anyone from my childhood or college years, the first question is “How’s Kim?”  Even in our adult years my identity is established as “Kim’s Sister”. Wherever I/we go, someone will say “Oh! You’re Kim’s sister!”  J Sometimes people we’ve not seen in a long time will look at us and not recognize me until they look at her and put two and two together.

Throughout adulthood, no matter where I’ve lived, she has come to stay with me for extended visits.  She enjoyed the independence I’d allow her in doing things for herself, and at one point I asked my mother to allow her to come and live with me, but she wouldn’t.  In January of 2000 I was planning a weekend visit for her over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend. I called our mother to verify the time I’d be picking her up and asked when did she want me to bring her back, she said “never”.  I figured she was joking as she often did.  However when I arrived to pick Kim up, she had many of her belongings packed in suitcases!  I was totally shocked and unprepared for this; but I felt that if I didn’t seize the opportunity then and there it might be my only chance.

It took a lot of juggling during those first several weeks to work out a plan; however, Kim was in her own words “very very happy”—so much so that when I drove the 30 miles for her to spend the night with our mother while I attended a conference she refused to stay.  So…when we’d made the return trip and drove into my driveway she said “I live here”. 

We have now lived happily together for over 12 years now.  I’d be lying if I said it was ALL “angelic” because she can be VERY stubborn at times, and has some other difficulties, but I wouldn’t trade her for anything!  Yes, it’s a lot of work but we’ve gotten a system down which works for us.  The greatest difficulty is not having any back-up for emergencies, or even spontaneous outings for myself; but God has provided, and gratefully we’ve had interim care takers whom she’s liked and I’ve trusted.

Our mother passed 5 years ago and although Kim will occasionally say “I’m sad; I miss my mudder” and shed a tear or two, she hasn’t skipped a beat and is very clear that “I want my tister”.  One of the last things I told my mother before she died was to not worry about Kim being a burden on me, because out of all the things she’d done for me, giving birth to her was the most cherished.  I think that really “released” her, and I meant it.

I’m frequently told by friends, strangers and extended family that she’s so lucky to have me, and that I will be blessed for caring for her.  What they don’t know is what a blessing she is in MY life.  It is an indescribable joy to have her express gratitude for some of the basic care, like say “Thank you Ebelyn” when I’ve given her a shower; or just walking up to me and giving me a hug and kiss for no particular reason. As tired or low as I may be feeling at the time, those words and actions melt my heart and remind me that I have been given the special responsibility and privilege of taking care of one of God’s Angels.

Sometimes she will say or do something totally unexpected which throws me totally off guard—and most times causes me to crack up laughing. It seems as if sometimes she can read my mind. I can be thinking something and she will either make a comment or ask me a question about it, without my having said a word. We continue to have that special “connection” and sometimes when I look into her eyes and embrace her I experience the same feeling I had that first day I saw her in that incubator 44 years ago.

Another one of my greatest joys is watching her dance.  Like me, she has always loved music and dancing (yes she even knows when Stevie Wonder is singing J) After watching the praise dancers from our former church, she told me she wanted to dance.  The leader of praise dance team was happy to work with her (she also had a brother with special needs), and even made dance attire for her. Because she wasn’t able to follow the other adult dancers, and didn’t really fit in with the children, she was allowed to dance individually.  It was beyond anyone’s expectations.  After that she would frequently tell us “I need to dance” and at times would be given the opportunity to do so.   Unfortunately, for some reason it was later decided that no one would be allowed to dance outside of the dance team so she didn’t get to dance anymore. 

She has danced in the talent show for her Day Program; and recently after quite some time of having not danced I watched her dance again.  After laughing at some of her antics, the tears began to swell up in my heart and run down my face.  I couldn’t help it as I was reminded once again of the fact that I AM entertaining an angel– aware.

I’ve posted a video of “The Angel Dancing”on my facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/msevelyn.theheartlady) for your enjoyment–if  you can get past the shaking and moving as I tried to hold the camera and contain my composure at the same time).

If you have enjoyed this National Down Syndrome Month blog series about “My Angel” I hope you will be interested in purchasing and reading more in my upcoming book “Entertaining Angels Aware” which is scheduled for completion and release in July 2013 in celebration of Kim’s 45th birthday!

Also, if you have an “Angel” in your life and would like to contribute your story to the book please e-mail me at Ms.E@forachildsheart.org or ME@TalkToMsE.com


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