Sunday, March 07, 2010

Adoption - Part Four

The more emotional parts are here, but unfortunately, I don't think they describe very easily. Not by me, anyway.

So. In February 2000 I am in Romania a second time. A psychiatrist friend had come - late 30's and experiencing infertility problems. She didn't mention it to anyone else on the team, but asked me when we were alone with the abandoned babies once "What would happen if I just took one of these and headed for the border?" If she had asked the week before back in the states I would have been appalled, and told her that the whole mission organization was going to get blown up if she did that. (A brilliant woman, but reminiscent of Janice on the Muppets in both appearance and personality.) I did talk her out of it, but understood entirely by this time. From the day of our arrival, there was another team there, from Jackson Hole - including two who were adopting older children. I quickly learned there were others in the wings, enough to provide parents for about a third of the children if all went well.

I never got a clear explanation what had changed. This is Romania, where not all questions have clear answers. But visiting Casa Iosef was different now. I looked at the group. Huh. These kids need parents. You know how to do that. Huh. I called Tracy, still a dollar a minute in those days, and talked for half an hour. This team traveled more widely for our village medical clinics, and I had lots of time to think while bouncing in battered Dacias or the old Vanagon. I was sick for two days and stayed away from others. The second week I kept looking at the kids and thinking Could you be my child? Are you supposed to come home with me? I tried each of them on, so to speak.

In September 2000 we started spending money - hemorrhaging money, actually - to qualify for adoption and adopt our two in specific. We came to hate the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The Boston office is (was?) reportedly among the worst, and their entire bureaucracy seems to be filled with petty empire-builders. Odd rules, whose purpose I could not divine, admitted of no exceptions. When the person assigned to our case went on vacation, no one was assigned in coverage. No one would touch what was on the vacationer's desk. It just wasn't done.

We had an excellent adoption agency which steered through the morass as well as could be expected. We expected an answer in November, starting on "any day now." Every morning we would go up and think today might be the day. But no day in November was the day, nor was any day in December. Living on the edge of expectation gets wearing. If you have ever climbed a mountain with false peaks, searched for restaurants or hotels and found them all closed, or waited for any expected pleasure (a bathroom, a cigarette, a drink, a nap) and been repeatedly put off you can get some idea of it.

We were under two time pressures: the June 30 deadline for the whole country I mentioned earlier, but also John-Adrian's 16th birthday. Adoption after age 16 was not allowed. We were told it would likely be no problem, as he was coming as a package with a younger sibling, and because he was two grades behind (both boys had spent ages 6-8 being shepherds instead of going to school, to support their father's cigar and palinka habits), but no one would assure us of that. No one would promise. This is Romania, where bribes, influence, connections, and whim prevail too often. So the final papers would have to go before the judge in Bihor County before May 8.

Sometimes desperation opens up witness, BTW. By January I could quite comfortably ask the most nominal of Christian, or even non-believers, to pray for us. I didn't care what they thought. If my reputation was the price to pay, then cheap at the cost. By late January we had had many more today-could-be's. I resolved to fast and pray for a week. I had fasted before, but never anything this extreme. Anything that would help God hear me, help me hear God, break some obstacle to getting my sons home - we were already starting to use those words - seemed reasonable. I don't know if fasting "works" in the sense of making things happen, but it certainly works in terms of praying. By the third day, praying for hours, praying while I drove the car or filled out forms, praying while I dressed or went to meetings, was no problem.

We learned later that the boys had been told that someone was hoping to adopt them, but they couldn't be told who. John-Adrian assured me he had guessed, but that's his personality. He would say that anyway. John-Adrian knew everything and was never wrong in those days. Though we learned in April that he had cried for hours with the mother who was adopting Florentin, his best friend. I want a family.*

We have never seen J-A cry, or anything close to it, in nine years. He has never mentioned it or expressed anything but blithe confidence that he knew it would work out. Yeah. Either way, we certainly didn't know it would work out, and we were well into February with the clock ticking. We knew that if we went past March 20 or so without hearing, the necessary pieces couldn't be put in place by May 8. We were frantic. No, I was frantic. Tracy was depressed. Our children were going to be stuck in Romania forever.

Somewhere in there Ben became an adult comforter of his mother. It was not a role he had previously refused, it just never occurred to him, and no one had asked him. Then he was just there, most natural thing in the world.

The INS gave its approval in early March. We celebrated at the ridiculously expensive Bedford Village Inn, and I made immediate reservations to go to Romania and see the boys for for ten days beginning late March in preparation for the adoption in May. That April trip, bringing them home May 25, and our return in 2005 will be the last post of the series.

*Notice that this is what orphaned children say, not "I want a mother," or "I want parents." The difference is significant.

2 comments:

Donna B. said...

"I want a family"

I think I understand the difference, but never having been in the position to realize that parents do not necessarily mean family... most likely I do not because they have always been the same thing to me.

Jonathan said...

I still remember the huge "exception" they made by "allowing" me to be fingerprinted in Louisville instead of Boston. How kind of them.