Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Human Heartbeats

It's odd the things you don't think of when you adopt a baby. It never occurred to us that Maggie would be any less our daughter than a biological daughter would be.

But now I realize people think all kinds of odd things about adopted children. 

My husband recently listened to a friend talk about his first grandchild and the wonders of the experience.  Then the friend said, "But I know it won't be like this for you because your daughter is adopted."

What?  She isn't really our daughter so any children of hers wouldn't really be our grandchildren?  Therefore, we couldn't possibly love them completely?  We couldn't feel an equivalent happiness to that of a genetically spawned extended family?

Do divorced people who remarry ever get told they can't really love the new spouses because only a first marriage is a real marriage? No one ever writes about that kind of love being non-transferable.

Yet some children are more real than others in the minds of some.

There are plenty of things I don't believe in, but I do believe love is love. The same love that makes you smile also makes you cry. It floats your spirit just as easily as it sinks it. It isn't measured with a different set of rulers.

If your baby cries, you don't run faster in the night to a biological baby than you do to an adopted one. The human heart moves at the same speed.

The power of adoptive love is captured in Ladybug Love by Kat Lamons and Trish Diggins. They offer 100 charming vignettes from adoptive families on the day they were contacted about their match with a baby in China. That tiny picture they receive of a child on the other side of the world causes smiles and tears that rival those in a hospital delivery room. Without a caption, who could tell the difference in the parents' faces?

The book contains sweet stories about the goodness of mail carriers and adoption agency staff who sometimes faced extreme challenges to deliver the news about a long-awaited baby. There are difficult accounts about the agony of governmental delays, crippling self-doubts, and years of bitter disappointments. International adoption is not an easy path. But more importantly, they provide a firsthand account of joy when the parents learn the news in a grocery store or a garden or an office cubicle. Who would say theirs is a lightweight joy?

I looked up details about the human heart. They are all about the same size and beat approximately 100,000 times per day. It didn't say they beat faster or grew heavier for biological children than for adopted children.

Love for a child weighs the same in any heart.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

December 2013

When Cliff and I moved from Tulsa to Wisconsin, I wrote a Holiday letter to let everyone know how we were doing. It became a tradition. We aren't folks who get sales bonuses or athletic trophies to announce, and based on Maggie's trepidation through her finals, we won't be flying a valedictorian flag anytime soon either. Still, we might have something worth reporting. 

Dear Everyone,

This is an old and embarrassing thing to say, but I think we all looked better when we used to get dressed up, like women wearing white gloves to restaurants. My dad wore a suit to see The Ten Commandments. My closet held plaid dresses with matching sweaters. We paid attention to little things. While you know I’m not especially religious, I have to say I believe God is in the details. By the time I stopped teaching, students no longer knew common expressions like easy as pie, smart as a whip, asleep at the wheel. Lost cultural details. They didn’t know why it mattered either.  LOL My mother used to love saying: When it rains, it pours. It covered a lot of territory. It set a recognizable theme. Well, we’ve had showers and storms this year and weathered them all.

After over 40 years in education, Cliff has finally begun thinking his favorite season is summer.  Free of a MN winter that lasted 7 months, he set off on a solo camping trip to Yellowstone in July. When a deluge of rain left standing water in our basement, Maggie and I called him for back-up. After 4 clear nights under the stars, he hurried home, finishing out his vacation with a few nearby fishing excursions--in water he could manage easily.

Now a high school junior, Maggie landed a summer job at a neighborhood movie theater where she found Prince Charming working beside her. He has all the best traits of every great boy I ever taught. Sitting between us through her 2-hour fall concert to hear her sing one solo line, he announced her talented and brave. When he declared our album collection prime, Cliff exclaimed, “The son I always wanted!” Energetic and spontaneous, he’s perfect for our buttoned-down, organized daughter. In the spring, she went with friends to the State Capitol for the vote to allow gay marriage. When the vote was delayed, she called me in a panic because she needed to be at rehearsal since she was the stage manager. Dodging cross-bearing protestors and rainbow-flag supporters, I remembered my dad’s driving antics during I-75’s first traffic jam to get me to the Beatles’ Cincinnati concert. You do what it takes. She was disappointed about missing the celebration’s high point and her compatriots’ unwillingness to attend the important rehearsal and sighed, “It’s tough to have a moral compass.” She has no idea where she wants to attend college and says understandably, “I’m still trying to do high school.” If she holds onto that compass, we don’t think it will much matter where she ends up.

Although Cliff usually takes the prize for medical emergencies, I got my turn last month. He was raking leaves in the front yard while I snipped dead stems in the garden. I carried the bags to the alley, stepped through the garage door into the back yard, and had no idea what to do. Blank. Something was terribly wrong. After a night in the hospital and an array of tests, they declared I had experienced Transient Global Amnesia. It was a frightening 2 ½ hours of not being able to retrieve information I knew I should know. As I searched drawer after drawer, every mental file was empty. I cried and asked the same questions repeatedly. I couldn’t hold onto anything. Then it was over. Cliff said it was like me to have some incredibly rare, highly dramatic diva disorder. I now wrestle with the metaphorical implications of a brain that throws up its hands and says, “Enough!” I think I exhaust myself to high heaven.

So we’re taking a close look at our emotional weather this year and feeling pretty grateful. We're now dry as a bone, but there’s a lot to be learned from storms. Maggie’s favorite movie, when she was little, was Singin’ in the Rain. She couldn’t get enough of “the happy man,” as she called him, dancing in the puddles in that nice suit and hat. It stands to reason that her favorite room plaque says: Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain. 

We’re trying. We hope you are, too.


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