Sunday, October 2, 2016

"What If" is a Fool's Game: An Adoption Vignette

It rained today; after a sunny and warm week, the rain came in on Saturday morning.  The weather was forecasted; the happenings of the afternoon were not.  Emotional forecast:  Unknown.   This is somehow beginning to sound like the classic suspense story beginning of, “it was a dark and stormy night,” but it’s not… I wish it were.
After a leisurely Saturday morning domestic puttering alone, enjoying the Grover’s sleep-in after letting him stay up as late as he wanted the night before; he finally woke and we enjoyed brunch of fresh fruit and yogurt in front of an episode of the “Power Puff Girls,” not his favorite, but he humors me.

“Hey Ma?”

“Yeah?  Hey, there’s yogurt on your chin.”  I dabbed it away with my finger, dripping yogurt from my own spoon onto his shirt.


“Sorry!”  I giggled.  Exasperated, he swiped at his own chin (though yogurt-free) and took another bite, chewed a couple of times and spoke around his mouthful.

“You said we’d play basketball at the school today.”

I didn’t bother to point out the yogurt and cantaloupe juice that dripped from his lip onto his shirt; pretty sure he wasn’t in the mood.  I inwardly groaned, instantly taking stock of my pain level and balance; cancer is a bitch, by the way.

“I did; we will.”  I looked furtively out the living room window; sideways rain was spitting against it with a ‘tick, tick, ticking’ sound.  “As soon as the rain lets up just a bit we’ll go.”

It was a couple of hours later before we arrived at the grammar school down the hill, equipped with high hopes and a freshly pumped ball; we had the whole playground to ourselves.  We started dribbling lazily, both of us shooting each other with the cell phone camera before we ditched technology and started to play for real (okay, ‘for real’ simply meant better than we could with a phone in-hand… which actually looked tragically similar).  It didn’t take long for us to become sweaty and out of breath (me) and frustrated (him); we retired to the picnic table for a silent and brooding drink.

“‘Sup, Grove; you did well, remember, you’re more of a runner than a baller; we’re just having fun.”

“I suck at sports; doesn’t matter, I don’t really care.”

“Well, you did better than I did.”

“You’re old; I’m 13.”

“Wow… well, there is that.  Anyway, we’re just here to have fun; are you having fun?”

“Not really.”


He shuffled his feet in the wood chips, still orange from being new, by the end of the school year they would be gray like molding straw after Halloween.  He rested his chin on the basketball in his lap.  I looked at the school up the hill and supposed, out loud,

“Maybe I should have transferred you here after second-grade.”

“Why?”  He asked, sitting up and looking at me, annoyed.

“Well, when we moved over here, you hadn’t met Bailey yet; what if he had never been a part of your life?  What if he never bullied you; sometimes I think about what it may have been like for you if I’d transferred you instead of staying.”

“That’s idiotic, Mom.”  He was annoyed bordering on angry then.

“Start over.”  I said, stern, but curious.

“My life would be completely different.”  He was angry with me now; his ears turning red.

“All I’m saying, Grove, is that I wish you hadn’t been bullied; I wish I could have done better for you.”

I was trying hard to keep the annoyance out of my own voice.  I know how sensitive to change he is, and I could see he was making my supposition a reality in his head; I needed to derail that train of thought.  I nudged the toe of my sneaker closer to his, tapped the side of his shoe with mine and said,

“I’m proud of who you are, Grove; you’ve gone through a lot, and I’m so glad you’re exactly who you are.”

He didn’t respond verbally, but I watched the red fade slightly from the tips of his ears.  His ears are always the sign of his level of anxiety; I remember noting that when he was so small, but so anxious all the time.

“Maybe it would be different; maybe I would be different.  I have friends I wouldn’t have if I transferred; I’m fine, it would have made my anxiety worse from moving, than from being bullied.”

I couldn’t argue with that, even though I wasn’t sure I agreed with him, I was thankful for his words, thankful that he was articulating feelings… suddenly, I was just so thankful for… him.  I bit the inside of my cheek, trying so hard not to let my own feelings out.  I tasted blood inside my cheek, and felt a tear on the outside of it.

“I’m sorry, Grove.”  I choked out the words and willed him not to turn around; I didn’t want him to see me crying.  “I’m sorry you were bullied; I’m sorry I didn’t do better; I’m so sorry I didn’t protect you.”

“Mom... it’s fine.”

He was looking at me then; the red returned to his ears and prompted more tears in me.  I was angry, not at him, but at me… angry and sorry for so much.  So much all at once.

“I wanted so much better for you, Grove.”

I couldn’t stop the tears anymore, and I couldn’t stop the words, either.  Everything in me screamed at me to shut the fuck up, but I couldn’t, it was a Louisiana floodgate overwhelmed.

“I’m sorry I didn’t leave [him] when you were a baby; he never would have hurt you then.  I’m sorry I haven’t provided more for you; I never thought, when I adopted a tiny baby, when you became mine, that I wouldn’t be able to provide more than a basement apartment for us, and a closet, I never looked at your precious face and thought you would be thirteen and living in a walk-in closet.  I’m just so sorry.”

I stopped; I sat and sobbed across a picnic table at a grammar school while my 13-year-old son sat silent and suddenly appeared so small.

“I want a PS4.”  He said; he was chewing his own lip then.

“What?  A PlayStation 4?  I’m talking about… you’re thinking about a video game?!?”

I felt my own ears become hot then; I felt anger rising, and then pushed it back down.  Asperger’s, I thought, this is just an Asperger’s thing, he’s probably not even been hearing me, he’s thinking about a video game, this could be a good thing, I tried to convince myself (not very successfully, however, all I kept hearing in my head was, “he wants a PS4?  I’m pouring my heart out and he wants a fucking game console???).  I remained silent, but the morning clouds had quietly returned, and there was suddenly the “tick, tick, ticking” of tiny raindrops on the tabletop.

“Mom; I want a PS4, I’m not asking for one, I’m just saying that’s what I want.  I don’t want a different school, or a different place to live, or any family different than what I have.  Where we are is enough.  We’re enough.  Besides, you said that if nothing ever happens to you, you can’t know how to like what you have.  Being bullied happened, and I’m mostly okay.  [He} happened and you’re okay; we’re okay… mostly, but, I mean, you are crying at a playground.”  He smiled then, just a little, but it was a smile.

“I love you so much, Grove.”

He came to my side of the table then, sat next to me, letting the ball roll down the hill; I wrapped my arms around his chest and pulled him close to me, his back rested against my chest and we breathed together and we watched the ball as it rolled across the blacktop like the earth making orbit from one to thirteen in the flash of a moment, and it was okay, and we were enough.


“I didn’t give you the gift of life, but in my heart I know, the love I feel is deep and real, as if it had been so for us to have one another is like a dream come true.  No, I didn’t give you the gift of life; life gave me the gift of you.”  ~Unknown