Monday, February 28, 2011

Not My Idea Of A Party...

"Alicia, I love you. I want to have kids with you, and I can't wait to raise them together and watch them be successful with you. I'm upset right now because of what just happened, and I'm still trying to process everything. I'm not upset with you at all, and I know it might seem like it because I'm not talking a lot right now, but I'm just trying to cope with these feelings. All I know is that I never want to do that again, and I hope you feel the same way." 

That's all I really wanted to say to my wife on Saturday afternoon. We were sitting in Shawnee, OK, in the parking lot of a Kohls, and I'd had 30 miles to rehearse what I was going to say to her. I opened my mouth, and I managed to say, "I'm not mad at you..." before the tears threatened to start. So instead of a wordy explanation, Alicia got to see me choke up and stare out the window for 5 minutes trying to get a hold on myself.

You might not believe that a "party" started all of that, but it did.

Most of you know that Alicia and I are trying to adopt a child. We've recently been approved for that adoption, and now we are just searching for children. We've set age limits, we've set the conditions we'd accept, and we've spent a lot of time trying to make sure we've done the right thing. So when we got an invitation to an "Adoption Party," we signed up, just to give it a chance. I had a bad feeling about it all along, but I knew Alicia really wanted to check it out, so I agreed to it.

It was a two and a half hour drive to Oklahoma City, and we got there about 30 minutes early. We walked into a gymnasium, and we were handed our name tags, some tickets for a door prize, and a book. In my time on this earth, I've made some enemies, both big and small. I'm here to tell you, I wouldn't wish that book on the worst of those enemies. The photos and words run together in a blur on the pages, under the guise of what the kids like to do in their free time, all telling stories of the pain of abandonment, the knife points of loss, the wounds that never completely heal. The kids are all smiling in their pictures, some of them are dressed in suits, and all of them having one thing in common.

They are absolutely too old for us.

There were balloons, inflatables, food, craft stations, and posters of superheroes and movie stars everywhere. If someone had walked in off the street, they would have thought that they had stumbled onto a rich kid's extravagant birthday party. Laughter was in the air, smiles were plentiful, but all of those were storefronts built to conceal the tents of sympathy behind them.

Alicia and I first decided to adopt because of a little girl's picture on a local news station's website. Alicia sent it to me one day and said, "I want to adopt, and I want this little girl." Neither of us have ever looked back from that moment, but we did decide that the little girl was too old for us. However, on Saturday, that little girl was in that book. She likes basketball and has an older sister. That's all I managed to read before I had to turn away and stare icily into the distance, telling myself that if I cried in front of 300 people that I'd be laughed out of the place.

If I had agreed to it, we'd have left with that little girl and her sister that day, and I don't think it would have been a "legal" adoption. Sadly, they are just too old for us.

Alicia and I scanned the room, and we noticed something. There were people there with 2, 3, and even 4 kids, and they were looking to adopt more. We both got angry about that. How is that fair? Why would they want more? Don't they know that we don't have ANY? Don't they know that they are just making it harder for us? Finally I realized that they don't. They might be blessed enough to take care of another child, and they are just trying to help someone out. I can't judge them. Alicia and I still feel like we should have "dibs" though. I know that's not logical, but you won't convince either of us of that.

We were ushered into the arena, and told that the kids up for adoption would be there shortly. After they handed out a few door prizes, they told everyone to start mingling in preparation for their arrival. Alicia and I sat there on the bleachers, trying to decide whether or not we were going to leave, and in walked that little girl and her sister. Both of them cuter than the pictures ever could have told us. Alicia pointed them out, but I had already been watching them for some time. I watched as they went through the inflatables, and I watched as the older sister put her sibling's shoes back on for her. I watched as a woman walked up to them and said, "Are you sisters?" I watched as the oldest nodded yes, and I watched as the woman immediately turned her back on them and started to walk away. I watched as they went to each "fun" station, unable to move, my heart seeming as though it was tearing loose from chest. I watched, I watched, and I watched.

Then I got up and left.

A piece of me died on Saturday, some part of my soul that I can only hope will regenerate itself. We walked out the front doors, and I will never forget how quiet it was outside. The door behind us slammed like jail cells in the movies. We walked away, leaving those kids to lives unknown, simply because they'd been born 2 or 3 years before the kids we'll eventually get.

So as I sat in the parking lot of that Kohls, staring out the window, I finally reigned in all my emotion and the words came fast and plentiful. It wasn't that elegant and rehearsed speech that I'd had 20 minutes to prepare, but when I saw the look in Alicia's eyes, I knew she understood. We're on the same page, it's just not a page in that terrible, awful, and scary adoption book. We're going to make a difference for someone. But we're never going back to one of those "parties."

p.s. I know some of you are here looking for the winner of the contest. Because of the weekend I had, I didn't tally everything up. However, I am doing it today and will have a winner tomorrow! Thanks for your patience!