11 November 2007

Remembering Our Family

A year ago today, we met our children for the first time. Only at that time, they were only our possibly-maybe-future-children.

We received a phone call late in the evening of November 10 from the foster parents. They had been given a green light from their social worker to set up a rendez-vous with us.

See, as par for the adoption course, and especially with older children, the first meeting is set up to look like a chance meeting. You may go to a park, sit on a bench, and watch the child play. This is an observation meeting. The child is never to know you're there and never know who you could possibly be to them. From this, you're supposed to get a better feel if there's going to be a fit.

Since Wifey knew the Foster Mother, we were given the option to "run into" the family and have a little interaction with the kids.

I planned and plotted on the phone with the Foster Father. We decided that since they were planning on going to Home Depot the next day to take the kids to one of the store classes, and that Wifey and I were in the middle of a kitchen renovation, that we could have a chance encounter in the hardware section. Then, we'd be invited to join in and help the family out at the kids' workshop.

The only thing we didn't account for is that the next day was Remembrance Day.

The next morning, Wifey and I showed up early for our meeting. I remember feeling nervous, my stomach dancing, simultaneously excited and terrified. What if we didn't like them? What if they didn't like us? What if they were weird about us being gay?

When we pulled into the parking lot of Home Depot, we thought it looked empty. We parked the car and then dashed through the rain to the front doors. Only, the front doors didn't open. We looked for a sign, but we didn't find one. Then we went back to the car and waited.

We didn't have the foster parent's cell phone number. We had no way to contact them. We didn't know what kind of vehicle they drove. We had no way to approach them without giving ourselves away. So we sat in the car and waited. We thought about driving away. We were both on the verge of tears with the anticipation of about to being disappointed. And, upset that we were about to have to re-schedule a meeting that we'd been waiting to have for over 4 1/2 months.

Finally the foster parents drove up. The foster dad got out and went to the front of the store to go in. The doors didn't open for him either. He looked around and went back to their van. They pulled into a spot and waited.

We waited in our car across the parking lot mentally trying to get their attention.

Nothing happened. No one moved. We sat in our respective vehicles, each unaware that the other was there, trying to figure out what to do next.

I turned on the car, pulled out of our spot, drove around the parking lot to pull up at the front door. Wifey got out and went to the entrance again. The doors still didn't open. She waited and waited. Trying to look obvious. Hoping that the Foster Mom would see her and make something happen. Wifey then returned to the car. Just as Foster Dad left his car and went to the entrance, again.

Pretending not to recognize the other, Foster Dad and Wifey conversed. Foster Dad talked while looking at the front entrance with his back turned to the parking lot and Wifey talked while looking at me in the driver's seat. Once we discussed that Home Depot wasn't open, we didn't know why, and had no idea when it would be open again, we hatched another plan.

We could go to Chapters because that was a place they took the family to read in the children's section.

Twenty minutes later, and across town, we pulled into the Chapters parking lot and went to the front doors. The doors wouldn't open.

We couldn't believe it. I almost broke down in tears of frustration. Chapters wasn't open either and it looked like we would have to re-schedule. We walked back to the car.

Sitting there, dejected, Foster Dad tapped on the window. McDonald's would have to be open, he surmised. Let's have a really early lunch.

We came up with another story to tell the kids. This time, we were meeting them at McDonald's to give some renovation advice.

The foster family pulled up to McDonalds and went in. We pulled up to McDonalds and went it. And it was there, for the first time, that we met Bella and Bubaloo. Our 30 minute chance encounter turned into a 4 hour long pit stop.

We spent some time eating all together and interacting with the kids. The kids spent time playing in the play place. We spent some time to getting to know more about the kids through the foster parents. It was such an incredible afternoon.

It was during that time that is was confirmed for us - these were to be our kids. Even though they had no clue who we were. We were just some friends of the foster parents.

Today, in celebration, we went to McDonald's and relived our first meeting.

As a family, we always go back to the final minutes of that first meeting together. When saying goodbye and walking to our respective cars, Bubaloo donned his sneaky face. Waving goodbye as he walked towards our car, he proclaimed to the foster family, "See you later. I'm going home with them!"

All the adults laughed at his joke.

Bubaloo thought he got a laugh because he made a funny. We all laughed because little did he know how true his words were. In a few months time, he would be coming home with us as his forever family.

04 November 2007

The Dickie Bird Comes Home

Gran's Dickie Bird

My gran is in her mid-eighties. She still has her licence. How, we're not quite sure.

She stopped driving on the highway in her early-seventies, at night in her late-seventies, long distances in her early-eighties and now she rarely drives anywhere at all. The car is parked in her driveway for emergency use only.

From spring to fall, all of her extracurricular activities are based out of a local seniors centre. The art classes and tai chi she takes there is a 10 minute walk from her house. For groceries or medical appointments, she calls upon her children or neighbours to take her.

My gran has only lost her independence in the last few years. Her physical health, quickly and unexpectedly, has deteriorated rapidly.

It's hard on us and harder on her. This is a woman who worked full-time until her mid-seventies.

When she got the flu last winter, my mother found her passed out on the kitchen floor. No one knew how long she had been there. A few hours, possibly. More likely overnight. See, she's a diabetic. Type 2. She needs food to regulate her blood sugar.

Last winter, she also acquired several successive viral infections in her ear. It made her dizzy. She was unable to walk up or down the stairs in her home. She couldn't stand up for long periods of time or even tolerate car trips across town. She was confined to her house.

And, with the long Canadian winters, my gran is also subject to the fear of practically every senior residing in a northern geographic region which keeps them housebound or southbound for a better part of the snowy season: falling down on a patch of ice.

She lives alone and gets lonely. As her ability to interact with the outside world decreases, her loneliness increases. She wants a companion, but would never get one for herself.

While she spends heaps of money on her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she'd never for a moment even consider spending a dime of her money on something frivolous for herself. This is a woman who grew up in the depression.

To put it in perspective, she never calls long distance or will end a conversation with you prematurely because she thinks it's costing you too much no matter how many times you tell her you have an unlimited call package that is quite reasonably priced.

Enter the German roller canary.

My grandmother once had a singing canary that rested in the pass-through between the kitchen and living room. It would sing its sweet bird song to her all day long. It was a German roller canary that had been gifted to her by a local breeder that couldn't be sold because it had a club foot.

She loved that bird and doted on it. It was her friend. I like to think that she would spend her days puttering around the house while talking to the bird and whispering her secrets.

The details on how that bird became not to be aren't quite clear. I know it wasn't her choice or doing. I know it had something to do with my grandfather and his irritation with the bird. Whether his irritation stemmed from the noise of its song, or her re-directed adoration, is unbeknownst to me. What I do know is that one day the dickie bird was no more.

My gran speaks of that bird fondly. She could tell you stories for an entire afternoon on its song alone. It wasn't any old canary. It was a German roller canary. She's very, very, very specific.

After months of research, connecting with breeders and anticipation, we brought a dickie bird home for her. We'll give her the gift she won't give herself.

He will be her companion till she needs a companion no more.