September 29, 2010
One of the easiest decisions I ever made was which pediatrician Rahul would go to when he first came home with me. To choose Dr. Jane Aronson was a complete no-brainer. She is known as The Orphan Doctor (www.orphandoctor.com) and is a pediatrician who specializes in treating children who have been adopted and have crossed cultures in doing so. She has made it her business to deeply understand conditions for orphans around the world so as to better treat them here. (She also founded WWO, wwo.org, to improve lives for children in orphanages around the world.)
So when Rahul arrived on US soil (4/08), one of the first things I did for him was to make an appointment with Dr. Jane. It seemed that he had received good medical care in India, but I needed to make sure his immunizations were up to date and that he was as healthy as he seemed on paper.
The day of our appointment was Rahul’s first field trip at school, and I really wanted him to be able to go to the Bronx Zoo with rest of his class (he had just started school a few days earlier). So I met him there and after we had lunch with his class and rode the monorail, we headed out. Now, at this point, Rahul and I did not speak a common language, so we had only a few words–and a whole lot of gestures–that we used to communicate. I didn’t know the Hindi word for “doctor” and I certainly was NOT going to do the “putting a shot in my arm” gesture to explain where we were going, so I said, “dost”, which means “friend”. That’s where we’re going. To our friend’s house. Where she is then going to stick big needles in your arm. Can’t wait.
So we arrived and I parked my car in a garage one block from Dr. Jane’s office. Then Rahul refused to get out of the car. After a few minutes of prodding, followed by a few minutes of threatening, followed by a quick experiment to see if I could lift Rahul out of the backseat (I could NOT), I called my parents. They were 7 hours away, but they were also the only people in the world that Rahul seemed to like at that time, and I thought they might have some luck convincing him to get out of the car. So Grammy and Grandpop worked their magic and Rahul got out of the car. So then we took a few steps along the sidewalk and Rahul sat down on the curb and refused to budge. Again I tried the prodding, the threatening, the lifting — nothing. This kid was going nowhere. So I called Dr. Jane’s office. Her receptionist was really sweet and smiley and I thought if I could convince her to walk over to where we were, Rahul would feel more comfortable and be inclined to get off the curb and into the office. She immediately understood what I was asking her to do and why and was happy to come over. So a minute later, not only does Bubbly Receptionist come walking up the block, but Dr. Jane herself, flanked by two other doctors she was training that day. Now Dr. Jane is a striking woman, with white, curly hair and brightly colored glasses, and as she led her team across the street to where we were, she had a huge smile on her face and was shouting “Hi, Rahul!” as she walked. Of course, he immediately stood up and smiled and was happy to go with this fun group wherever they were going, and as we started walking towards her office Dr. Jane sidled up next to me and said, “Is he driving you crazy yet?” She is an adoptive mom as well and has more experience with the trauma that occurs when an orphan crosses cultures and enters a family than anyone, and I was comforted to know that she didn’t judge me–or HIM–because of our behavior that day.
We stepped into the office suite and Dr. Jane started her examination right in the bright, cheery waiting room. But after a few minutes it was time to move into her office. She weighed and measured him, checked his pulse (it was racing, he was so scared!), and interviewed me about his habits. Then it was time for the needles. She had to draw a lot of blood for testing, and once Rahul realized that’s what was coming next he flipped out. He kicked, screamed, bit, flailed his arms, and ran out of the office and down the hall. A large, male doctor grabbed him as he ran by and Dr. Jane yelled out, “Papoose him!” Another person grabbed a contraption that looked like a straight jacket attached to a wooden sled and it took five adults to strap Rahul into it. Rahul was terrified and called out for me, and I held his head so he wouldn’t bite Dr. Jane. She drew the blood, vial after vial. And then she was done. She unstrapped him from his straight jacket and let him run out of the room to be alone and cry in a little heap at the end of the hall. Then when he was done, he came to Dr. Jane and got a sticker and a hug.
And then she reminded me that Dylan’s Candy Bar was right around the corner from her office.
So off we went to the greatest candy store in the world. And I was so relieved and strung out that I gave Rahul carte blanche to get whatever he wanted.
I have the receipt from that visit in his scrapbook.
|Rahul with his $75 worth of candy|
September 21, 2010
|Paul and Rosalind on their wedding day|
Today I have been thinking of my friend Paul. He died nearly 3 years ago and he was one of those people who really stays with you. He dramatically impacted every life he touched because he lived big. He was full of life, and even in his death somehow, there has been newness and revelation.
His widow is one of my dearest friends in the world. To me, she is a kindred spirit. We speak the same language and have an easy relationship. She has been left with the enormous task of raising their three children, all of whom reflect Paul’s generosity and liveliness! And she is doing an astounding job–full of courage and honesty. I know Paul is proud.
One of my favorite things about Paul was his commitment to his friends. I came into his life as a friend of his wife and he immediately embraced me as his friend, too. Like me, his wife Roz (Rosalind) is not too good about returning phone calls. Its one of the things that I love about her, since I share the same fault. But whenever I left her a message, Paul would call me back! When I would walk into their home he would inevitably draw me into deep conversation within the first few minutes I was there, probing my mind about whatever topic was fresh on his. Mostly, though, he asked me about my dating life. He REALLY wanted me to get married.
One day, early in our friendship, I was hanging out at their house, and in response to, like, thirty questions he fired at me about my love life I launched into this story about a co-worker of mine. She had gone shopping with her husband and bought these high heeled shoes, even though her husband didn’t want her to since he was shorter then she. Something about that really peeved me because, to me, a marraige is about doing what you can to please one another. And I hadn’t had a lot of that type of love in my life, so maybe I didn’t know what I’m talking about, but I felt like if I was lucky enough to have some amazing guy love me that way I would want to please him. You know, dress in a way that he liked, etc. Since I’d been single for so long I had been able to do and think and dress however I wanted, but I didn’t think (and I still don’t) that it would be that hard for me to change because I would be so grateful that someone cared! To me there is a really clear line between a man ordering you around and one who is requesting that you make choices that make him happy. Anyway, when I started on this rant Paul was lying down on the couch and by the end of my shpeel he was sitting up staring at me with his mouth hanging open! He was totally amazed that I would think this way. He thought of me as tough and independent and self-sufficiant and something about this story showed him another side of me. In a way, I felt that his heart went out to me and he understood me on a deeper level than most people I knew.
The last time I saw Paul was a few days before he passed. He was in hospice care and I knew I going there to say goodbye to him. I went into his room feeling like I was going to break in half, I was so sad. But in talking to him my spirits were lifted more than I could have thought possible. Paul had that power. He was talking about heaven and was clearly ready to move on. At the end of our visit I told him that I would see him again in heaven and he smiled and closed his eyes. I walked to the door and he shouted after me,
“And bring your husband!”
September 18, 2010
This week I turned 39. Whenever I write a birthday card to someone I say a prayer for something specific I wish for them in their new year. I think for myself, I wish more of the same! Life is good and I am incredibly blessed. The past year has held some monumental challenges and moments of utter despair, but I am full of faith right now and am seeing good things all around me.
This morning I happened to read one of my favorite parables that struck a particular chord. It speaks of building a foundation for your life that is deep and rests of rock, so that when floods and torrents “burst against” it you are not shaken because your life is well built. And last night I read another parable to my son, “The Hare and the Tortoise”. When we finished the story, Rahul said, “Yeah, but that would never happen, right?” And I said, “Honey, it happens every day.” And I feel like I am living proof that building one’s “house” on the rock gives you the support and foundation to survive the roughest storms. And I have definitely become much more “tortoise” than “hare”. When I was young I was full of hope and arrogance and absolutely sure of success. But as one dream after another was withheld from me, I began to see the value in humility and patience. There were years of my life I spent wondering what was going on and why I had not found the success I thought I should have. But now, at age 39, I look back and see how God ordered my steps precisely to prepare me for some of the things He has blessed me with now. Most especially, my son.
When Rahul first came home with me he was angry and confused and clearly did not want me to be his mom. He said so all the time, saying he had wanted a mom and a dad, wanted to live in the country, etc. And I often wondered in those first few months if he would have done better in that type of family. But as the months have turned into years I am 100% convinced that I am the perfect, hand-picked family for him. All of the qualities God spent years honing my character, the life lessons that dragged on over decades, the work I did in years of therapy, the 20+ years I have spent walking with God through all kinds of crazy situations, a lifetime spent in the bosom of a loving, stable family–all these things have shaped me into a Rahul-sized mom and prepared me to handle a type of parenting that is beyond description or explanation.
And I know there is a lot more work to do and challenges and joys I cannot even imagine. But right at this moment I am filled to the brim with contentment and faith. And I trust that the Rock that carried me 39 years already can be trusted to carry me as long as I am needed here.
September 11, 2010
I can remember being 16 years old and sitting in a hotel room with 3 younger girls at a dance conference and they were going on and on about how they noticed that I didn’t curse and how strange that was. And until then, I guess I didn’t realize how unusual I was! (Well, I knew I was unusual, just not for my wording!) And as they dared me to say words and I refused, I realized that I didn’t really know where that particular conviction had come from. When I was growing up my parents swore, my pastors swore, my friends swore. I don’t remember anyone telling me it was bad or wrong. I think it was just always a personal choice based on my own feeling of ickiness when I heard “bad language”. Words are powerful and I believe in choosing them carefully.
I have strong convictions about things, but I’m not someone to go around demanding that the people around me adhere to the same convictions. I have never asked someone to change their word choices in my presence just because I was offended. But I did come really close once.
After Rahul was home with me for a few months I started the proceedings to finalize his adoption. Children who are adopted internationally are usually adopted in their home country, then re-adopted in the US. I understood it to be a simple process that would take a matter of weeks to complete. I had been through the extreme document-craziness that is international adoption already, so I was not intimidated by a short list of papers I had to produce. However, Rahul’s finalization dragged on FOREVER. My lawyer started the proceedings in Manhattan, then realized 3 months later that I lived in the Bronx and therefore had to start the whole process over. Then I lost a good 2 months because the Bronx lost my fingerprints and I had to do them over (for now the 4th time since starting the adoption. I never committed a crime, people! How many times do I have to prove it! ) Then to top it all off, once they got all my paperwork filed, the Bronx court wanted to send a clerk to visit me before they would give me a date in court. I was incredulous that someone ELSE would have to come to my home and verify that I was a fit parent. I mean, I understood why a social worker (who is trained and qualified to make a judgement on my parenting) would come to visit–and she gave me a raving review 4 out of 4 times! Now a clerk–someone qualified to file papers, handle legal documents, manage a judge’s schedule— was coming to my home to make sure…what? What are you going to discover and discern, Oh, Clerk, that no one else has realized before? That stack of papers six inches thick is not enough information for you? I was beyond furious. But I had no choice and had to invite her into my home with a smile on my face and let her make her uninformed judgements on me.
From the moment she entered my home it was a disastrous meeting. She swooped in and the first thing out of her mouth was an incorrect statement about Rahul’s birth parents–something that would have been shocking to him if he had understood what she said. I hushed her and corrected her, but she proceeded to talk to Rahul, asking him if he was happy here. When he answered (I told him that question was coming and that he could be honest in answering it) that sometimes he was and sometimes he wasn’t because he missed his friends in India, she scolded him and told him he should be grateful that he was lucky enough to be adopted. I wanted to vomit, and in fact could not hold food down for days after her visit, it upset me so. (After she left I gave Rahul a big speech about how he never had to feel “lucky” that he was adopted and told him what an idiot that woman was.) Then she wanted to talk about why Rahul ran away sometimes. (He went through a stage during the first few months of being adopted where he would run away–and I would run with him–when he was upset.) I explained to her that he had moved past that very normal phase and that he had never been out of my sight when he ran off. Then she started instructing me how to parent based on her personal experience (in a two-parent family with a daughter she gave birth to). But it wasn’t until she started cursing that my blood really began to boil. She started using language that is NEVER used in my home and I suddenly realized how extremely offensive that language is when it is used in my personal domain. I think my friends and family must really tone their language down when they’re around me because I had never noticed anyone cursing in my home before–nor have I since! But this woman’s language was peppered with words that NO ONE should use in a professional setting. I have no idea what she said after that (except for something about how my kitchen sink was too small–uh, what?) because my brain was full of this very loud inner voice saying, “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!” over and over again. It took all my strength to not say that out loud.
I considered throwing her under the bus afterwards by writing a detailed letter of my experience, but honestly, I was so relieved to have the whole crazy process over with that once I got Rahul’s Adoption Certificate in my hands I washed those hands of the whole ordeal.
Rahul has not really learned to curse yet (although he makes up his own words that sometimes are hilarious versions of curse words, like “shot” and “dannit”) and I don’t know whether he will have the same conviction about words that I do. But I am happy that for now I can tell him that there is nothing that comes out of my mouth that he is not allowed to say.