March 5, 2014
After Rahul had been home with me for several months I settled into a new job that allowed me to be closer to home and have a shorter workday. I had already become accustomed to spending my every waking moment caring for his especially intense needs as he adjusted to life with me and began to heal from past trauma. One night, my friend Tamika come to our apartment. I knew life wasn’t going so well for her right then, but I was so engrossed in Rahul’s very exigent needs, that I hardly noticed what was going on with any of my friends. I was thrilled that Tamika had come by, but we ended up spending our entire evening helping Rahul through a particularly harrowing crisis. As Tamika left that night I thanked her from the bottom of my heart for caring for my child so lovingly and spending a night giving help when I knew she needed it just as much. I watched her walk down the hall and felt a sinking feeling that I should be doing more to help her, but I didn’t know how.
A few days later I had a very unique and cherished opportunity to spend 2 hours by myself. Rahul was asked to join an after school ESL program and I knew he would try it out at least once. For even one session it would be worthwhile to get him some extra help and I’d get have a few hours to breathe.
I came home from work that day and sat down at my desk, staring at the huge pile of bills and papers I had been barely tending to. My goal during these next 2 hours was going to be to get through to the bottom of the stack! I opened my computer and before beginning my serious tasks I went to Facebook. I really hated Facebook, because each time I scrolled through friends’ happy status updates about how their lives were so much easier and less oppressive than mine I wanted to throw the computer across the room! Facebook just made me feel bitter. I spent several months ignoring it completely, but I had a friend I’d been trying to track down for years who had just found me on Facebook and I was thrilled to reconnect with her. We were writing messages back and forth to one another, so I was in the habit at the time of checking into Facebook every day.
This particular day I looked for a message from my friend and finding none, scrolled down through my news feed. A few messages down I saw Tamika’s status, which read, Goodbye. My heart stopped. What time had she written it? Hours ago! Frantically, I scrolled down to the comments her other friends had written. Did they know what she meant? No. There were several comments like, I didn’t know you were heading out of town! Where are you going?
I knew what she meant. Goodbye. Forever.
Several years earlier I had been the first person Tamika had called when she woke up after an unsuccessful suicide attempt. She was such a dear friend to me and I was terrified and heartbroken that she was so sad and lost. She went into treatment and worked very hard at healing. And she had been doing really well, until her mom passed away.
I had learned of her mom’s passing one summer night when I called Tamika to tell her about a show I had just seen. After talking for a while, I asked her where she was. On a plane, she said. My mom died. I was stunned. After talking for a while I decided to try to get a flight down to Louisiana the next day, so I could support her. But as soon as I woke up the next morning I got the life-changing news that my son had been found and I was going to be Rahul’s mom! That news started me on a race to get a thesis paper’s worth of paperwork triple-notarized and sent to India so I wouldn’t lose him. I sent flowers to Tamika instead.
As I stared at the word Goodbye on Facebook that fateful day I felt I might be the only person who knew what was happening. I immediately called her and got her voice mail. “Call me”, I said. “I just read your Facebook message.” I clicked on Tamika’s homepage and learned I wasn’t the only one who knew. A friend of hers from Louisiana had written this message: HELP!!!!!!!!!!! TAMIKA HAS TAKEN PILLS AND IS TRYING TO KILL HERSELF AND I DON’T KNOW HER ADDRESS!!!!!!!!!!
I know her address! A few weeks earlier I had ordered a few Christmas cards to send out and after addressing them to various family members I had one left. I asked Rahul whom we should send it to and we decided on Tamika. It would be her first Christmas without her mom and I thought it would cheer her up. She had just moved, so I called her and got her new address.
As I started to write back to her Facebook friend, my phone rang. It was Tamika. Thank God she is alive. I answered and although she was alive, she was not well. She was slurring her words and not making any sense. While I listened I picked up my other phone and dialed 911. I was grateful to have a second phone — I had only bought it one day earlier. I was able to keep her talking while I gave the 911 operator her address. When she heard that I was sending help, she hung up on me.
My hands were shaking as I finished writing back to her Louisiana friend to say that I had Tamika’s address and had called the police.
My phone rang again and this time it was the police. They were at Tamika’s door and she wasn’t answering so they were going to leave. “NO!” I shouted! I dialed Tamika again and she picked up. Go open your door! I said to her. “She’s there!” I said to the police on my other ear. “I’m talking to her right now.” A moment later I heard Tamika’s roommate (who had been sleeping and was awakened by the banging on the door) answer the door. I heard the police questioning her and they rushed her into an ambulance. I hung up both phones and took a deep breath.
I thought for a second and realized there was one more thing I could do. I knew Tamika’s therapist, Tina. That’s because she had been my therapist first and I had recommended her to Tamika. In all the years I had known Tina she never once picked up the phone when I called her office. That day when I dialed her number, she picked up the phone. “Renee! So great to hear from you! How are things going with your son!” “Tina, Tamika is on her way to the hospital. She took a bunch of pills this morning. Do you know her psychiatrist? Could you find out what medication she is on?” “Oh my God.” She said. “Yes, I do know him and I will call him right now. Thanks for letting me know.”
Ask I hung up with Tina my phone rang again and this time it was Tamika’s friend from Louisiana. She was so relieved to get my message and she explained how she had called the NYPD earlier in the day, but because she didn’t know where Tamika lived they couldn’t do anything. And then she had to pick up her son from kindergarten and had just had to leave that desperate message on Tamika’s Facebook page praying someone would see it. I realized it was time for me to go pick up my son from school also. But before I left I got one more call. Tina called back to say she had gotten in touch with Tamika’s psychiatrist, they had tracked down which hospital she was admitted to and talked to the ER doctors at the hospital. They had caught her in time and she would recover. Hallelujah! There was now nothing else I could do, so I went to pick up Rahul.
To make a long story short, Tamika received wonderful care and worked very hard to heal. She is a new person today, solid and happy. I’m going to her wedding in May!
When I think back to all the stars that aligned that day. The timing of that one afterschool class Rahul took—literally the only 2 hours I had to myself for months. The online reunion with the friend who gave me a reason to check my Facebook page. The extra phone I had just bought. The address I had just procured from Tamika. The therapist I knew personally who answered the phone. God put me in the right place at the right time, with the right tools and the right knowledge, to help to save my friend.
Serendipity. Provident serendipity.
(And I don’t hate Facebook anymore.)
*By the way, in case you are wondering, Tamika gave me her blessing to tell our story.
January 14, 2013
Today is my Dad’s birthday. There are millions of things I love about him! Here are a few:
When I was about 5 years old my best friend Kyle told me about a monster that had appeared in his room from under his bed one night. He said as he lay in bed a big hand had reached up from under the bed and grabbed him! I suggested that maybe it had only been a dream, but he insisted it was the absolute truth and scared me out of my wits. That night when I went to bed I told my Dad how scared I was that there was a monster under my bed that was going to reach up and grab me. He soothed me and told me Kyle had just had a nightmare. Once I was calm he turned out the lights and left the room. A few moments later I heard my Mom scolding my Dad from the hallway, “Buuuuuzzz??” At the same time I saw a huge hand reaching toward me from under my bed! I screamed, but instantly I knew it was my Father who had crawled back into my room and under my bed to reach his hand up to scare me! Now, another child might have been scarred for life. But I honestly don’t think I lost a moment’s sleep over being scared again in my life–ever.
When my first love went off to college I was still in high school. After coming home from delivering him to the start of his sophomore year, I was heartbroken and trying to hold it together through dinner. We used to have rather formal dinners at our house. Dining room, candles, wine, interesting music, etc. At one point I excused myself and went out to the kitchen under the pretense of getting something. Instead, I stood in the corner and quietly sobbed with my face in my hands. A moment later I felt big, strong arms surrounding me–my dad had sensed that I was upset and had followed me from the table to give me a hug. I love that I didn’t have to speak my troubles or make a scene, he just knew what I needed in that moment.
When I was preparing to adopt Rahul my Dad announced he wanted to come with me to India and I was thrilled! It was a pretty emotional experience (to say the least) and there is no one who steadies me like him. Besides that, Rahul instantly fell in love with him.
Need I say more?
Happy Birthday Buzz!
January 10, 2012
I moved to Riverdale (Bronx) about a month before I adopted Rahul. I had worked here and knew the neighborhood, but the month prior to Rahul’s arrival was chaotic to say the least, so I had no time to meet my neighbors or make friends.
When I went to India to get Rahul, my best friend Libby and my Dad came with me. It was an incredible trip and when it came time to move Rahul out of his orphanage and get him set to travel, he was incredibly distraught. Several thousand blog posts couldn’t accurately describe his anguish and my terror. I was beyond grateful that my Dad and Libby were there to help me. It was at the very least, a three person job to soothe Rahul and get him on the plane in a happy state of mind.
Rahul loved my Dad right off the bat. He felt comfortable with him and trusted him, so I asked my Dad to stick around my place for a few extra days after the rest of the family (visiting to welcome Rahul) left. When he finally packed up his bags to go, I snuck him out the door with vague directions to the train station (my mom had taken the car). We didn’t want Rahul to notice he had left –which, of course, was a terrible idea. I distracted Rahul and my Dad went out the door to fend for himself. He asked the first person he saw how to get to the train station (I think I had given him the number for a taxi service–what a terrible daughter I am!!!!). Thankfully, the first person he saw was someone who was to become one of the most cherished neighbors I have ever had. He introduced himself as Mr. Doyle and that is who he has always been to me, despite his many attempts to get me to call him Dennis. When my Dad asked him for directions, Mr. Doyle offered to drive him to the train. Now, in other cities, this may be a typical act of neighborly assistance, but in New York City–in the BRONX–not so much. My Dad was certainly blown away by this act of kindness, and he got a chance to tell me all about it a half hour later when I called him crying because Rahul was freaking out at his absence. I made my poor Dad get in a taxi and come all the way back to my place for a few more days. Those were some rough days. Thanks Buzz:)
Mr. Doyle quickly became a trusted friend and neighbor to me. I have always described him as a displaced beach bum, although he never lived on the beach. He wore shorts until the weather dipped below zero, was incredibly laid back and always seemed like he might be just a little bit drunk. He was one of those people who miraculously appeared to me whenever I was in need. When I was shoveling the snow off my car, he was there to lend me a hand. When I was late to pick up Rahul from school he happened to be driving by me and drove me to PS 24 in half the time it would have taken me to walk. He had jumper cables at the ready when my car’s battery petered out, and in fact, several days after charging up my Jeep, he knocked on my door to tell me he had just bought me a new battery and put it in my car for me!! When a tire was low, he’d knock on my door. When my radiator fluid was running low, he would appear, then disappear to “borrow” someone’s bottle of radiator fluid from our garage, then reappear and replenish my supply.
I am not an easy person to take care of. I have been on my own since I was 17 and am incredibly independent. Mr. Doyle knew this about me and I always felt he respected me for it, but at the same time, he was always looking out for me. He was often at the door of the building to open it when I had my arms full. I remember taking my dog out for a walk one day when Rahul was particularly struggling, running into Mr. Doyle and just crying and telling him my woes. Once, I came home to find that my lock had broken and needed to be replaced. I called a locksmith and settled in the lobby to wait for him. Lo and behold Mr. Doyle walked in the door and waited with me for the hour or so it took for the locksmith to come. On Christmas there would always be an S&S Cheesecake hanging on my door with a card signed “Mr. Doyle”.
I loved talking with Mr. Doyle–I called him the Mayor of Riverdale. He knew everybody’s story. Riverdale had seemed like a bland place until Mr. Doyle started telling me stories about some of the people here. I could name anyone in the neighborhood and he could tell me something about them. He was good-natured–all stories were told with a wink and a smile. His way of letting anything roll off his back helped me to let go of some frustrations I had with people.
And for all his knowledge of other people, he was a very private person. I never exactly knew what he did for a living, although I asked him outright several times. I invited him to every gathering I ever had at my house and he never came. I knew that he loved going to the races. He loved riding his bike all over creation. Nothing could make me happier than when he would quote Bible verses to me verbatum. He would pop them out at the least likely times, and despite the fact that he meant them in jest, they were actually very meaningful to me.
The last time I spent time with Mr. Doyle was when I was in my mad race to get to Disney this past August (see blog post on the subject). I went to him when I needed a ride to the dog kennel to drop Baby off. I knocked on his door, asked him for help, and his reply was, “What time do you you need me?” Of course he was there for me, and drove us through the Hurricane Irene flooding to get Baby to the kennel. I told him about my crazy plight over the weekend and he just laughed and quoted some Bible verse and sent me on my way.
Unbeknownst to me, a few days later he was diagnosed with an illness that took his life on December 16th. Our whole building reeled at the news. What he was to me, he also was to everyone else. He was a neighbor who didn’t just live in proximity to you–he also became a part of your life. He will always be a huge part of my story. A reminder that good, loving people still do exist. That everyone has a story. That its better to let trouble roll off your back. That there are needs all around, every day, and by meeting them, you can change someone’s life.
October 24, 2010
My nephew Jack is what I call a deep thinker. He’s 7 and ever since he started talking he’s been astounding me with his sensitivity and profundity.
When he first learned to talk, he would come up to me or any other family member and draw you away from the crowd into another room where you could have a heart to heart talk. He was mostly speaking nonsense words, but he would draw up next to you in a chair and it was like he was telling you his deepest secrets.
Then when he learned to REALLY talk he would go on and on forever about what it was like in my sister’s womb before he was born and at first it was kind of cute and charming. Then it kinda got creepy. He sounded so all knowing and he would go on forever that it was like he wasn’t making it up. And finally my sister would have to demand that he stop talking about it!
When he lost his first tooth he called to tell me and after giving me the basic details he went on to ask me (unprompted) about my recent move into a new apartment and what it looked like, how I was doing, etc. I mean, we as adults have a hard time getting over ourselves long enough to ask how our friends are doing when we have big news. How did this 5 year old get it?
One of my favorite conversations with him took place about 6 months before Rahul came home with me. Jack was 5 and he and I went for a walk. And after a while he invited me to sit down for some deep conversation. He wanted to talk about my adopting Rahul and after a few minutes he said,” I want to badopt a child someday. Because sometimes parents can’t take care of their children anymore and then I could take care of them instead.” And he went on and on about the service work he wanted to do for people in need and I sat there floored. In all the conversations I have ever had about adoption no one has ever so succinctly summed up my own motivation for adopting.
So this weekend when he came to my son’s birthday party (YAY Rahul turned 10!!!) we played this game where I made up little clues about each guest and they had to guess who it was. Jack’s was one of the first to be read, and most of the kids didn’t know him. But when the first line of the clue read, “I am a deep thinker…” I could see from Jack’s face that he knew the clue described him. Later in the evening he and I were chatting and he had me read him his clue again. And then he told me that he’s pretty sure that he gets his deep thinking from me. Now, his parents clearly have passed this gene to him–they are highly intelligent and very sensitive people. But I’m glad he sees that we have kindred spirits!
And all day I have been striving to think the deepest thoughts possible.
|Jack and moi|
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!”
May 11, 2010
When I was in college–long before I became a mother–I started nannying for a great family in NYC. My charge, Justine, was just 10 months old when I started watching her, and we became very close over the few years I saw her almost daily. In fact, she and her mom both wrote letters of recommendation for my India dossier when I adopted Rahul. (And Justine is just finishing her freshman year in COLLEGE!)
Anyway, one day when Justine was about 3 or 4 years old, I took her to the playground. And as I sat watching her climb the monkey bars, I noticed another little girl eyeing Justine’s hand. It was right where she wanted to step and instead of asking Justine to move her hand I saw her make the decision to step right on the offending hand! Her eyes narrowed as she put all of her weight on her foot and twisted it back and forth, smushing my little friend’s hand. Justine turned her head toward me and her eyes filled with tears and before I knew it I had leapt off the bench and was snatching Justine off the playground, scolding the hand smusher and racing out of the park. I had no idea what had just taken over my body, but it was a strange, strong force I have come to know as Maternal Protection.
Of course, I have experienced it many times with my son, and I have often been frightened at its strength. It completely takes over your body and you feel as though you could actually cause major damage to someone. I suppose it is an instinct placed in our bodies to protect our young. And on Mother’s Day this year I found myself really moved to understand that God, as our mother (as well as our father) feels this same fierce Maternal Protection over us. There is something extremely comforting and profound in that for me–making me feel both safe and humbled that I get to share in this divine quality.
So I’m giving you fair warning. Do not mess with my kid.