Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Adoption math

Trust me, I spend as little time as possible thinking about math equations. Today, though, I’ve had math on my mind. Maybe it’s because I’ve been interviewing a lot of scientists lately, and some of their smarts might be rubbing off on me (that’s scientifically proven, right?). Either that, or the guy from the Harvard-MIT genetics lab did a mind meld on me during our phone interview. (He was certainly smart enough.)

Math seems to be the best way for me to make sense of the topic that’s really been front-and-center for me this week: adoption. Yesterday afternoon, I sat across from my daughter in a café, sipping a cup of coffee and thinking about the impenetrable sense of loss she sometimes feels when she reflects on her life. “I was left in an orphanage when I was an infant, and I spent four months there. I don’t have words now for that kind of loss, because I didn’t have words then,” she told me. I nodded, and sipped, and thought. The day she was put in my arms was one of the happiest in my life. For her, it was something altogether different: not entirely happy and not entirely sad. My joy in that moment clouded the forethought to see how my utterly joyful experience was not at all the same experience for her. If I’d been keeping a tally sheet at the coffee shop, there would have been a checkmark in the “loss” column for adoption.

And then this afternoon I was invited to witness a friend’s adoption finalization hearing. On the 15th floor of a Minneapolis office building, my friend’s image was video-transpor-telemated to a courtroom in Florida. (Okay, so maybe the Harvard guy didn’t really help me all that much). My friend sat surrounded by people who love her, represented by mother, niece and friends, with three adoptive parents and one adopted young man represented. We were holding back sniffles and collectively bearing witness to the great good thing she and Josiah were doing for each other.

Together in that conference room, we were people who made space for fleeting but incredibly significant moment. We stood watch as that heart-meltingly beautiful six-month-old try to scoot across the conference table and eat the phone cords. The judge signed the paperwork, and we burst into tears and applause, probably not a very common sound in that particular conference room. It felt good to put that upbeat vibration, plus a dollop of baby drool, into that starkly serious space. I realized, as I tucked my handkerchief back into my pocket, that I was now tallying a checkmark in the “plus” column for adoption. For today, it was a great good thing that could not be denied, not if you looked for one moment at that mother’s face, or at all the beaming ones of her loving community. It’s been a long time since I felt such a lightness of heart, and certainly never on a Tuesday afternoon in downtown Minneapolis, so that has to count for something in adoption’s favor.

Back at work this afternoon, I am looking out my office window at a Starfire Maple that’s inspiring today, but will be bleakly barren in just a few weeks. The shorts-clad rollerbladers zipping down the big hill outside will be replaced by bundled-up and booted weather warriors. Everything changes. The beloved, dreamed-for child carries a story that began one way, was crossed out, and was started over. Adopted children live edited lives, and some of them find that redirection a very hard burden to bear. Sometimes, all the love in the world isn’t enough to save them from that pain.

But—and here is the secret I wonder if even my Harvard guy is willing to tell himself—sometimes love, just love, is exactly enough for what is needed today. And today was one of those times.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhhhhh-so beautiful!!! I am wiping tears off my face and heart. Thank you for capturing "love"!