Tuesday, January 1, 2008

I'm Back! Was That A Great Year, Or What?

Well, here we are on January 1st, 2008. I have not posted since November of 2007. Oops.

No apologies here. Life got in the way of posting, and life is roughly 1,000 times as important as posting, so the choice wasn't very difficult. You know how bloggers all say "I do this for me, not for readers"? Well, I don't say that very often, but I mean it every day. Nothing personal; I'm sure you're nice people or whatever.

I have been reading my blogroll, though, and there's been some good work done. I like Marko's reflection on the past year, for instance. I think I'll give that a shot. What I will NOT do, by the way, is any sort of "Best Of" or "Top Ten" list.

So, on that note, what was the greatest thing about 2008? Well, a lot of good stuff happened. I finally got some progress made on my old house. I like to think the boys gained some maturity, and that was a relief to see. Teaching seems to be getting easier and more natural. Progress has been made in some personal husband-wife matters that I won't discuss with you here.

But the greatest? That was Sean, without a doubt. I'm not just copping out and copying Marko, though you could do worse in life than to watch Marko and do what he does. I've thought this through, you see.
Sean is as incredible to me as your baby is to you. Everything in the world is new to him, and he literally spends half his waking hours laughing and giggling and smiling at things you and I stopped noticing years ago. Every morning, when he and I wake up, I take him downstairs to feed him and let his mom sleep in for a little longer. We feel our way out to the dark stairway, count the steps down to the landing midway, and stop there. Every morning, I pull the filmy white curtain aside and let him look out the dirty window surrounded by chipped paint and peeling wallpaper. The glass is frigid this time of year, and usually, it's dark outside. There's not much out there even when it's light; about thirty yards of bare lawn, and then the backside of the neighbors' plain white house. It's not scenic. Someday there will be a deck on that side of the house and possible a small pool, but right now it's just tired winter grass and a sided house.

He lights up like a sunrise every single time.

I actually started this little ritual by accident. I wanted to show him a deep snowfall one morning, so I pulled the curtain aside and showed him the shimmering white landscape. It really was beautiful, and there was translucent ice hanging off every edge, ledge, branch and gutter as well. The sun was coming up that day, and the effect was a natural light show. Everything was some shade of white, blue, silver, gold, orange or red, and the sun moved so much while we stood there that we could see colors change. Sean flapped his hands randomly and bounced on my arm, squealing and crying out in a way that made me think of someone grabbing a laugh by the tail and spinning it in wild circles. It was kind of a big moment for me.

Later, when the snow was almost gone and the ice with it, I stopped again and pulled the curtain open. "All gone, Sean, see? All gone." I told him gently. I was ready for his disappointment, but it never came. He lit up all over again. This was different! And daddy pulled on the white part and then it was gone and there was all this other stuff to see! Ha ha ha HA HA!

I know what you're thinking, Dear Reader.
"Yeah, Don loves his baby. Don thinks his baby is cute. Q'uelle surprise."

Well, yeah, I do. But Sean has changed our whole family for the better, and I think he may have affected Kane and Donovan more than anyone else.

For those who don't know, Kane and Donovan are twins who came to our family when they were six years old. By that time, they had been passed from their mother to her grandmother, and from her to their great-aunt and uncle--my in-laws. Their mother was just incapable of caring for children; she was buffeting back and forth between her addictions, and there was no time for a home, children, a job . . . it just wasn't happening. When the boys were removed, they went to their great-grandmother, who worked herself to the bone trying to make things right. Unfortunately, she was up against too much. The boys by that time had grown for two years with no parenting. They'd lived out their infant years in a place where children bit each other and fought for food on the floor, where rats ate on the table, where babies and toddlers would be locked in closets for hours. They spoke their own language, and Kane was tiny, with severe learning disabilities and terrible vision. It was too much for her. The boys went to her daughter, my mother-in-law, about a year before we married. She, too, did her best, but she and her husband were at a time in their life when they thought they'd be driving their classic car along Route 66, not raising twins with severe problems. They'd raised their kids and gotten them off to good starts in the adult world, and doing it again was just too much. Reluctantly, they gave up. But they had limped along until Melissa and I were married and had just moved into a house, and we remembered wishing we could take the boys back when the in-laws took them. Then, it had been impossible; the state wouldn't have allowed it. Now, though . . . . well, we came together at last.

The reason for all that tiresome exposition is to explain this: when we first found out that Sean was on his way, we had no idea what to expect from the twins. We expected the usual jealousy, of course, but both boys have great difficulty with relating to other people, especially with sympathy and empathy. We just weren't sure what was coming, and it scared us. As the months of pregnancy went by, a clear division became apparent: Kane was excited and just wished the baby would be born right now. Donovan intended to pretend that there was no pregnancy, no baby, and no change in his life. Everyone else could act excited, but he was having none of it. He refused to look at sonograms, for instance.

When Sean was born, Kane banished all thought of jealousy. He wanted to hold this baby, and feed this baby, and teach this baby to skate. He and this baby were going to be best friends if only it would hurry up and grow up.
Donovan refused to hold the baby. When the family visited in the hospital room, he tried to get each and every visitor to come to the other side of the room and pretend to be eating at a restaurant. He would be the waiter, writing down their orders. No mention of the baby would enter the game, because of course, there was no newborn baby in the restaurant!

So what happened? I'm not sure. Time passed. Sean began to show signs that he recognized some people. He began to make faces that looked like smiles. Donovan watched us feed Sean, and saw how Sean stared up into our eyes with total attention as we held him cradled in our elbows. He watched his brother holding Sean, propped up on pillows in our softest recliner, and at some point, although I didn't see it happen, I'm sure Sean smiled in Donovan's direction.

Whatever happened, one day Donovan asked out of the blue to hold Sean . . . . and he did. When Sean finally got fussy, Donovan asked for a bottle of breast milk as if it were the most natural thing in the world . . . baby brother is hungry, Donovan will feed him, what else could you have been expecting . . . so we brought one, and that's just what he did.

Now, let's look at the family today. Both Kane and Donovan constantly pester us to hold the baby, play with the baby, bathe the baby, change the baby's diaper . . . . it goes on and on. It's enough to make a person get impatient, but it's all love, all the time. Kane and Donovan are the fierce Protectors of the Sean, the Guardians of the Giggle, Praetorians to the Poopiest of Poopy Pants. Sean is the one person they love without reservation. Without doubt, they love Sean far more than they love Melissa, and more deeply than they're capable of loving me. Sean is the one person in the world who never judges them and never finds them wanting. He is the one person in the world who is ecstatic to see them no matter what. He laughs at every joke, every face, every silly dance they do, and he thinks the tenth time is far funnier than the first. He gives them true unconditional love, and they return it in an endless feedback loop. Sean has made them important and loved. He made them big brothers.


XD45 said...

So I just followed the link from Correia's blog here. This is an amazing story thank-you for sharing. My wife & I do foster care so I understand a little bit what you are talking about here, but the way you describe it is awesome.



J.R.Shirley said...

Aw, man. Love really does change things.

You're still one of my heroes, brother. Happy New Year.


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