Letting go of what might-have-been, pondering what is

Note: This column appears in the 1/20 issue of The Glendale Star and the 1/21 issue of the Peoria Times

Note II: SAPPY ALERT! Proceed with caution

Exactly two years ago they came to pick up our first foster placement.
We don’t know where he is now, or how he’s doing. His caseworkers never responded—our inquiries as to his well-being were ignored, then forgotten amidst system turnover, budget cuts, and issues more pressing than keeping his foster parents of 10 days in the loop.

I’ll never forget that day when my wife called to say, through her tears, that CPS had called her, and that he was going back to some distant relative, his only kin, apparently, with a clean record. A song that played from a CD on my drive home that day is now etched in my brain as a reminder of that day and those feelings. It was only later I realized the name of the song is “Innocent Son.”

I wish I could say that I think about him everyday, but the circumstances life has brought on since then have kept me, thankfully, preoccupied. When I do think about him, which is quite often, and remember to pray for him, it tugs at my soul in the same way it did to watch him leave, sleeping, carried off into the unknown by an employee of the state just doing his job.

Those were tough days, and we questioned whether or not foster care was the right way to go. It wasn’t fair, to him we would say; to us we would secretly feel. Maybe it was because he was our first foster kiddo—a cute three-day old child in a house with none. Maybe it was because he was truly special. Either way, the connection was sudden and strong, as was the impact of his departure.

My wife emailed me at work last week to remind me that, somewhere, he turned two-years old. I couldn’t believe it.

Not long after we had adopted our daughter through foster care, it struck me what a blessing it was, for us, that he left when he did. Ten days with him only to watch him go had just about drained us—any longer may have destroyed us. Two years ago it seemed like an epic setback to forging a family, but it was his departure that opened up that very lane, not to mention many others.

A few nights ago during dinner with my in-laws, we sat around the table discussing the way things manage to work out. Had this person not done this, this never would have happened. Each of us had tales that seemed unfortunate at the time, but which led us to that very moment of sitting together. Some stories involving elder generations I had never heard, and I was left nodding my head in humbled disbelief.

Two years ago the big picture seemed far, far away, and out of focus. Sometimes only retrospect confirms that God knows what He’s doing. In the short-term we’re left with doubt, fear, and pain. Even proper perspective is fleeting. Sure, maybe He knows what He’s doing, but I still don’t know how he’s doing. Though, I guess, it’s entirely possible that the same person looking out for us is looking out for him.

One day I’ll know how he’s doing, of that I am certain. In the meantime, happy birthday, J.


Joe S. said…
My wife is a social worker and deals with this sort of thing quite frequently. It is heart wrenching and I typically ask her to refrain from sharing her day at work, or at least sensoring the 'sad' stuff. As a somewhat new dad, it has only gotten harder to hear some of her stories of unwanted children.

I'm fairly positive I've thanked you before, but foster parenting (and adopting!) are not easy, and it certainly takes special people to do it. The world needs more caring people like you and your wife.
Joe S. said…
In thinking more about my comment, I wanted to make it clear that I'm not condemning people who give up their children. In many ways, it's a very noble thing to do, especially if a parent knows they will not be able to take care of their child.
mkenny59 said…
Thanks for the feedback Joe! And the kind words. Your wife being a social worker though deserves the true praise, dealing with that day in and day out. Some of those stories are yes, mind-numbing. Besides, we're just regular ol' parents now -- we had to let our foster license expire (for the time being) because neither of us have time to shower or go to the bathroom these days, much less take care of additional children.

Still, like you said, people recognizing their inability to parent has enabled people like us to become parents. So that's good.
Joe S. said…
What I wonder is how people decide to have two, three, or more children?!?!

We've got our hands full with one, and we both feel stretched to our limits! More power to my parents for having three kids, that's for sure. I wish we could just rewind the extraordinarily rewarding first year or so.
Anonymous said…
the "Sappy warning" did not help. This is one of your articles that, as I read it, I heard you speaking the words. I'm pretty sure that's a good thing. Thank you Mike for making me Thankful!