Too much. Too personal. Too many pieces of stories that aren’t mine. It was a day of tears...the good kind and the bad kind; a day of joy and sorrow.
We got up early (not an easy feat, when your body is eight hours being.....) and went to our agency’s office. Our best friends, Abrham and Selam are our drivers, so we never have to worry about missing an appointment; they will be there to drive and guide us.
We went to the office with a group of other adoptive parents. Most of the others are newbies, so they had questions for the agency representative. We just sat and chilled, rather impatiently, as the process was explained for the others. They handed us giant black binders to look through. When the representative handed me Micah’s, he said, “I meet Micah! He is a smart boy! Always building things and making something new!” We laughed and told him that every time Micah is moved, he rigs up electricity in his room. The boy has almost no language or school, but he can get electricity going no matter where he goes. He amazes me.
Our binder was the thickest. Heavy and filled with the weight of all the years of struggle for Micah. Pages upon pages of petitions and pleas. I felt pain as I flipped through documents dated 2010. 2011. 2012. Pride, as I flipped through signatures dated 2015, when I went to Ethiopia alone, to fight. Pressure to finish this, here and now, and my eyes blurred from the few pages between 2015-2018. I wanted to be angry, to cry out against the injustice that my baby has suffered, for years, at the refusal of a few simple signatures. Names, scribbled on a page. Meaningless, and yet they mean everything. My anger is dulled by my happiness. It doesn’t matter anymore. What’s done is done. The point is, he is almost free, and I am leaving WITH him. Time does not go backward. We cannot change the past, so we must focus on the future. And in the very near future, after exactly three years of being apart, I am about to see the child that I have literally given my life for.
I flipped through the rest of the binder. Touched precious paperwork I had filled out labored over....signed with names like Cheryl Dinofolo and John Kerry. The last 7.5 years of my life, printed onto paper, for the most beautiful boy in the world. A child everyone thought was worthless, but who I loved with everything I was and am, from the second I knew of his existence. A miracle child, a child who “would never clear”, was “not adoptable”, and who “wasn’t worth your time.” Memories flashed back at me. A tiny eight-year old, sobbing and shuddering in a corner, because he couldn’t communicate and was terrified of everything. The ten-year old who sat stiff and silent, like a statue, and wouldn’t look at us. Wouldn’t move. A child who had given up. The eleven-year old who gave me one shy smile. Whose deep brown eyes told me of sorrows none can bear. The twelve-year old who opened his heart up to me, who laughed and hugged me and cried when I was forced to walk away and leave him, begging, “How many days, Mom? How many days till you come back???”
1,099 torturous days, and every single one I cried for him. Ask Abe. Every night I go to bed, I cry. Every time someone says his name, I cry. I put his pictures and videos in a folder because it hurt too much to see them. To look at him and relive the hardest moment of my life: when I had to abandon my child indefinitely. When I had to walk away and leave him with his heart breaking; turn away and go to the other side of the world. I was told I was wasting my time; that his papers wouldn’t go through, but it didn’t matter. I had promised him that day that I would return. That when I came back, it would be for court. That he would come home with me.
And I have kept my promise.
I don’t know what expect at the orphanage. Would we be joy-filled? Would he hate me for abandoning him? Would he be immediately at home with us, comfortable and easy like when he was 12? Or would be be distrustful and disengaged, like at 10? So much hurt and pain and tears. I didn’t want to obsess; to invite worry. Just focus.
Micah Micah Micah.
We pulled up to the orphanage. An elderly man, eyes wise and aged, milky and tender, met us as the gate. “Micah???” I asked him Amharic. He smiled kindly at me and jerked his head toward a building. I sped for the entrance. Several nannies came out and I said, “Micah, Micah???” One of them pointed and said, “This way. Who are you? You are not his mother???” I could tell she was surprised. I’m so young. I said, “I’m his mother. These are his brothers and sisters.” (The kids were right behind me.) She was surprised but she said nothing more. She led me into a dark room and all I saw was this tall, slender MAN, who got to his feet when I walked in. He was almost as tall as me, the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up over his head to practically hide his face. Ripped jeans (he is SO my child) on long skinny legs, one hip dipping lower than the other (he needs hip surgery for an accident this past summer).
I would have known him anywhere.
I dropped my bag and went straight for him. He was almost hesitant (I’m 80lb lighter than last time he saw me, and I’m blonde now), but his face split into a big smile; that beautiful beautiful face staring at me as the realization hit him.
I had come back.
I wrapped my arms around him and felt my world spin into place. My SON. We hugged for a long moment, him patting my back as I started to cry. Really, all my tears have run dry in the past 7.5 years, but my eyes burned as I hugged him close. I looked him in the eyes and said, “See? I promised I would come back. I LOVE you. I am here.” He nodded at me, and everyone else crammed in for their hugs. Natalie burst into tears and cried and cried. I love her. Then we went outside and sat down. We talked a bit, and looked at pictures and videos from home. Micah was reserved; almost disinterested at first. Who can blame him? We come back and forth for years, promising we are his family, but we never took him. And he hadn’t seen Abe or the kids in four years; me in three. Of course he was hesitant to open up to us again.
A nanny spoke to me. She told me that three weeks before, an Ethiopian relative that he had not see since he was one, had come, per the courts orders. Since he is deaf and unable to communicate, they had told him that his mother was coming. He had been so excited and had run to the meeting place, only to find her and not me. In confusion, he had said, “That’s not my mom! THIS is my mom!” and held up a picture of me. When the nannies told him that I was coming TODAY, me Marissa, coming TODAY, he had stared at them and said, “You’re lying.”
Oh my poor baby. My precious, precious baby. My heart broke for him for the millionth time.
We played and hung out all afternoon. Soccer, Uno, Memory. Little by little, he began to open up. To smile a little. To tease me and giggle.
I had been told that once we passed court, we could take him. So when we were leaving, and I saw his face darken, I told him, “It’s okay! Remember how before, I told you I would come for court, then leave, then come for embassy? I am NOT leaving. I am staying with you. I will not leave till the papers are finished. And tomorrow is court, and when that is done, I am coming to get you. Tomorrow, you will come to the hotel with us and stay with us” His dark eyes lit up and he looked me as if to say, “Promise?” “I promise!” I said to him. He smiled and nodded.
Shortly after, the staff informed me that the court letter can take days and we cannot take him without the court order. My heart stopped. I had just promised him I would take him. That I wouldn’t leave.
Pray for us. Please pray that by some miracle, we get this court order tomorrow. Or I am going to stay at that orphanage until they give him to me or take me away in handcuffs. I will sleep outside the gate if I have to, but they will have to drag me away with him watching so he knows it’s not my fault. I won’t break my promise to him. I won’t.
So please pray we get the court order. That would just be easier on everyone. <3