Do you remember the last time anyone told you, “I believe in you. You can do this.”? I do. It was October 19, 2004. I had this little kid in the seat behind mine, strapped into a hand me down car seat. It was pouring rain, like a 40 days and 40 nights kind of rain. My Toyota was no Ark, and I can’t swim.
I made it as far as Crestview before I had to pull over, in the Winn Dixie parking lot, to regroup. In a comical attempt to keep his belongings dry, I’d stowed them in a trash bag in the back of the truck. The irony: not one of those things in that trash bag proved useful. The clothes were dirty and too small. The one stuffed animal (the ugliest and scariest clown I have ever laid eyes on) smelled like a hybrid of vomit and urine. I had a moment of rebellion and broke the law. I threw that damned clown out into the ditch. I sat there, still watching him in my mirror. He was awake, his fat little cheeks rosy, his hair too long, the backs of both hands scabbed from sucking them, and his right hand pulling and twisting his ear. That’s what I’d learned so far. He had the most flexible ears…he turned them inside out, like a dachshund. He could force the upper part into the ear canal itself, and it would stay there. Weird, the things he could do with those ears…
I sighed. He was still watching me. Still expressionless. That’s when I lost it. I started talking to God. I started to cry. Hard. I’m not a pretty crier. And this was an UGLY cry. I called Meir, on my newly acquired cell phone, purchased for just such an emergency. She told me to suck it up. That shut me up pretty fast. She’d been through hell in that month, since Pa died. I really had no right to complain to her. Turned out she wasn’t so concerned with my selfishness, she was concerned that, in her words, “that baby has seen way too much pain already. Don’t you dare give him yours.” She was right, of course. I looked in the mirror. He was still staring at me. Meir finished up the pep talk, told me to get it together, that she believed in me.
The rain never let up. I turned up the music, in an attempt to maintain my sanity, just hoping he wouldn’t start to cry. I looked in the mirror…he was still watching me, but now… he was smiling. Freaking Great Flood of 2004, worst year of my life, taking on a child having no CLUE what I was doing, but there he was, with those fat cheeks and ears inside out, just a grinnin! Alright, God, I hear ya! I drove to Target, threw that black trash bag in the dumpster, and bought proper, clean clothes, toys that made music, and two pacifiers. Why should any kid have to suck the skin slam off his hands because some foster care genius made up an asinine rule to remove all bottles and pacifiers at the age of one year?! Screw that! I didn’t care if he sucked a pacifier till he was grown; the child deserved some comfort.
It was not an easy journey. This was his third foster home, and also his fifth. We won’t go into that debate. Suffice it to say I am nobody’s doormat, and I had no qualms about standing up for him. He had and still does have some residual effects of a traumatic birth, complicated by his birth mother’s addictions. His lungs were scarred, and he has some degree of hearing loss. He was almost three before he uttered an intelligible word. His first word? “Plane”. It sounded nothing like whatever I was hoping it would, but I was so proud of that one word. This following two long years of speech therapy, two surgeries to rebuild ear drums, one to release some of the scar tissue compressing his airway, and countless hours in the rocker giving respiratory treatments all night. It was tough. But so was he.
Meir passed away less that three months after that rainy day. She never got to see him bloom. And for a very, very long time, I didn’t feel that anyone would ever truly believe in me, again. Nobody really had my back; I had everyone else’s. I didn’t hear those words, “I believe in you. You can do this,” again. Until last week. I was seeking feedback, still timid about jumping into a new venture, and honestly, craving reassurance. As my humor often is a cover for my reality, my friend has no idea the impact of the exact words chosen, or the significance of a brief conversation that is likely already forgotten. But in that moment, the big picture came through in amazing clarity, and I knew my friend was right. I can do this. Somebody still believes in me, and has my back. I’ve got Meir in Heaven, I’ve got a true friend on earth, and I have a son that proves to me that we can all overcome. With enough love, we do this, because somebody believes. Somebody believes in me.
~Be blessed, Y’all.