Gotcha Day

To my Yoselin Rubi Grace, on an important day -

It was three years ago yesterday I first held you. Three years ago last night since you cried through the dark hours, weeping your loss onto hotel sheets and your parents’ clothes, and finally melted onto my chest in exhausted peace at four in the morning. Three years ago today since we woke to each other’s eyes in the dim mid-morning.

We spent our first week together in a foreign place, a new family. We learned the sound of each other’s voices in a land where no voice spoke our language. We learned each other’s smells in a city that was pungent with diesel and trash. We learned each other’s skin in a country where your mom and I were a minority instead of you.

You came home with us and met your family. You met our friends who are now your friends, and our cats who are now gone, and the adoring baristas at our coffeeshop that has since closed. You rode in a car seat for the first time, and smeared spaghetti in your hair, and learned to crawl, and then to talk. You walked for the first time in a purple dragon costume on Beggar’s Night, and I was afraid you wouldn’t remember how the next day without a tail to balance you.

~~~~~~

At three years and eight months old you get compliments on the clarity and vocabulary of your speech, in which I take pride. You show precocious insight and intuition, enough to make your mom and I nervous and wondering. We’ve had talks with you about the crucifixion, about euthanasia, about your adoption, about science. While I’m pretty sure you didn’t understand my explanation of mineral replacement and fossilization, you gave rapt attention. You accurately and clearly use words like ingredients and uterus.

You hold onto facts and names and words with an acuity I can’t account for. I can ask you people’s names I’ve legitimately  forgotten and you provide them. At a year and a half old you named your doll after a foster sister in Guatemala whom we had never talked with you about, and your mom and I looked at each other somewhat unsettled. You left Guatemala at eight months old. How could you have remembered?

~~~~~~

A few weeks ago you sat in the back seat of my four wheel drive and we spent hours driving around the county surveying flood water. At points we held hands from front seat to back as we sometimes do, for the sake of the courage of us both. I told you I almost drowned in a flooded creek as a little boy and Aunt Shan pulled me out, and you talked me into going back to the bridge where it happened, twenty minutes away, and you made me repeat the story more times than I can count. You do this; you have me retell stories you already know so they become history to you, your own as much as mine. 

I stepped out of the car in the chilled rain beside the bridge and got you out of your carseat. We walked to the edge and stared down into the swirling brown water, my heart quickened and my throat dry. That rock there, I told you. We went through the story again. I’m sure it has grown over the years even in my own mind. I didn’t tell you about twenty years worth of night terrors, as they are not your cup of tea. You clung to my neck and somehow knew more than you could.

~~~~~~

There are times you reflect wonder to my adult mind. Times when you discover for the first time something that has become a common fixture of existence to me, and in your eyes I imagine how impossible beauty must seem to one who hasn’t learned to reduce it to component parts, how fortunate our senses, how knocked-tipsy God must have been at the birth of the universe, all that matter exploding outward into the infinite like paint thrown to the wind and resolving over eons into us and the stars and the flower you just found beside the porch steps.  You laugh at things I’ve forgotten are absurd.

There’s a line on the new Arcade Fire album that says I want a daughter while I’m still young. I want to hold her hand and show her some beauty before too much damage is done. But if that’s too much to ask, send me a son. I can’t explain to you why I wanted a daughter’s hand to hold those years ago. I know a boy can know beauty and learn gentleness and the languages of the heart just as well. But I knew four years ago if I were only to walk with one child through these windblown Ohio fields of tall grass and Queen Anne’s Lace and point one child’s face to the constellations, I wanted a daughter. And now that I have one, I want no other. You’ve asked for a sibling, and your mother is ready, and yet I find my heart is fixed. It may change. It has changed before.

~~~~~~

It is a certain fact I will harm you, Yosi; I will fail you. As a grown woman you will bear scars with my name on them, times when love had claws and was other than love. I am sorry. I am insecure; I am selfish; I am foolish. I am sorry. Know that I will never mean to hurt you. Know that I would swear off life and liberty to keep you happy. Know that being your father is the most significant and worthwhile task I have ever undertaken.

I have learned much from you already. You’ve reminded me that we never call people dumb or stupid. You’ve taught me that our words matter, that there should be nothing we say carelessly; that trust and understanding are not synonyms; that faith like a child has less to do with belief than it does with wonder, humor, confusion, frustration, delight, curiosity, and joy. Or maybe I just described true belief. I still don’t know.

What I know, Yoselin, is that I love you. Simple, undecorated, and obvious, but it’s the best I can offer you. 

Three years ago this morning you sat on my lap and I fed my first baby as my heart trembled and I thought I would be sick. I was terrified of the freedom I was exchanging for you. I had just traded my life for fifteen pounds of the Kingdom of God that couldn’t feed itself without me. Your mother flitted about the room at home in her domesticity, and I sat and said nothing as my heart quaked. I watched you, your fingers trying to take the spoon away, peaches smeared on your lip, and your brackish eyes found mine and I knew I would never again say my own name without referencing yours. Our hearts were tethered, and the stretch would leave me wounded some day. And I decided it was worth it. We choose love at the start, and I chose it then.

Te amo, Beanie. Or, as you used to say, I love you so much and so much and so much.

~~~~~~

Linking with Emily today.

This entry was posted in Adoption, Our adoption narrative, Parenting and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Gotcha Day

  1. Erika says:

    I don’t even know you or your family, but I also have a daughter who is three. This post made me cry like a baby. Just beautiful.

  2. shan k says:

    *cry* I love you. You make me want to be a better parent. And you validate my craving to cherish the impossibly small moments as Ming vases in climate controlled glass cases.

  3. happygirl says:

    What can I say? Sweet. Loving. Transparent. LOVE. It was all here. Such lovely words for her to read when she thinks you’re just trying to make her life miserable. Oh yeah, wait for it.

  4. eloranicole says:

    damn.

    i’m having to sniff and bite my lip right now because i read this post while juniors sat in desks three feet away from me. your post eloquently countered my own today. to say i needed to read this is not saying enough.

    beautiful, david. yosi is so blessed to have you as a father.

  5. pathoftreasure says:

    She is a gift to you and you are a gift to her. This is beautiful.

  6. Heatherly says:

    I have no words. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  7. HopeUnbroken says:

    Can relate in so many ways. Thanks for putting it all into words so beautifully. I have no doubt she’ll enjoy the reading of it some day.

  8. Elaine Spall says:

    That was just beautiful David. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Easter. Blessings!

  9. These are some of the most beautiful, generous, loving words I have every read. As my eldest prepares for her first trip abroad at seventeen (leaving in two days)….I am filled with memories of her babyhood, childhood and now teen years. Every “age” every moment is precious and unique. I hope one day, when she is BIG, your daughter will read your words and they well be a balm to any of the scars that bear your name.

    gentle steps

  10. Alise says:

    Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

  11. lori says:

    So this is pure loveliness and beauty. I think it’s the best post I’ve read of yours so far. You must save this for your little one so she can read it again and again. Such a gift you have given her here in writing such heartfelt words.

  12. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful post! Congratulations on this wonderful day!

  13. brian says:

    david…thank you for sharing your journey and you heart…it shines through your words…and i…yeah, its beautiful…

  14. mama says:

    What a treasure Yosi will have one day when she is able to read and reread what you have written…You are a wonderful loving father to a beautiful Mayan princess.

  15. At points we held hands from front seat to back as we sometimes do, for the sake of the courage of us both.

    oh wow. oh wow. all of this… it’s like a song between you and her, and i feel so privileged to listen. and how i hope you’ll type this out for her for her to tuck close to her heart when she’s older. bless your beautiful words.

  16. and just so you know, that was me saying all of that :)

  17. Tiffany says:

    Oh WOW…thankyou for this gift of writing…what a truly special story of love that knows no bounds, especially poignant at this time as my husband & I are about to step out on a new venture in our lives….we are to become respite foster carers for a little Thai girl who already breaks my heart….her story is one I cannot full understand and I know there is going to be a whole lot of new stuff to learn…I am scared, I am excited, I am filled with fear, I am in trepadation BUT I know it ‘feels’ right – this will help someone else out, we want to give back to the universe. Its our way of making some good come out of some sad family stuff. My son M also needs to learn the art of having to share and not be an only child….he is excited!!
    On another note, thanks for visiting my little blog – I do like Katie Mehlua but find I can no longer listen to her…..someone broke my heart with her songs and that tear is still there, a tiny wound now but I don’t want it to fracture right open again. It is best left healing away…TK xx

  18. Joybird says:

    David, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this post. All of your Yosi stories are adorable but this is something else entirely, this is sheer naked love and I thrill to hear it. Today is your family’s birthday and I’m gonna sing to you. Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday David-Lyndie-Yosi-familyyyyyyy, happy birthday to you.

  19. Mama Zen says:

    This is truly beautiful.

  20. Grace VB says:

    Blessings to you on your family anniversary! Your love spills over, David, splashing onto us all. :)

  21. Sheila Moore says:

    So beautiful your love shines through and through

  22. melissafed says:

    Good lord man.
    I just wept like a baby and may’ve printed this off for my babys book. Not really. But seriously. AMAZING.
    You’ve a gift and I’m so pleased to be part of a community that gets to partake in it.
    This line:
    “You laugh at things I’ve forgotten are absurd.”
    is my favorite.

  23. Cathy says:

    How glorious this dedication. I’m truly honored at the glimpse of love you’ve shared…

  24. Leslie says:

    She will treasure this. Always.

  25. Mrs. M. says:

    You have been given a blessing. You have been given a gift beyond words. She will know you in both her worlds. Guatemala is a poor country. Being Latin myself, I know the struggles you barely touched here.

    Yet, I see your love for your daughter in your words. Her blessing to you….her knowledge that you love her completely.

    Thank you so much for sharing this, today.

    Mrs. M.

  26. Ruthiey says:

    I really appreciated this post, especially this line. “As a grown woman you will bear scars with my name on them, times when love had claws and was other than love.” Even at our best, we will always be imperfect so praise God for his perfect love. =)

  27. Bethany Ann says:

    looking at my own children, i wonder what it would be like for them to need a new home — to find it, to weep, to fall asleep — to have a new home as loving as yours. you wrote it so well in that first paragraph, i had to read it three times! (and i’m not much of a re-reader, contrary to what my comments have said of me thus far.)

  28. Julie says:

    Beautiful sentiments, beautifully expressed. I’m in tears.

    Thank you for sharing your heart. Many blessings to you and your family.

  29. This is really beautiful. My younger son’s gotcha day was April 21st, so we, too, have had cause to celebrate this week.
    Not that it’s any of my business, but I had just one child for 7 years, a son who was (is) kind, gentle, funny, creative….perfect, of course. When we adopted our oldest daughter I wondered how on earth I could love another child the way I’d loved my son. Now, with 5 children, I know that some of the old cliches are not true – you don’t love all of your children “the same”, but you do love them. And each one has not only made life more interesting, but has helped me to grow. I also think (speaking only for myself) that it’s been a little easier on the oldest to not spend his entire life being the center of my universe. ;)

    Congratulations, David. Your daughter sounds amazing.

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  31. Awww, you should write a book. You’re an inspiration!

  32. Brett says:

    Beautiful story. I love how God bonds us to our kids, regardless of how they become our kids.

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