Thanksgiving, Gratitude and My Earth Angels

I’m taking a break from my adoption stories as I’ve had difficulty trying to find the right words to explain each one. The stories will come when the time is right. Since this is a season of gratitude and giving I’d like to tell a personal story of my family growing up. My parents taught me to be grateful, that wealth had nothing to do with money, and to offer a hand to those in need. They are greatly missed during the holiday season, but their love and lessons remain strong in my heart….

Today I am thankful for my family who raised me and all the challenges we had because it taught me compassion for others. I’m especially grateful to my mom for her courage, perseverance and staying true to her principles, and my dad for his warmth, compassion, wonderful stories, positive attitude and unconditional love. Both were always there to lend a helping hand to others.

 I want to share my favorite Thanksgiving story, as I remember it, which was told by my mother during a Sunday service at our church in an effort to raise money for the families we were trying to feed that Thanksgiving season. The church had gotten very few donations that year and asked my mom if she would speak at the service to help others understand what a difference a meal can make in a family’s life. My mother stood nervously (she hated public speaking) in front of the congregation and began to tell a story of our family that I had never heard before. I was a young teen at the time and was extremely moved by what I was about to hear.

You could have heard a pin drop as she began speaking. As the story unfolded she told of our family, with five young children between the ages of 3 months to 10 years, and a husband who was not well. It was the holiday season, but our home lacked the usual holiday cheer. My dad had grown very ill, was hospitalized, and unable to work. He was not improving and had a tube in his throat to help him breathe. My mother went in to visit him one day, and was told she should draw up a will as my dad would probably not make it until tomorrow. This was in the early 1960’s when many women mostly stayed home to raise the children and their husbands worked. My mother had only a high school education and was a busy stay-at-home mother, volunteering with several organizations and involved in her community. She sat down with my dad and together they scratched out a will while he was in and out of consciousness, and she went home and called our pastor. He came to visit her, and then my father at the hospital, said a prayer with him and left for the evening.

With my dad still hospitalized, my mother faced the holidays boldly with five young children, not knowing how she would feed us on a daily basis, and uncertain how she would have a holiday celebration. Mom’s mom died when she was only nine years old and although she was strong, she did not want her children to experience the loss of a parent as she had. We were barely scraping by, but my mother fought to hang on to our home and security. Holidays were important in our home and we celebrated big for each one of them. My parents did not have big celebrations in their home growing up so it was very important to both of them to raise their children differently; to know the importance of family and celebration.

Mom was not a selfish person and did not feel worthy of a miracle, so even though she prayed regularly she would not ask for a miracle. “Who gets a miracle?” she would ask. And “why do I deserve a miracle rather than someone else who may need it more?” But miracles being what they are and the universe in its infinite wisdom would see to this one for her, along with many earth angels. After the pastor left my dad that evening he did not go home. Instead he went back to the church and made many phone calls. He then added my family to the list of families that would not be having a Thanksgiving dinner and asked the church family to help provide a meal and a happy holiday for this soon-to-be widow and her young children.

That Thanksgiving Eve my family would receive two miracles! The door bell rang and there stood a group of people with arms and bags full of food and love, not only for the holiday but for the week ahead as well. They also volunteered to cook and care for us kids so my mother could be at the hospital with my dad. She was so filled with gratitude! As they cooked and prepared the meal, and babysat and entertained me and my siblings, Mom left to spend her final day with my dad. She was about to receive the second miracle. She cautiously entered his hospital room afraid of what she would be facing that day. As she opened the door there SAT my dad on the edge of the bed, EATING! Beside his bed stood a big and tough looking nurse who was an Angel on Earth and had saved my dad’s life that night before. She watched as another nurse adjusted his tube. She saw what was wrong—they had put the tube in wrong and instead of providing the oxygen he needed, it was cutting off the air instead. She grabbed it from her and told her in no uncertain terms that she was doing it wrong. She placed the tube in right and within minutes my dad was back! He still had a long road to good health, but he would recover to live and prosper and to see his children have children. My dad was strong yet gentle, friendly, fun and my friend and hero. Dad or Mom never missed an opportunity to reach out to others and were a constant reminder to me to give from my heart.

Blessings to all this holiday season and may you find gratitude for all you have and take advantage of an opportunity to offer a hand to someone in need. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

With gratitude to all the Earth Angels in my life past and present,                 Pam

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Melissa’s Adoption Story

Welcome to November which happens to be Adoption Awareness month. I am planning to share a little about each of our children’s adoption stories this month and also how adoption has touched our lives along the way. I have a guest blogger later in the month to speak about adoption from a different perspective.  I want everyone to understand that each adoption is different and each story is personal to the people involved. My stories revolve around special needs adoption because that’s what I know from personal experiences. As always feel free to share my blogs. Blessings to all!

It’s been theorized for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I would add for every emotion there is an equal and opposite feeling. If we combine the equal and opposites of action and emotion we get—adoption. To say adoption has two sides is unfair, because there are at least three sides and more often it is multi-sided. By this I mean you have to consider all the people involved in the adoption triad (triad being birth family, adoptive family and child) and all the people involved in their lives. The list is endless as are the emotions and reactions. For all the joy on one side, there is pain and loss on the other(s). Someone’s gain, joy and delight are another’s loss, sorrow and pain. With respect to all adoptive families, birth families, and adoptees I am sharing our story, our experience and fully understand that everyone’s story is different.

Adoption has had a huge impact on our entire extended family, not only through the adoption of our children but in ways that have touched us from every angle. I have been influenced in many ways by those who forged this road before me and were there to lend an ear, a shoulder or words of advice when we stumbled along the adoption path. The process of becoming an adoptive family can be grueling. Anyone who has had to endure a home study will attest to this. Prospective adoptive families are put through a rigid process in order to finally be approved to adopt by an agency and ultimately a judge. They pry into your private life in ways never imagined, but when a child enters the family circle all that led up to that point can be easily put aside.

We had a small photo and a short description of a seven-year-old girl named Melissa. We travelled to a small town about four hours from our home to meet her for the first time. As we were led through the halls of the institution in which she lived, all the young residents were lined up in their wheelchairs along the halls. The first thing I noticed was how clean and new all their shoes appeared as I glanced from child to child wondering which one was Melissa. We turned the corner and there she sat outside her room. We were told she was blind, had a traumatic brain injury, was unable to speak or walk and she had severe intellectual impairments. We knew nothing about her personality or abilities. Meeting Melissa was life changing, but we had no idea just how much she would change our lives.

We were amazed how much a child who apparently cannot see, walk or communicate can actually offer the world. When Melissa smiles her entire face changes, her eyes light up, her face smiles! Her laugh is contagious and she readily shares hugs, trust and love. She’s rowdy and wild, happy and fun, loving and sensitive and downright stubborn and strong-willed. Melissa just fit into our family perfectly, because we tend to be a mixture of all those same qualities. She stole our hearts and we have never been the same, but that’s not to say there weren’t major adjustments for all of us. We lived in a home that was not wheelchair accessible and we owned a compact car that would have to be exchanged for a full size van with a lift. Melissa had not lived in a family for a long time and was used to having a strict ritual that is only offered in institutional life. She needed to know some structure, attention and love—and she needed her shoes to get dirty! Our two older children were used to an active lifestyle that would have to be somewhat adjusted until we figured out this new life. Everything we did from the moment we welcomed Melissa into our family forward would be an opportunity to love and learn—and we had much to learn! We didn’t realize we were stepping into a new world; one of criticism and taunting, judgment, misunderstanding and cruelty, and outright rudeness! We learned to accept and embrace those that understood, as we adjusted, readjusted and educated those that didn’t understand.

Our other kids had to be patient and flexible. They expected others to be as excited as they were about their new sister. Our oldest daughter was confused and shocked when she discovered some of the other kids didn’t embrace Melissa as she had hoped and expected. It was a hard lesson but she stood up for her sister and made sure there was always a place for her at school functions. I secretly wished she didn’t raise so much attention that we ended up front and center for every event. It made it difficult to slip out quietly when Melissa would get disruptive (like when the choir was singing and she started screaming with excitement because she loved the music). Yes, we thought it was funny but most people didn’t appreciate it.

We weren’t able to accept as many social invitations and many of our old friends faded away while others questioned our intentions. Many stuck by us though and before long we were living an active life again with just a few modifications. Melissa and her dad grew very close and he is probably her favorite person. The first day we met he got her out of her wheelchair, found a soft carpet to lay her on and got down on the floor with her and rolled around. She was so happy to be free of her wheelchair and to have someone at her level. They made each other laugh and formed an instant bond. He seemed to instinctively know her needs right away while it took the rest of us awhile to learn to communicate and understand.

Melissa has taught us strength, perseverance, unconditional love, warmth, acceptance, and understanding. She has also taught us how to fight for what is right, how important laughter is in life, and how much attitude has to do with outcome. She also figured out how to controls us, and is able to pull things off that others can’t, but mostly she has taught us about the value of every human being. Melissa rocks!

With love, Pam