Yesterday we appeared in juvenile court to formally petition custody of the Monkey. The whole day was surreal, like the day I got married. It was something long in the making and it’d finally arrived.
We drove 2 ½ hours north and dropped off Micah with Yia Yia, his adopted Greek grandmother. Then we met the Monkey’s grandmother and drove together downtown. Whereas it was an exciting day for us, one we’d been working toward for so long, hers was a flurry of emotions.
A few words about the Monkey’s uncle … I mean, grandmother. He’ll be three in a couple weeks, and she has cared for him about as long. His mother has an excess of issues she’s dealing with, so his grandmother has really been his mom. She’s the one who was awoken at night when he was a baby and needed to be changed or fed or just comforted. She would take him to the doctor and carefully monitor his earlier breathing problems. She tried to organize her full-time workload around him, arranging childcare or just working into the wee hours of morning, taking advantage of the hours he slept. All along, she’s been settled on caring for him for the rest of his life if necessary. So it was no small thing, her decision to allow us to seek custody.
A Little History
We’ve known her for nearly ten years, but she and I really got to know one another better when I led a group to Guatemala on a short mission trip. She and a mutual friend were on that trip. I’d shared with the group mine and Cindy’s interest in adopting, particularly from Guatemala. Only a month later did her daughter give birth to the Monkey and the whirlwind that has been his life set in motion. And the Guatemala door closed.
The first time I saw him was at a Christmas Eve service in 2007, when that mutual friend let me hold him, remarking, “He looks like he’d fit right in your family.” I’m not sure she knew how prophetic her words would prove to be. By then, his grandmother had temporary custody, as her daughter continued battling the issues that have plagued her, causing her to be unable to care for her baby.
We started seeing the Monkey later that spring, when we began foster/adoption classes with Children’s Services. Until we moved, the Monkey would come over to our house for a day, sometimes staying the night. More days and nights as he got to know us better. Since we moved, he would come for 4 to 5-day stretches. So much travel back and forth for her and us.
I can’t begin to describe his grandmother’s love and devotion to him. If she’d been selfish, she would never have agreed to give him to us. But she has wanted a family for him, and it became clearer over the past year that it wouldn’t be just any family but our family. Now he’s gained two big sisters who absolutely adore him, and he has a baby brother who’ll look up to him and who he can pick on. He has a mom and dad and now something he also didn’t have before—a grandmother. She will transition into being simply and beautifully a grandmother, which is what she really wants to be in his life. (She’s also gained two tweener granddaughters and another grandson.) If you could pick your in-laws, his grandmother would be our first choice. I guess we sort of did.
I’ve written mostly about the Monkey’s grandmother, but I’d be remiss in not mentioning his mother, who not only chose to endure a difficult pregnancy instead of the dreadful easy way out but also signed the consent to transfer custody in a moment of clarity a month ago. It surely hasn’t been easy for her to admit she isn’t what is best for her son right now.
Yesterday we testified to the judge that we would take care of the Monkey at least until he’s eighteen. We plan to do so long after, though there’s still an air of uncertainty. We haven’t signed adoption papers, though there’s a likelihood of that in the future. What we do know is that we’ll care for him today. We’ll see what tomorrow holds. That’s how it is with our other children too. They are a gift from God, like the Monkey, but they’re still his. We’re in for the long haul, for as long as God allows.
Technically, we’re his legal guardians, but he calls us Mama and Daddy. I’ve called him the Monkey for quite some time, but someday maybe we’ll call him Gabriel Owens.
*Actually, he has three now, including Cindy’s mom and mine.