There is a Don Costa/Alan and Marilyn Bergman song that Barbra Streisand sang called “Christmas Mem’ries.” (I’m not sure why the ‘o’ was omitted.) It’s a beautiful, nostalgic piece I fell in love with even as a teenager, despite phrases like “making footprints in the snow” and Christmas memories — I mean, mem’ries — “float[ing] like snowflakes. (Remember, I grew up in Arizona.) I mention this song not just because it’s beautiful and timely, but it seems to capture why memories and nostalgia are very often strongest this time of year. When Cindy and I were first married, we decided to decorate our tree with only ornaments we’d given each other — or had been given. So for the past 14 years we’ve opened up one gift on Christmas Eve, the ornaments we’d hand-selected. We have a lot now because of the girls and Micah, and some we’d bought and presented to Gabriel.
One Item on My Annual Review
I used to write a sort of annual review letter that we’d tuck into Christmas cards. Writing those letters inspired me to write more, and SWYW is just one result. I don’t write the letter anymore or send out Christmas cards. If you’ve read a lot of SWYW all year, then you don’t need much of a review. (If not, just click on the Family link or browse the tags below.) I haven’t written about something that affected our family dramatically this year. We’ve told you who asked and also our family and close friends. But I feel I owe you, my devoted readers, a little explanation, considering I brought you along our journey (with posts like “Wipeout,” “Once Upon a Time: The Monkey,” “And he shall be …“). Gabriel went back to live with his grandmother. (This would explain for you the post “Choosing Not to Protect Our Children.”) We’d been working in some manner to adopt Gabriel since May 2008. When he finally came to stay with us last fall, having been granted custody of him, we thought we’d only had a few more steps, some legal hoops to jump through. It became clearer, however, that we weren’t on the same page with his grandmother and mother. They no longer wanted us to adopt him, if they ever did. Ours became more of a foster relationship, which we might have been okay with if we’d known earlier and if we’d still lived in the same town as his family. We had to let go. [pullquote]God can still work out the best for him, despite that we feel right now in the moment, in the hurting present, that he still belongs with us.[/pullquote]I remember something from the foster classes we took a few years ago. As foster parents we tend to think placement in our family is better than being reunited with the child’s natural family. Foster parents are typically financially more equipped and can devote more time to the child. We esteem our middle class values over those of the struggling classes. In many cases there has been abuse or neglect and we’re concerned for the child’s immediate safety and long-term future. It’s expected for us to think Gabriel fits best in our family with a mom and a dad, two older sisters, and a little brother. He would grow up near to God — in some ways like Samuel in the Old Testament. But maybe he doesn’t fit best with us. God can still work out the best for him, despite that we feel right now in the moment, in the hurting present, that he still belongs with us. That he should open his ornament and place it on the tree on Christmas Eve. That he should awaken Christmas morning with us. But he won’t. As a father I feel a heavy burden of responsibility for my family. In the case of Gabriel this is nearly unbearable. See, I’m the one who threw up the white flag. I said, Eso es todo (that’s all). That decision was terribly difficult. I’m not saying it didn’t involve Cindy, because it did. But as the father, I had to make the call. Now I have to trust it was the right decision. And if it wasn’t, I have to trust God will bring out the best from it.
A Picture’s Thousand Words
A year and a half ago I posted in “Once Upon a Time: the Monkey” a picture of Gabriel sitting in a toddler swing, his back to the camera. I’d snapped the photo on one of his early visits with us in spring 2008. There has always existed a caption for me that reads: I need a daddy to push me on the swing. As a boy who in essence grew up without a dad — with a father I’ve never known and a stepfather who did little more than provide financially, and even that is debatable — it pains me beyond description to let Gabriel go, to banish him to fatherlessness. And even now when I’m playing with Micah and thoroughly enjoying fathering a boy, there’s a little ache in my heart, a part of me that still longs to be Gabriel’s daddy and wants for him what Micah receives from me. Cindy had some film developed recently, some shots she took with black and white film. One of the pictures tells the story, speaking more to the heart than anything I could write. I’ll leave you with it. And wishes of a wonderful Christmas for you and your family. Pray for us, but rest assured that God gives great joy even amid sorrow. There’ll always be a hole in our family and an ache in our hearts. Each time I feel it I’ll remember the monkey and his smile, and I’ll pray for him, trusting that God will be his Abba the way he has been mine.