She set the steaming bowl of rice before the little boy and went back to the kitchen to retrieve the rest of his dinner. He stared at it with large eyes, his thin arms began to tremble. He looked up at his new daddy.
“Do you want to eat first?” he asked.
“We’ll eat together after we say grace,” I said.
He looked back down at the rice. Hesitantly he put his hands around it.
“Do you want the first bite?”
“No thanks, Mommy will bring me my own.”
He started to shake.
“This is for me? All of it?”
He couldn’t believe that the food was all for him, that no one was going to take it away.
He sat in the tub and I came in to give him his first bath in our home. I wanted to make him feel that everything that had happened to him before was being washed away.
I grabbed the large plastic cup and dipped it into the water. I put my hand on his shoulder and raised the water over his head.
“Close your eyes.”
He looked up at me with a false grin and terror in his eyes. There was something terribly wrong. His arms were rigid. His legs straight and stiff. He looked at me and I could see the strain of trying to please me and fear of what may happen play across his face.
I washed his hair, explaining to him how to get the shampoo through his nappy hair. I washed his arms, showing him how to get the wash cloth saturated with soap and how to keep it away from his eyes.
I washed his feet, and some of his legs, but as the cloth swept up toward his waist he become rigid and the false grin returned.
I wanted to make the bath some sort of ritual of cleansing and new beginnings, but he didn’t trust me enough yet. I had him show me he could rub the wash cloth well enough and explained to him how he had to wash everywhere. I left him to his privacy.
It was just a couple of days after they boys came to live with us. I thought I’d try horsing around with them like my father did with me when I was five. I hugged them, tried to get them to wrestle. They just didn’t get it. I lifted them up in the air and swung them around. Jeremiah started crying and got a nose bleed though he never bumped his nose on anything. I set him down on the couch and rushed to get some toilet paper.
As his new mommy comforted him and I could hear him say: “Daddy hurt me.”
We couldn’t seem to get their hair picked out right. It hurt them despite the conditioners we rubbed into their scalps. So I bought some electric shears and tried to give them haircuts. That first time was a total loss. It takes practice to learn how to do it right. One side would get uneven and I would go over it again to smooth it out. Then they would shift or twitch or flinch, and the shears would dip too low, and I’d start going over it again.
After a frustrating 45 minutes I just put the clippers to the scalp and ran it over the whole head. It was summer anyway.
Once the curls had fallen around the stool I saw the marks. There were scars running across his poor scalp. There were little dents where the bone beneath showed a dip or lump. Terrible things had happened to this boy’s head.
There are more stories. Some hint at or reveal other terrible things that this boy has experienced. But I wish to share just one more story, one with a different ending.
We were sitting at dinner, talking about school pictures and how there are few pictures from before they came to live with us. Brenda ran to her hope chest to get their passports, containing the earliest pictures we have of our boys.
We passed them around. There is a look of terror in the boys’ eyes. We can only guess at the horrors reflected in those eyes. They don’t know why they are posing for those pictures, that this photo is a step toward taking them out of Haiti.
I examined the places they had been, the times and dates and notations. There was the customs stamp showing when they left their birth country. The time and date struck me.
At the exact moment they were boarding a plane from that awful place I know what I was doing.
I was sitting on my couch, the sun was coming up. A new day, a new beginning. I hadn’t slept all night. I wasn’t sure what I should be doing. I had gotten up early the morning before to feed our baby. He died later that morning. As the dark of night turned into the dark of a day of grieving I sat numb. All my dreams of what I would teach my child, all the years I had foreseen, all ashes. I felt like my heart was breaking, like it was some living thing beating loud and strangely in my chest. I felt that it would ache forever. It didn’t seem that I would ever smile again, that I would every be able to love a child again.
3,400 miles away two small, frightened boys were being ushered onto a plane. They were leaving all they had ever known.
I wasn’t ready for new children. They weren’t ready for a new daddy. But He was moving Heaven and Earth. He was preparing me and He was preparing them.
I love those boys fiercely. I kiss their heads each night (even though they are in high school). I lay my hands on them and I pray blessings into them, and I lay them on the altar of my heart before the LORD constantly.
Whatever challenges they bring to my home, it is because He has given me that task to do. Therefore I cannot fail. He works His Will through me. His grace is sufficient.