The hum of our car relaxed me. Outside a mass of pines salted with birch outlined the mirage of a moving horizon.
Jeff and I were going to introduce our next child to the two children we had already adopted. Jeff coughed, and I glanced at him. He placed his right hand over my left.
I checked my watch. Another half hour and we should be there. I hoped Randy would respond as well to active nine-year-old Cindy and sixteen-year-old, developmentally disabled, TJ as he had to Jeff and me the week before.
We pulled up to the house.
Inside two-year-old Randy was waiting with his foster parents. I made the introductions, expecting awkwardness among the children; but there wasn’t any. Randy’s eyes twinkled. He crawled, without invitation, up on TJ’s lap. TJ, our quiet one, chuckled. Cindy walked over and rubbed Randy’s back.
I’ve never seen Cindy or TJ happier than at that moment. It was like Christmas and Thanksgiving and all of our birthdays and more.
Jeff coughed. I wish he didn’t have to do that. The doctor said he was fine, but I was concerned that someone might think he is sick. That stubborn cough!
Randy’s foster mom knew we would be taking him to the park, and he was ready. He was wearing a short-sleeve white shirt, white shorts, and new white shoes with white socks. I suspected the woman was trying to sabotage our outing. Maybe if no home was found for Randy, they would get to keep him. It didn’t matter. Nothing could spoil this day.
Together the five of us left the house.
I sent a silent request to the Lord and within two minutes spotted a rummage sale. Jeff eased the car to the curb. I found long pants, a print shirt, tennis shoes, and dark colored socks – and all the right size. Surely God intended for Randy to be one of us.
It didn’t take me long to change Randy’s clothes. We sang in the car. Randy looked from one of us to the other and grinned. The next few hours were spent taking pictures and movies, and playing with a large tricolor beach ball.
We picnicked on a blanket under a maple tree.
Our little one fell asleep as we headed back to his foster home. Jeff stopped the car two blocks from Randy’s house and woke him up. He changed Randy’s clothes back to white and liberally applied Wet Ones.
Our caseworker was pleased by our report of the day. A few more visits and Randy was ready for “the move”.
Immediately, Randy bonded to Jeff more than he did to the rest of us. Every moment Jeff was around, his little shadow was beside him, losing his tools and interrupting his conversation.
But no one cared. We were a family – the five of us. And next we were going to adopt a whole sibling group. Our caseworker promised that she would let us fill out the paper work in February, six months away, even though Randy’s adoption would not yet be finalized.
Jeff was still coughing so I urged him to go to a specialist. That doctor did a biopsy and repeated the diagnosis that it was just a cough - one that could hang on for a few more months. Nothing to worry about.
The doctors were wrong.
A day later at 3:25 a.m. Jeff woke me, “Lela, Lela, please take me to the hospital.” Instantly, I was awake.
“I’m having chest pains.”
I called my parents. My mother agreed to watch the children. We took off for a city hospital about an hour’s drive away.
Two and a half weeks later on a blistery February morning TJ, Cindy, little Randy, and I knelt at Jeff’s grave. He had died of a rare, aggressive, and allusive type of bone and blood cancer.
Why God? Why? Our children needed their father. They waited so long for a daddy to love them.
None of them did well growing up without Jeff, especially Randy, who was diagnosed as bipolar at the age of thirteen. There was a void in all of our lives.
“You know, Mom, I never really had a dad,” Randy would say. Again I would surrender my surge of anger to my Heavenly Father. Once more I surrendered to His will.
Someday I will understand. Someday He will explain it and wash away our pain.
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