The Fastest 78 Hours

Having a child live away from home for any period time is no fun. Add the holidays and it is intensely challenging. We were incredibly fortunate to get 78 hours with our eldest for Christmas and it was the best gift this side of heaven. It was also the fastest time has ever passed.

I couldn’t get there fast enough on Thursday. Oversleeping was not in the plan book. Neither was having an issue with one of my tires. And then there was the fact that four tire/auto shops said “we’re too busy” to take a look before I found one that (thankfully) confirmed a low pressure warning and nothing more serious than that. With filled-up tires, I hit the road.

There’s a 100 minute drive separating us from our oldest child. He’s overcoming some hard challenges that he never wanted and doesn’t deserve. It’s requiring being away from home temporarily. Some kids there didn’t get an opportunity to come home. Some don’t have family connections. Some are in a more fragile part of their journey.

I was so excited to see him bound through the door into the lobby. I had to look up as he’s taller than me now. We don’t know much about his bio-dad, but we know that he was very tall. That’s showing at 14 in quite a dramatic way. My little boy is growing up rapidly and while I’m not 100 percent ok with that, I’m trying to enjoy every moment of this life stage that I can.

Baby brother had a cold, so we adjusted lots of plans for Christmas. The first was taking care of some errands on our way home, in case a quarantine was in our future. We also cancelled ourselves from our small group Christmas gathering just to be safe. Eldest one was sad not to see his friends and our extended “family.” Supplies in hand, we headed home, and I took baby brother to the doctor and mama bear got to spend sometime with her not-so-little baby boy.

I can’t believe it’s only been 9 years since we heard him and his brother through the walls of the child welfare building on our way to meet them for the first time. Two blonde, blue eyed chatty and hyper little boys. Our lives changed when we first got the call, three days before we met them. His bio-brother., our middle child, is also living away from home and sadly, wasn’t able to come home for Christmas. Hopefully, we’ll be able to visit him before the new year.

No Covid, no flu, nothing serious for the snotty toddler — “just don’t let him sneeze in your face,” said the doctor. Breathing a sigh of relief, I called my parents and let them know our Christmas Eve morning tradition wasn’t cancelled. Spoiler: before the weekend was up, he sneezed in all of our faces as I grab another tissue by the computer.

It was a very simple Christmas. Pandemic aside, 2021 has been extremely hard. We enjoyed a Christmas Eve brunch with my folks before opening presents with them. Then, we spent the remainder of the day enjoying our presents before preparing for Santa’s arrival and Christmas with the four of us.

Sometimes in North Carolina, Jesus’s birthday is just plain hot. And this year was no exception. After all the packages were opened, we headed outside in shorts & t-shirts to spent as much time with him as we possibly could. We listened as he strummed his new guitar, watched him glide about on his skateboard. He binged Fortnite and ate chocolate seemingly every other moment. We smiled and laughed while he battled cars and ninjas with baby snot.

For a few moments, having two of three home was as perfect as life was going to get for some time. It was amazing. Four thousand six hundred and eighty moments to be exact.

Many wrongly believe that when an adoption is certified, issues disappear. Truth be told, adoption is a trauma in and of itself and it often is the starting point for struggles from earlier in life to manifest. Neither of my kids asked for what happened to them in this life. They’re not guilty, they’re not responsible. They are children born into heartachingly terrible circumstances made worse by poor parental decision making.

As the weekend continued, which was the longest we’ve been together since May, I could see less and less of my little boy in his eyes and his smile and his laugh. I see a man emerging. A boy-man right now who is facing his challenges head-on with minimal complaint. He’s working through things harder than any 14 year-old should and he’s winning the battle.

On the way home, he asked for seafood for dinner. We found a place near his destination. The food came super fast. Yes there was a deadline to have him returned, but I wanted to drag it out to the last possible moment. To prolong the goodbye, I opted for the slowest route Waze could conjure. Twenty-nine minutes from seafood to see-you-later. I longed for every possible red light.

Goodbye for now was hard, ya’ll. It was hard.

On the ride home, I thought about who he might be. A litigator would be possible- he’s really good with words. A graphic designer is a good guess too. He’s very gifted in drawing and art. A businessman is very likely- he’s got a killer business plan for his own power washing business ready to go.

I don’t know who he’ll grow up to be, but I know he’s mine. And, I know that God is writing an amazing story in his life and we are a long ways from the final chapter. I can’t wait for the time when he comes home and we aren’t limited to just 78-hours.

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