|First picture taken of Pedro after he arrived (notice that Lucas, on the left,|
and Pedro, on the right, are only one month apart in age)
CHAPTER 4 (Part 1)
Maria had already traveled a few times to the big city where we lived, even though her home was quite far from ours. She would travel through uncomfortable roads for two days, inside a modest bus that would jump up and down as it navigated around the holes in the asphalt. It was an extremely long and tiring trip, but she and her youngest adopted son would leave everything behind so that he could get his much needed cornea transplants. She knew that in the big city she could find free and adequate treatment for him, so that he could have his vision back and finally experience forms, colors and light in fullness.
Every time they traveled, they would stay at our home. Like many others who were also dependent of the free health care system to find a solution for their pain, sickness and limitation, Maria and her son would face the endless lines inside the public hospital to receive assistance. Waiting was not easy, because she had to carry her son on her arms, trying to calm him down, especially because being inside a dark world he could not fully comprehend what was going on.
On what was supposed to be her last visit to our city, we received the answer to our prayers. By that time her son was already running around our tiny apartment, with his eyes wide open, without crashing against the walls and furniture or falling down and hurting himself, like the other times before the transplant. The long trips back and forth, the endless hospital lines and the surgeries had all been worth. Maria was sincerely thankful to my family for opening our home and she would have given back the kindness if possible, and in a certain way she did! But she never thought that it would be as an answer to a prayer.
On that last day of her stay she was having breakfast with us at our kitchen table. A feeble ray of sun, that had unexpectedly made it through the fog outside, made her face shine when she begun to tell us a story, between sips of hot coffee and bites of toast.
“The other day, I learned from an employer at the general store that there is a boy being given away by his mother.” Then she stared the floor, as if looking for the right words deep in her thoughts. “Unfortunately, I cannot adopt any more kids, especially him! I heard he is blind, deaf, mute and paralyzed. Can you imagine that?”
My parents sent each other worried looks. She kept adding to the story: “His mother is not a respectful woman, she makes easy money, if you know what I mean.” Both of my parents nodded. “It looks like the boy is about to die if nobody steps in”, she concluded.
Trying to add something to the story, my father said: “Life is tough!” As Maria told the story, her eyes kept blinking, as if her brain was trying to find a solution: “I am hoping that someone will take this boy in, but it is not going to be easy!”, she added.
Then Maria went on to describe all the details she knew about the boy. He was four years old and until that moment had only survived because his grandmother had taken some care of him, but she died and nobody cared anymore. That was the reason his mother wanted to give him away, which was not an easy task in a country with not may options to institutionalizing children with disabilities.
I had never heard such a tragic story in my young life. My six year old eyes were trying to capture every move coming from Maria's lips as the entire story was so intriguing. She added, “To top it all, he is very sick, undernourished and living on the floor of a shack. It is heartbreaking, but the people in the area can't even afford their own kids, much less a sick one!”
My parents tried to swallow their coffee, but it felt stuck in their throats. “Did she start the adoption talk on purpose?”, they thought to themselves. “Why would she tell exactly to us about this child in need of a family?”, they kept asking inside their heads. Maria had no idea my parents were praying for a child to adopt that really needed it, but this one was off the charts!
Maria added a final question to the table, “Do you know of anyone around here that would be interested to take in this child? At least for a while, until he regains some strength so he can be transferred to an orphanage?” My parents nodded a silent no. Of course they knew of someone: themselves! However, they were too scared to compromise to such an unattractive adoption option.
“Where I live we don't have orphanages that could take him in now. The few places we have don't have the structure to take care of a child in a condition as serious as his. In fact, I think that if he went to one of those places, he would not see much improvement”, Maria remembered.
As she kept going on with the uncomfortable conversation, my parents started to avoid looking at each other. Neither of them wanted to be the first to accept that the boy was the answer to their prayers. It would be much easier to think that it was just a coincidence. Besides that, Maria lived so far away! There was probably a local child in need for adoption right in our city. Someone that really needed, but not as much as this boy!
Eventually someone who lived near that boy would show up to take care of him. Who knows, maybe a retired lady, filled with life experiences, grown up children, and willing to contribute to the common good of society. Someone that did not need to work anymore, with a good retirement pension, mortgage paid off, and a big heart. There is always someone like that in every city... But, what if this boy was the answer to our prayers?
If he was the answer to our prayers, he was way more than what we had been asking for. However, how could my parents doubt of such a clear and concise answer? What was the path to follow? Deny a gift? But could that boy be a gift? As she explained the boy's situation, Maria had no idea of the battle going on inside my parent's hearts and the petrifying reality they were facing with a thousand questions. Not even in her wildest dreams she would imagine that right there and then she was being used as a messenger to deliver the answer to somebody's prayer.
The subject that started at breakfast ended with the meal. However, it never ceased to surround my parent's thoughts, knocking, suffocating and overwhelming them. Their shaking hands, trembling lips and weak legs tried to follow their reasoning, but no words were spoken, actions taken or directions walked. They were paralyzed in the inside and trembling in the outside.
Silence became the norm of communication between my parents. They did not want to start a discussion on the subject afraid it could become the natural path to a decision. They were used to adventures, but this one was completely different. It was emotionally overwhelming.
As she departed, Maria did not have a clue about the sequence of events that were about to start. For her, the most important thing was that her youngest son had his vision back. From now on, another visit to the big city would only happen for business or vacation, no more medical excursions. She told us her goodbyes unaware of how pale my parents' faces were and how painful their hearts felt.
Not even after Maria left, my parents felt relief. The thought of that boy sick and in need kept pounding, hurting and burning their consciences. While trying to reason with their own consciences they had never imagined such coldness of heart could exist in them. How could they have let her leave without sharing their feelings? Weren't they always championing against this kind of emotional apathy? What about their common speech against the human insensibility to another's suffering? But the truth is they were going under a huge internal suffering, filled with conflicts and fears.
There is always a way out. They knew that. The best they found was to go back to prayer. But not the same one as before, asking for a child. It would have certainly seemed like a comfortable position to pretend that nothing had happened and to keep with the old prayer. But nothing was the same now. They had heard with their own ears the answer to their prayers and from now on the question was if they would accept it or not. To make such decision, they asked for wisdom, discernment and strength. Wisdom for knowing how to act, discernment for knowing when to act and, finally, strength to act. Without looking back or forward. Just looking up, from where help would come.
At the same time, they knew the boy had not enough time to wait for them to analyze every angle of such a decision. Urgency, surely, also helped them to make the decision. Maybe if they had all the time in the world, they could have given up. But if the answer was to be yes, they had to make it quickly.
It did not take too long for help from above, or the perception of such, to cast away their fears. Without delay, they took a deep breath and said: “Yes, we accept this boy as our son. In happiness and in sadness, in rich and poor times, till death do us apart.” I was holding the ring. I also wanted to participate in such happening. Together, we threw back the bouquet hoping other families could have the same experience as ours.
Book: A fight for Life
CHAPTER 5 (Part 2) coming soon...