4.26.2009

Free At Last, Free At Last, Thank God Almighty, Free At Last!

When I first adopted the kids, it would have helped greatly to know that someone else had gone through feelings and experiences similar to ours. I receive a lot of email from people saying the same things. The reality is that there are a lot of unexpected things that come up, but in the end, you manage them, conquer them and come out stronger. I just want you to know that whatever you experience, you're not alone. There are thousands of us out here who've been there, or are there on a daily basis. At the end of the day, the family is what matters--the kids, and no amount of craziness will feel more powerful than the bond you share with your family.

(Freeing Mychael from Polinsky (San Diego's Children's Home). The beginning of our Real Family.)

On Saturday morning, bright and early, I drive to Polinsky. I’m excited about today, but also nervous. I park in the same spot that I always park in and walk the forty six steps that it takes to reach the building. Since it’s Saturday, a lot of the Polinsky inmates will be spending the day with their families. The lucky ones might even get to leave for the entire weekend.

I hit the buzzer beside the door.

“Yes?” answers the attendant.

“I’m here to pick up Mychael Moore?”

“And you are?” the voice asks suspiciously.

“Gretchan Thompson.”

I can hear her flipping through papers. Pleeaassee let my name be on there, I think.

“I don’t see your name on this list; are you his social worker?” she interrogates.

Damn, they’re not going to let me take him.

“Charlene was supposed to call and tell you I was picking him up today. She’s his social worker. I’m his foster parent.”

The buzzer goes off signaling that I’ve been granted access. I pull the door open and step inside the first set of doors. I wait for her to buzz me into the next set. Once she does, I walk up to the window so she can get better look at me.

“I found your name,” she says over her shoulder as she digs through a mound of papers.

“Great,” I declare happily.

She turns toward me, tilts her head and comes closer. Surely you’ve seen stranger things than a foster parent, who looks like she’s 16?

“Just sign here to say that you’re taking him. Are you bringing him back? No wait-it says he’s not returning. That means we’ll need to have him gather his belongings, too. Let me call back there,”

She picks up the phone. “Boys Wing 2, please call intake,” she says over the intercom.

I pace nervously in front of the window. I feel like I’m doing something wrong, and I’m nervous that they’re not going to let me take him. I can only imagine how the biological parents, “the perpetrators”, feel when they come to visit. I’m the good one, and I’m afraid they are going to back out of their agreement and not let me have my kid.

After ten minutes of worrying that they are going to figure out they’ve made a mistake and not let me have him, I see Mychael walking up from the back. He’s managed to successfully clear the two sets of security doors between the boy’s dorm and the reception area. Only a little farther Mychael, don’t make any sudden moves, just keep walking.

I put on a big smile as he walks toward me with a black trash bag in each hand. “Looks like you’ve got all your stuff. Let me carry one of those,” I say, reaching out my hand to him. He hands me a bag, and I turn back to the nurse at intake to make sure we’re still cool with all this.

“These are his current medical requirements and the forms you’ll need to take to the dentist and doctor. Make sure that these are filled out and sent back to us at this address. This is part of his medical passport history,” she says as though that means something to me.

I nod so she thinks I know what she’s talking about. You never know-this could be a deal breaker. “Okay, so does he have something he needs to do right away?”

“Yes, he’s got four root canals in process. He had those started when he was here two years ago, but they never got finished. He needs to get in to have them finished sooner than later,” she declares pragmatically. This is nothing to her. She’s seen worse than four root canals on a 14 year old.

“Do I have to take him to the same dentist? Where is his dentist? Who is his dentist?” I ask, trying to look like I’m calmer than I feel. If she knows I’m scared, she might not let me take him.

“We don’t care what dentist you take him to, as long as you take him somewhere. Here’s the information,” she says, handing me another stack of forms.

“Okay, great then…I’ll get right on that,” I promise.

“Don’t forget to take those yellow forms with you when you go to the appointment.” she says, pointing to the yellow forms on top of the stack of papers she’s just handed me. “People are always forgetting to take the forms and then we don’t know what medical care or dental care the kids have had when they come back here.”

“I won’t forget the forms, though Mychael’s coming home for good. He won’t be back here ever again,” I declare confidently.

She gives me a huge, toothy smile. I can’t tell if she’s smiling because she’s happy that Mychael will have a permanent home or if she’s smiling because she thinks I’m na├»ve, as of course he’ll be back. “I hope you’re right. Good luck to you both,” she says as she presses the button to grant us access to the outside world.

“Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, free at last,” I say to Mychael as he takes his first forty six steps of freedom.

5 comments:

Tony and Rett said...

Thanks for commenting that we're not alone. We're still working on the licensing part (but almost done!!) and so we'll see where it takes us!

Great post!

Team Thompson said...

Rett,

You and Tony will be fantastic parents to an older child. I'm so glad you are forming your own team. You will not regret it, I promise!! You're awesome!!

Karaya said...

Thanks for these posts...today was a particularly hard day for our family. I'm 28 single mom and have a 12 year old girl.

I guess I came to the right place to get some hope.

Gretchan said...

Karaya,

Do not give up, whatever you do. I had so many of those hard days along the way. In fact, there were some days that I was scared that it was never going to get easier. However, it did, and for you, it will. Don't give up because for all the stress that we as parents endure, our kids will experience ten times that. We are the only rock in their lives and they need us to be strong for them. Sometimes it's so much easier said than done. Just know how much we appreciate and respect you. You are a gift--one of the special ones.

Jenn said...

Oh, what a blessing to find you and your blog! My husband and I are young parents of an older child. I loved reading this story and know exactly how you felt when people looked at you like "yeah, right. you're not old enough for this!"