Tuesday, April 10, 2007

It's hard to describe the good parts

It was Tolstoy who said that all happy families are the same, right?

I don't know if that is true, but it certainly is difficult to write interestingly about happiness. Good stories require conflict, ambiguity, uncertainty. When that is resolved and the "happy ending" has been reached, the story is over. What else is there to be said? The sad truth is that happiness can be boring to read about. It can be difficult to believe in. It is the pursuit of happiness that makes a good story.

What we want, which writers of TV dramas understand so well, is conflict and resolution. A story of never-ending badness exhausts us. They can compel us as train wrecks do, but only for so long. We have different levels of tolerance for that, but clearly many of us will watch. Worse though are stories of unrelenting cheerfulness. Happiness is interesting as the resolution of conflict. The thing itself does not make a story.

So how do I tell you about the way I feel about my time with the boys over the weekend? Can I make a story of it, or can I only, as I did the other day, report that it was a good day? What story can I tell you that will communicate the happiness?

I could tell a story about making the curtains. I could tell you about how long it took to attempt back tabs, how hard we worked, how just when we thought we had it figured out I gave David instructions that completely ruined it, and how he graciously said, "Let's just make top tabs; they're easier right?" I could probably make that an interesting story, but that has already faded in my memory. My memory of the day is sitting quietly at the table, working on sudoku puzzles and watching him make curtains. My memory is in taking pleasure in giving him minimal instructions and seeing that he was pleased with what he was making.

It was Easter weekend two years ago that he had disappeared again. It was on Good Friday that I walked the labyrinth and knew I had to let him go. It was on Wednesday that we hoped to confront him, and on Thursday that we dropped off his belongings. I prepared myself to never see him again. I was afraid he would be out of my life forever. But he came back, and on Saturday this year he was in my dining room, sewing curtains with fabric he bought even before he asked me to help him, so confident was he that I would help.

The importance of our time together this weekend has nothing to do with the botched first attempt at curtains. The importance is the feeling of overwhelming gratitude for this young man's presence in my life. My thankfulness that I did not loose him even after I realized I could no longer live with him. And how do I make a story of that feeling?

And what of the moment with Evan? That little tiny moment when I handed him an Easter basket and he smiled and said, "You remembered I don't like chocolate!" "Of course I did" I said. He beamed at the white chocolate bunny and then smiled at me. It was happiness. It was more than the candy, which he forgot when he left. It was that I remembered.

And then, when it was time for him to leave, I got his high school diploma I had picked up for him while he was in Scotland. "I know you did not get to walk at a graduation ceremony, Evan. So here it is. Ready everyone?" I held the diploma in my left hand, shook his hand with my right and handed it over. "Congratulations on your high school graduation." Then the family hooted, clapped and hollered just as we would have at his regular graduation. "You guys are crazy, you know?" He says as he hugs us.

Can I make those moments interesting? Can I turn them into stories?

Can I make somehow fix it so that everyone who asks, "Can I do foster care?" or "Is it worth it to do foster care?" or "Why do people do foster care or adopt older children?" will find them?

Because people ask why we do it. Too often they read our blogs where we pour out our frustrations as we must to survive. They read all the things we vent and they ask, "Why do you do it?"

And I look at my boys, now young men. They are strong, and they are happy. They are part of my family and my family is bigger, richer, and contains more love because they are here. There is remaining pain, sadness that the hole Ann's loss left, but there is joy.

My only answer is, "How could I not?"


  1. Happy or sad, drama or serenity, narrative or just ramblings...I love ALL your posts. I sometimes won't check for a few days, not because I don't want to read them, but because I save them up, so I can read three or four in a row.

    Thank you for writing.

  2. I adore you. Truly.

  3. That was a great story. You understand something that so few people get. Family is what we make it. Or as I like to say it is a choice to bind your life to someone, whether they are biologically related or not.

  4. If you're trying to inspire me, it's working!


Comments will be open for a little while, then I will be shutting them off. The blog will stay, but I do not want either to moderate comments or leave the blog available to spammers.