Much about Andrew's essay is cool and praiseworthy, and more or less what I knew he would be likely to say on the subject. The sentence that got me was, "I have one younger brother through birth, three older ones through fostering, two siblings both younger than me who didn't end up staying with us, and a bunch of other kids who have stayed with us for respite (temporary care.) "
He counts Frankie and Ann.
Neither of them lived with us for more than three months. Both of them were kids that he thinks we should not have taken. He was relieved to see them go.
And he counts them among his siblings.
THAT is the part that made my heart jump, that makes me want to cry, because I did not expect it.
I think of Frankie and Ann as kids were were almost one of mine, almost one of the family, but in the end were not. When people ask me how many kids I have I choose between several several answers. In a few contexts, the only appropriate answer is "two." Often I say, "Somewhere between two and five, I'm not exactly sure." Or, "Four or five, depending upon whether I count my nephew. He has lived with us and he certainly feels like one of ours." A lot of them time though I just say "five -- all boys."
I never say "seven."
What would it mean for me to claim them all, for me to answer "seven" when someone asks me how many kids I have? What would it mean to think of them not as children who were almost mine, but as a son and a daughter that couldn't stay?
Just thinking about that hurts. Could I hold them in my heart that way? "Look, here are photos of my son and daughter that I never see. No, I don't know where they are or how they are doing. The last time I heard anything..." I can barely imagine it. How would I respond when they asked, "Why don't they live with you?" What answer to give? "I wasn't strong enough, skilled enough, brave enough. I wasn't enough." I couldn't say, "They were too much for us." My usual way of putting it, "Their needs were greater than our abilties to meet them" isn't enough. And besides it isn't true with Ann, except that is sort of is, although it isn't.
I do not think I will ever list them as a son and daughter who could not live with me. Living THAT reality is too painful. I'm not that strong. I know it is not the same, quite for Andrew. To have siblings from foster care who couldn't stay just doesn't mean the same thing. He does not bear responsibility for them. Not the same way. It is not the same thing.
But it is something; a big something. Andrew claims them as sister and brother.
It makes me happy, and humble to know that.
I wonder how Frankie and Ann would feel to know it?