Don’t call us, we’ll call you

June 12, 2017

“But before I tell you that story, I have to tell you this one…”

Filed under: Family, foster parenting, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , — llcall @ 4:58 am

Any Captain Underpants fans in the house? (Or if not fans, people whose obsessed children made them read every single book in the series to them?) If so, you’ll recognize the title. I’ve heard those words in my mind several times over the last few months as I’ve thought about finishing the story of baby B’s time with us and subsequent departure.

I wrote most of Day 135, our last day with him. Then I wrote some more a week later. And then the week after that, all sorts of things hit the fan in another foster parenting situation. Then there were two more children in quick succession. And then, a break. It’s been a long break now, much longer than we anticipated. There’s been ample time for writing, but I never could bring myself to even open up that document again.¬†Until today when I heard in my head, “But before I tell you that story, I have to tell you this one . . . ” and I finally knew what I needed to do.

When I was 15, I met a girl who rapidly became my best, best friend. We were two peas in a pod, often inseparable. We wrote poetry about our friendship, made books for each other, took pictures with a bowling pin together (you had to be there! — actually, I take that back, even people who were there didn’t get it), shared joint custody of a favorite sweater, and took a senior road trip together for graduation. We went our separate ways for college but stayed in close touch until a falling out. Some people told me that I had to let that friendship go after all that had happened, but I said, “NEVER!” and we nursed our way back to closeness again. We went even further separate ways after college; I could sense both literal and figurative distance but I was committed to keeping our friendship alive. Twice I road-tripped to see her, bringing Neal because I couldn’t imagine her not meeting the most important human being in my life. She reciprocated with a visit and she and Neal and I walked around D.C. for several wonderful hours together. She made the great effort to come to my wedding, and I thought for sure we had reestablished a friendship that would never end.

But we saw each other only one more time after that. We were on different coasts by then, so I knew email and phone calls would have to suffice for awhile, but she increasingly stopped replying or answering. (Not that I can blame her about the phone calls; after all, my blog title.) Neal told me it was time to accept that she had moved on, or at the very least that circumstances had moved us both on, but I said, “NEVER!” I talked to her sisters for updates to make sure she was okay; they both said she prefers text messages. I had never sent a text message in my life at that point, but in a true labor of love, I T9ed a probably unintelligible message. And then again for her birthday. And then again. Neal said maybe she hasn’t just moved on, maybe she actively doesn’t want to talk to you again. I conceded the possibility, but for years, I couldn’t let her birthday pass without some kind of message. Once Facebook came into prominence, I found her there. I wasn’t sure if she would accept my request, but I was determined that one way or another, this would be my last contact attempt. She accepted my request, but I knew that I had to hang back in a way. I’m glad I’m privy to her precious few posts per year — it matters to me to know that she is okay and it still makes me happy to see a recent picture — but I never reach out anymore. I wonder if maybe I’m a reminder of a past she finds painful. Or maybe she feels we have little in common. Or maybe she just doesn’t think about me. I’ve accepted that I don’t know, will probably never know. I’ve accepted that maybe her version of this story is completely different or that perhaps she feels she reached out to me and I failed her in some way. I’ve accepted all that, but still I won’t let her go. She will always be a friend to me.

So many times over the last year, people have said to me, “I could never be a foster parent. I would get too attached.” I understand where this sentiment comes from. It’s an emotional wrestle I think anyone seriously considering fostering must confront, so usually it doesn’t bother me when someone says that. But in the lead-up to baby B’s leaving, it stung. I mean, truthfully, everything stung, even the happiness. But during that time, it felt more personal, like they were saying that somehow they felt more deeply than I did, or that I must not get that attached because I chose to be a foster mother even knowing it would entail many goodbyes.

Lest anyone reading this think that they are the one who said this thing that felt like a personal affront, or that I hold some bitterness about it, or that you have to carefully monitor what you say to me, don’t worry. I’m not one to hold a grudge. And even if I were, truly so many people said it at some point that it feels to me almost like everyone and no one said it. It’s all water under the bridge. But I guess it’s the reason I felt the need to tell you that other story: I’m a person that doesn’t let go. There will be no closure here.

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