Gone

Abe and Bess have left us. Yesterday, K and I took them to the Child Protective Services center to drop them off so that they could be delivered to their grandparents, who are taking custody of them for the rest of the pendency of the CPS suit and perhaps beyond. Regardless, they are no longer “ours.”

They never were, really. I don’t mean that to say that they weren’t for all intents and purposes our children while we had them—that will always be true. What I mean is that we never had anything more than a temporary and ultimately fleeting possessory interest in them in the greater scheme of things. But does any parent really have anything more in any child? I’m not sure that life is predictable enough to say “yes” to that.

We knew that this was coming since late last week, but we were waiting for things to be finalized for the drop-off. So, days before, we’d packed most of the kids’ things into boxes and stashed those boxes into our guest room to keep the kids from wondering what’s going on and getting upset. Those items that were theirs that they frequently used or looked for we left out for them. We tried to continue the routine, knowing full well that it was the end.

Late Monday we got the call that we’d be dropping them off the next day. Bess had an eye appointment scheduled for Tuesday morning that CPS asked us to keep, so, apart from a midday meeting, I took the day off to be present for the process. K took the whole day off as well.

Bess was extremely sweet during the doctor’s appointment and very calm, even while they dilated her eyes. When we started to leave the office, though, she had a nuclear-intensity meltdown. My guess is that her over-enlarged pupils caused her pain and confusion when she hit the sunlight. Regardless, it was something of a cranky day for her, and K and I both wondered if somehow she knew.

We were supposed to go to the CPS center at 2 p.m. but were asked to delay until 3. At about 2:15 we loaded up into the car. K had already put the boxes and the last of the stuff into the trunk; Bess hadn’t asked about the bags piled near the door earlier in the day and the last of the loading of things happened while Bess was napping.

Per our usual, vacation bible school songs played over the car stereo while we made our way down the highway. Everything seemed normal. Except for us. K and I exchanged glances that wordlessly communicated the unease we both felt.

The experience itself was surreal. The drop-off occurred at the same facility where the kids had their biweekly visitation with parents, so even as we walked the last few steps of our journey together, neither Bess (who might have) or Abe (who wouldn’t have picked up on anything, I think) knew that anything was different. With our CPS social worker, we walked them up to the playroom in the building and turned them over without any fanfare to the staff there. Everything moved quick, and we didn’t upset the kids, so there were no long hugs, no “last words” and nothing to mark the significance of the event.

We told the kids we love them and said “bye,” just like we’d be back in a few hours to pick them back up. Bess smiled at us and waived, and then the door was closed and they were gone. That stung some. I don’t know what I expected, but the lack of closure was palpable, really.

After that, we unceremoniously moved the kids’ stuff from our car to the social worker’s and headed home.

When we arrived at home, emotionally exhausted, we determined (mostly at K’s insistence, though it turns out her insistence was wise) to put all of the kid stuff into the kids’ rooms and close the doors. We tried not to dwell on the days’ events.

This morning, though, when I got up (a little later than I’ve become accustomed to, admittedly) and prepared to go to court, the house felt empty. Gone were the little voices, gone the plaintive cries and giggles of joy that had filled our early mornings, gone the busy rush of preparing children for school.

K received a call this morning from our CPS worker to let us know that the drop-off to the family went well last night and that the grandparents were very grateful for everything we’ve done. They asked to have our phone number so they could let us know how the kids are doing going forward; we of course agreed.

That last bit, even communicated to us second-hand, helped substantially. I’d been turning over in my head lately thoughts about what it really means to foster as a Christian, and one of the defining things that I kept returning to is that the Christian ought to be there to build up everyone involved—even the parents from whom the children were removed (if safe for the children), because they’re hurting, too. We should make the whole process about others and not ourselves to the extent possible.

Easier said than done, and while a part of me has a good feeling for doing what’s good and right (I think), I’m still a mix of emotions. Part of me is relieved that they’re gone, jealous of my time as I tend to be. But part of me feels the loss deeply.

Still, I have to say the worst thing about the aftermath (or even once others knew that the kids would be leaving us) has been the looks of pity (it’s probably actually sympathy, but from my point of view it’s currently hard to tell the difference) and excessive praise for what good people K and I are for fostering. We’d just rather not hear about it; we know that we’re not entirely selfless in the matter—we first got involved to adopt children of our own, after all.

We’ll take some time for ourselves to decide what the best next step is for us, and what our timeline looks like for us to start the process again. In the meantime, I should have a lot more time available to write!

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