S.'s story is amazing. My friend had been in the process of adopting her as an infant from Africa, when she got the word en route -- S. had contracted meningitis and was clinging to life. If she lived, she would most likely have significant medical problems. They gave my friend the opportunity to pass; to turn around; to wait for a child without so many issues. She refused. She continued her trip as planned. Weeks later, she returned home with her daughter, returned to a different journey than she'd expected.
S. is the same age as Ethan.
I felt the guilt, pressing in, as we talked. I thought about the way my son can run and jump and play. He has laser vision and hearing. We can have a conversation. For a moment, I was glad he was in the social skills group, so she wouldn't have to see...so she wouldn't feel that mom-ache.
But -- I looked at my friend and knew she saw something different when she looked at S. She hadn't given birth to her but in every way had the eyes of a mother. Those eyes pierced past the surface. Love gave her a different kind of sight.
We spent Saturday afternoon at the animal shelter.
We'd had to say goodbye to our cat after 10 years the month before, and there'd never been any question we'd open our home to another. The problem was, we couldn't agree.
Anna and I preferred the littlest kitties. There was something about them that made them so darned lovable. More than that, we'd gone in there on a mission not to get a feline with any "issues," like the respiratory virus Zeke had carried.
"Look for watery eyes!" I had warned everyone. "Avoid kitties with watery eyes!"
Two minutes after we walked in, we saw him: a black five-month-old kitten with white socks. He batted his paws on the glass, wanting to play. We walked past scores of other kittens, working to engage them, but kept returning to this one. He followed our every move. He pounced and curled up against the glass as if trying to get pet.
"He is positive for calici," the adoption counselor told us, as we got to know him in one of the playrooms. Darn. That explained why he was still hanging around, not tiny-cute anymore. Another respiratory virus. We'd seen it written on his cardboard carrier box and thought it was just a nickname, not a virus. They told us it probably wouldn't be a big deal. We could treat any flare-ups with antibiotics. We could probably get other cats in the future if we wanted to.
They told us that, but I didn't want a cat with issues. Neither did Anna. She started sobbing in the corner, asking for a girl kitty, asking for the cute kitties in the back. I gingerly stuck out a hand to pet this black, lanky fur-ball, not feeling love at first sight.
Then Ethan walked over and stretched out a hand. The kitty sprawled out on the table and purred. The room went silent. Ethan slowly, gently spread out his hand and pet the kitty. His face was spread into a grin. Kitty soaked it all in, drinking the affection.
Something stung in my eyes and in the back of my throat.
I thought of this kitty who'd happened to catch a virus -- labeled and quarantined; this kitten who loved to play but had no opportunity to play with any others.
I thought of my son and what it meant to reject someone because they weren't quite what you expected, because they didn't match up to some sort of ideal.
I thought of S. and her mother racing across the ocean to save her.
I thought of my bundle of imperfection and the way despite it all, I am loved by God in a way I don't necessarily deserve.
And I knew: we were bringing him home.
[A postscript: All it took was an hour, and Anna too was enamored; completely in love. We named him Levi.]