Saturday Story time presents: An Old Soul
August 13, 2011, 6:00 am
Filed under: biracial families, liberia, love, Parenting, Teenagers, transracial adoption | Tags: , ,

20110811-111011.jpg In 2001, my husband and I had the honor to go to Liberia, Africa where we met our two new children John and Christian. They were still living with their biological mother and had two older brothers and an older sister. John was 5. He had in his short lifetime lived through a civil war(still raging at the time we got them), watched his father die of typhoid fever, fought for food and a decent place to live. He had malaria, and was in the late stages of it. He was so skinny he looked like I could just break him in two with my own hands. He left everything he had known as home and came to live with his “new” family in the USA. We were among the first white people he had seen, he had never been in a car, been out to eat, had new clothes or shoes other than sandals. When we arrived back in the states and he went to our doctors we found he had pneumonia, ear infections in both ears, worms and of course the malaria. Even as I think back on it now I know that he is truly a miracle. His life should have ended in Africa but it did not and we are so blessed because of that.

It was not until 6 months later that we realized his vision was not as it should be. John was diagnosed with Glaucoma and has had 9 surgeries and countless dr. appointments, exams, pokes prods and dismal reports about what his vision will be. He has learned not only american english, but can read and write in both braille and print. He learned to ride a bike, he has tried everything and has succeeded at almost all. He is intelligent and has a great sense of humor. He has lived a lifetime of sorrow and disappointment and at the age of 15 is an “old soul”.

We moved to Bend (also in 2001), and I think we might have doubled the black population at the time. He and his brother have been accepted, and in some ways achieved a hero status as a result of this. Yet, they do stand out. If you add in John’s visual disability and he stands out all the more. Now add an incredibly busy and athletic family. Three siblings who thrive and excel at sports and academics. John is an athlete too, but everything comes with the price of letting people know he is different, he has an exclamation point that seems to follow him everywhere. His hearts desire is to not be noticed or appreciated for what he can do because of his visual impairment but in spite of it. John does not want to be known as the blind kid who did so much, he just desperately wants to be like every other kid. Sports have been a challenge as he will not accept accommodations for his vision or get as he see’s it “special treatment”. This obviously raises some issues for this mama bear as I do not want him to get hurt.

So John says he wants to play football in high school. No, that is not really how it went down, he told us he WAS playing football. I will say that I was not worried about this because I knew how strong he was both in mind and muscle. My fears stemmed from how the team and coaches would react knowing he was legally blind. If John had his way nobody would have known, but our only rule for allowing him to play was that he informed the coaches of his visual difficulty. He did try to avoid this but the mama bear stepped in and voiced her concerns to the coaches. This did not make John a happy camper at home. He spends a huge amount of energy to get through his day, navigating halls, not tripping or otherwise drawing attention to himself, a new school, new and more homework… When he comes home he has nothing left. He has been “normal” for 10 long hours and now he is home. He becomes a different person. If football had been another place he felt he “stuck out” because of his disability, I do not think our family would have survived the Fall. For the first time John had some place where he “just part of the team”. He could practice and play and maybe he would get in and maybe he wouldn’t just like very other kid. His teammates would knock him down, and not apologize or feel sorry for him. He was a part of something bigger and he was just one of the guys.

This is a gift that has no value because it is priceless. My sons dream of just being normal came true. John was chosen captain by his peers, because of his effort and his enthusiasm for the game. It was an intangible expression of validation that I could not have even imagined was possible. His pride in walking the halls with his game day jersey, his disappointment in not being able to play in a game, his NON special treatment are gifts that can not be wrapped or value placed on because they are more treasured than gold.

I was not there to see him walk out on that field as captain ( which kills me, even now) but, I think it means more to John that I wasn’t. As a parent of four I am constantly making choices between the kids about where I can be and can not be and to not be there meant he was normal in our family too. John is far from an easy kid to raise, his anger issues and difficulty with emotions are a daily struggle for us. Their have been times this past school year I was ready to give up, thinking may be he would be better off with a different mom. I am a strong believer that it takes a village to raise your children and last year the BSHS freshman football team was that village for both me and my son.



6 Comments so far
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Okay, this made me cry. In a good way.

Comment by Melissa

thanks for reading it and so glad you have been with us since the beginning of this adventure

Comment by Kari

What an emotional roller coaster your entries take me on…..John is so fortunate to be part of your family! And the family is so fortunate to have John as well…..love the brutal honesty you share…..we are all just human after all….

Comment by Anonymous

Thank you, it is truly in our honesty that we can relate. thanks for reading and for taking the time to let me know!

Comment by Kari

Kari-you are the best mom ever!!! and John is amazing too!!

Comment by jeanne

Thanks, so not true but in it for the long haul and we all are trying. thanks for reading the blog and for your support, kari

Comment by Kari

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