Child of My Heart

“God will restore the years the locusts devoured.” Joel 2:25

Last year Fr. James announced a special Mass to honor families “touched by adoption” to be hosted by St. Louis.  My ears perked up as we are such a family. Our third daughter is adopted. I wondered if she might come.

I was looking for a ray of hope regarding our relationship, which had curdled in her early adolescence when she became angry and rebellious.  I’m afraid I was not at that time either very understanding of or sympathetic to her problems as it was a turbulent time in our family.

While most such mother-daughter estrangements resolve fairly quickly, over 30 years had passed and ours had not.  Though I am close to my two older daughters, this one and I just couldn’t find common ground. My earlier attempts to make amends had been politely accepted; we were cordial and observed the formalities, but beneath the surface, nothing changed.  Worse, the awkwardness of our relationship extended to my two granddaughters, a piercing loss grieved just as deeply.

But here was hope, so I emailed my daughter and other family members and invited all to attend the Mass.  To my surprise and delight, my adopted daughter accepted. The evening of the Mass she arrived at the church along with my son-in-law and their younger daughter and her boyfriend.  Another daughter, who also lives in Austin, joined us, and of course my husband Jerry.

Different-colored roses were presented to parents, siblings, and adoptees as we filed into the chapel, with instructions to place them in the large vase located before the altar.  The Mass was moving, the music beautiful, the prayers uplifting, and the message encouraging. My daughter thanked me afterward for inviting her, and we went our separate ways.

I knew better than to expect miracles, but very slowly, over time, one began to unfold.  Something had changed. Our chilly relationship began to thaw. Nothing dramatic, no aha moments.  Each encounter just became a bit warmer.  Laughter came a bit easier. This year for my older granddaughter’s birthday I invited her and her significant other to come for brunch to celebrate, something I would have feared doing before.  They came and we had a great time.

My daughter and younger granddaughter came to Mass to celebrate my birthday and Mother’s Day.  I was proud and honored and introduced them to everyone I could catch.

The irony is that my adopted daughter has probably never suspected how enormously proud I have always been and am of her.  She and her husband married at 16 and 17, had their first child when she was 16 and a half, and went on to defy all predictions for such marriages and life trajectories.

She took her GED at 17 and enrolled in a private secretarial school, where she excelled so brilliantly that they hired her and she ran their office for the next decade.  She and her husband, who has worked since his early teens, celebrated their 34th anniversary this year, a marriage full of love and respect.  They sacrificed to put both of their girls through an expensive and excellent private school; both graduated from college and became upstanding citizens.

It should be no surprise that one reason for their success is the small neighborhood Baptist Church that became their church home and family shortly after they wed.  To my everlasting shame, I had provided my children with no faith heritage but we each found the ground of our being in time and nothing is impossible for those who love the Lord.

I rejoice that the Church realizes that adoption is a holy undertaking, and that it is not a simple or an easy one.  We did not get her until she was almost six months old.  She’d been with her foster family who adored her, and she was clearly depressed the first weeks she was with us and it broke my heart, but I didn’t know what to do for her.  Later she acutely felt her obvious difference in the family, as she is Hispanic and we are not. She was teased and bullied at school for it.

After so many years I had lost hope that our relationship could ever be repaired.  But “God will restore the years the locusts devoured,” and somehow I think we’re all going to be okay.  

Thanks be to God.