Monday, January 23, 2012

This is Love

He had beautiful brown eyes, a great smile and a laugh that made everyone around him happy.  He loved the same music she did, Michael Jackson, J. Geils Band and Queen, probably because she introduced him to them and he loved her.  Nicholas and Bethe loved each other in a way that would change them both forever.  For four months, they spent every moment together.  Bethe knew all along that he belonged to another, but she loved him without holding back.  She was his foster mom.

Bethe and her husband, Carlos, are Americans living in China.  Bethe volunteers at a nearby orphanage while Carlos works at the job that sent them to the other side of the world.  When given the chance to be Nick's foster parents, they didn't hesitate.

Nick was 16 months old when Bethe placed him in the arms of his forever mother.  He won't always remember Bethe, but his life will be better because she loved him.  Not like a care giver, not like a temporary mom, she loved him like a mother.  He lit up when he woke up and she came for him. They made each other laugh.  She showed him that he matters, that the world is better because he is in it.  Bethe will tell you she is the lucky one to have had Nick.  I agree.  But Nick sure was lucky too.  All four of my kids and my dog (and our previous dog) love Bethe.  They love her beyond what I would consider normal.  Kids and dogs are smart.  They know who loves them and who is just being polite.  That kind of love changes the world.

You can't love like that without falling in love, even when you know it will end.  It wasn't just Bethe's heart on the line, Carlos fell in love with Nick, too.  Nick was Carlos's little buddy, following him around while he got ready in the morning.  Nick was secure in Carlos's arms and loved to nap there.  It has been two decades since their own girls were so tiny.  It was a pleasure to do it again.

They knew Nick was in good hands with his new mom, but saying goodbye was heart wrenching for Bethe and Carlos.  They knew Nick would wonder where they were.  They knew that Nick was used to the routines that they shared together.  They knew that it would take a little time for Nick and his new mom to get their bearings. It was hard to think about him wondering where they were.

When Carlos and Bethe returned home, it was too quiet, it felt strange to not have Nick's noise and energy.  When they spotted  Nick's blanket, which was inadvertently left behind, they broke down.  It was going to take some time to get used to life without Nick.

Carlos and Bethe remind me of all of the people that loved our sons before they became ours. Birth family, neighbors, strangers, orphanage workers.  Most of the people who cared for them, we will never know, never get a chance to meet, never get to thank.   Mikias was four and Jemberu was three, when they became our sons.  We know they were loved.  They knew hunger, they knew terrible loss but they knew love.  They knew that they mattered.  They trusted us to take care of them.  They returned our hugs and kisses.  They quickly found their places in our family. We know that we can't take credit for that.  In their important first years, they were loved, like Nick was loved by Carlos and Bethe.  What an indescribable gift.

Carlos and Bethe, and every person who gives love and temporary shelter to a child, paint a picture of what love looks like. And that picture takes my breath away.

10 comments:

  1. Like Nick, Katie was cared for by a wonderful foster mother who so obviously loved her as her own. As the orphanage director placed Katie in my arms, I asked if her foster mother was in the room. She quietly answered no, but we later learned, through the exchange of pictures, that she was indeed in the room. I can't even begin to imagine how she felt watching the child she had loved and raised for nearly a year being handed to another family. If I had known she was in the room, I would have hugged her and thanked her for loving our daughter as she had, and to assure her this little girl would be loved and cared for like no other. We think and speak about her often and send pictures every year hoping the orphange will pass them along to her. God bless Bethe and Carlos and all the other foster parents out there for giving our children the loving start they so desperately need.

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    1. Karen, this made me water! All I can think is that it must have been reassuring for her to see you and Mike with Katie. I sure hope she sees those yearly updates.

      When we were leaving the orphanage with Mikias, one of the nannies, hugged him and us and with a huge smile on her face went into the nearest bathroom. She barely shut the door before she began wailing and saying his name. My heart broke in a million directions. With all of the kids there, she loved him, he mattered to her, she was going to miss him. Lucky us that these women loved our kids with unguarded hearts.

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  2. can't think of words. speechless. thank you for the reminder

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    1. Shannon, you always make me feel good. Thank you for your comment. xo

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  3. When I went to get Kai in Korea, we were lucky enough to spend some time with his foster mother. She was wonderful and we have kept in touch with her a bit. It was obvious how much she loved him. Since he was older (for Korea, this means 11 months old, not 4 months old), he had actually been with her longer than any of her other foster children. It was heartbreaking to take him... my joy, her sorrow. Thanks for writing this, so beautiful. Brenda B.

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    1. Watering, AGAIN! I can't imagine what our kids would be like without that kind of loving start in life. Lucky us, in so many ways.
      xo

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  4. Kids and dogs are smart. They know who loves them and who is just being polite. That kind of love changes the world.

    This is beautiful, and so true. If you don't mind, I'd like to frame that on my wall.

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    1. Sherry, I don't mind a bit and I am flattered :)
      Thank you for reading!

      ~Alison

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  5. Ok, my boyfriend is next to me and I'm really holding it in, but in normal circumstances this would not just make my eyes water. I miss him so much. He's my phone's wallpaper, it's a picture of him all bundled up for winter in his stroller with his little sunglasses on. Such a great little kid. His mom is definitely lucky.

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    1. She really is lucky! I'm glad you got to spend time with him, too. What a fortunate boy to have big, giant, Causillas love!
      xxoo

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