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| The Ebb and Flow of Grief

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The Ebb and Flow of Grief

This morning really could not have gone any better. We are so relieved! Our agency director contacted us to ask how things were going this morning, and I told her about the phone issue. She advised us to go slowly with the phone in order to build trust. It’s a perspective we understand, and we were prepared to take a different approach than removing it from him cold turkey and possibly put limitations on it instead while we built a relationship with him. We really have no idea what was actually said. All we know is that he handed the phone over to the director, some things were said, and it was almost a complete non-issue, with no one being the ‘bad guy’. We can only attribute this to the Lord hearing our prayers and resolving this situation for us. Chad’s attitude today was much happier and more upbeat at the civil affairs office, and there were no tears when he signed the adoption papers- he is officially ours!

The classic “happy parents, not-so-happy kid” adoption folio pic.


Gwendolin remains wildly popular with government employees.

In the van on the way back to the hotel, Chaela was explaining his new English name to him. He was all smiles and said he liked the name! Chaela told him she helped to pick it for him. They are both looking forward to Thursday when we will fly to PuEr to visit the orphanage. I hope this will be a step forward in their healing and bring some closure for both of them as they step into their new lives as Chinese-Americans. Chaela’s heart is in both places, and “home is where your heart is” is a tough one for her. It’s amazing to witness their courage. It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to be adopted internationally at the age of 12. He’s just on the cusp of manhood, and it shows in his deep voice, big hands and light acne across his forehead, but he’s still a boy at the same time. He’s had some really silly moments where Chaela looks at me and mouths, “he’s being crazy!” And we’re reminded, he’s just a little boy still in so many ways. He’s had a blast playing ‘monkey in the middle’ with a beach ball in the room, a game of Sorry, and a swim in the freezing cold pool had him in stitches. He’s so much fun just to watch because so many of these experiences are relatively new to him, and he’s enjoying every minute of it. He even passed out face down on the bed after coming back from a walk around the lake with Joey while I stayed back with the baby in the room. We’re wearing him out with all the walking and fun combined with the emotional roller coaster he’s on.

One of the entrances to Green Lake. Chaela wanted to climb on the lion, but I was pretty sure that would be disrespectful.


Green Lake’s namesake – it’s full of lotus plants.

Generational gaps are not a Western phenomenon, but universal.

While he and Gwennie napped, I went to lunch across the street alone with Chaela. Corin has been feeling under the weather with a cold and sinus issues which are par for the course with the kind of travel we’ve done. I’m expecting to come down with that any day now, too. It was so nice to get a chance to spend some alone time with Chaela.  I had some time to have some important discussions I’ve been meaning to have about growing up, what to expect as her body matures, and all that fun stuff that is my job as a mom to talk about. She has the language now to understand and ask questions, and we had a great talk. She flagged down the waitress for us in Chinese, ordered for us, and is just completely at ease here using both languages. She’s had a few moments where she starts a sentence in one, and ends in the other, and we all laugh because she’s proficient now in both, but gets a little confused and tongue tied at times. No one can believe how fast she has learned English, including Chad- he told her he’s jealous of how fast she’s learned and he can’t even imagine he’ll be that good at it in a year’s time.  I think in some ways it is as discouraging to him as it is encouraging.

The kids chillin’ at a section of the lake covered in lilies.

Chaela’s nickname is “Sweet Lotus”.

I made a quick run to a local bookstore with the guide and was as excited as a kid in a candy store to find many of the Western classics I had been looking for at a fraction of the price for Chaela and Chad to read. Getting books in Chinese in America is no easy task, and when you can find them online, they are a fortune. I’ve had to bite the bullet and spend hundreds this past year for Chaela, always trying to find the same book in Mandarin for her that the other kids are reading in English for school. I plan to visit a couple more bookstores and basically bring home a whole heavy suitcase of books to last them the next couple of years for their education. I wish I would have done this last year when we were here with Chaela, but really this was the farthest thing from my mind at that point, and I had no clue how high her reading level actually was. She tells me now that I had brought her “baby books” and she was insulted at how I dumbed down the things I gave her to read. My bad.
Chad’s “Gotcha Day” moment:

0619171457Trim from Joey Odell on Vimeo.

She’s also told me one of the reasons that made her Gotcha Day so difficult. When she first met me, she didn’t think I was the same person from the photos I had sent. She said she expected me to be “fat”, and I wasn’t! I’m so glad it wasn’t the other way around, and needless to say, that photograph is no longer proudly displayed in our home!

At least we found “Free into lavatory”.

When we came back to the room after the pool, we tried engaging Chad in a few more quiet games. He didn’t want to participate, and seemed sad again. Chaela, Corin, Joey and I played several rounds of pick up sticks and tiddlywinks, both games in my survival kit for the early days that don’t require any English. We couldn’t engage him, and I asked on the translator if he felt sad or tired, to which he shook his head “no”, and then proceeded to pass out again on the bed next to us while we played. He is so emotionally exhausted with all he’s been through. I also wonder if he was faking sleep to escape emotionally, especially since he doesn’t have the phone. We went in the other room so he could rest, and I came to check in on him and went around to the side of the bed he was facing. I saw he was awake and crying quietly. I ran to get the translator and put my hand on his back and told him it is okay to cry and be sad. I understand. I asked if it was okay to sit with him. No answer. I asked if he wanted to be alone. No answer. I remember from those early days with Chaela dealing with this, and she wanted me to leave, but he is too polite to tell me that. Chaela came in and saw him upset, and I asked her to talk to him and I left the room. Grief doesn’t happen in a nice, neat linear line. It’s a slow moving process of back and forth and around we go in a circle at times, and there will be moments of happiness, followed shortly thereafter by moments of profound sadness like these. There’s no one who can fix it for you, you have to do it alone, and even when people are right by your side rubbing your back, you are still very much alone. I learned a lot from our time in-country with Chaela, and I think that’s what is holding me together this time around. I’m not in despair, and I have hope. I can look at Chaela today and see that there is a beautiful bright light at the end of this dark tunnel. The light is coming, it’s just a long, slow walk to get there. But, we’ll get there.

A bit of providential fashion to reorient our attitudes!

Birthday moment:

20170619_193311 from Joey Odell on Vimeo.


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