It’s Off

I got up when I felt like it today. Went to Legendary to grab a few donuts. Used up the last of my Starbucks gift card. Dropped a donut off to my mom and helped her with an app on her phone. Came home to Mitch and sat casually on the recliner while we chatted and started to watch Lockup on Netflix. He decided he was still tired, so he went back to bed. I scrolled through Facebook and texted with Stephanie, who has been home since Thursday but I just realized that TODAY. Felt like a shitty friend. Wondered what else I’ve been missing/not realizing/forgetting lately. Probably a lot. Sigh.

It’s off. This whole morning. I should have gotten up when I had to. Chased the kids around to get them ready for their visit with their dad. Tried six times to get their coats on. Told them to keep their shoes on at least 27 times. Put on Doc McStuffins or Goldie and Bear to let them have a little bit of TV time to distract them from the fact that we were putting their shoes on…yet again. Fed them *only* a banana because that’s all they want and their dad feeds them when they get to their visit. Saw them off to the visit transporter at 8:30 and then promptly began to rush around to spend hours cleaning the house so it could inevitably be a mess again before days end. I should be running around doing errands with urgency so I can be home by about 2:20 when they get home. Or taking a nap and setting my alarm to be awake when they get home.

Instead of doing all of that I had a casual morning. It’s off. For almost a year now we’ve had to establish a routine for the sake of everyone’s sanity. For almost a year now we’ve had to build our life around their six days a week visit schedules. It’s hard to believe we’re just three weeks out from all of that. Hard to believe it has been almost a year. Hard to believe we crammed so many memories in. I remember when they got here. We pulled them out of their car seats and they weren’t even a little bit reluctant to wrap their tiny arms around our necks and hug us. Strangers. A new face. Again. We were an instant family.

Nay Nay had just learned to walk, so she was still pretty wobbly. Sassie was still crawling. We taught one how to stabilize her new ability and taught one how to walk. Taught them how to use a fork and spoon. Taught them how to brush their teeth. Worked with them on their words so their speech could be on track for their age group. Nurtured their interest in the potty. Allowed them to wash themselves in the bath tub. We watched them go from needing us to do everything for them to watching them try to do everything for themselves. Watched them outgrow an outfit that fit them fine the week before. Put their own coats and socks on. Buckle themselves into their booster seats. Use the remote. Open doors. (YIKES!)

When I posted this profound article earlier this morning on my Facebook page, I said that, “Being a foster parent means you’re willing to put everything on the line knowing you could lose it all.” It’s true. And for those of you out there that do this repeatedly, I applaud you. It’s pretty brave of you to know you’re going to use up every ounce of energy and love you have to give only to have it questioned, accused, misunderstood, and to feel unappreciated. Of course, that’s not always the case. I’m sure there are situations where it’s not as volatile, not as much of a tug of war as it has been, and not so jagged at times.

Don’t get me wrong, we get to be thankful for the time we had with our littles. The things we taught them without even realizing we were contributing in some small way to their development and happiness, but they weren’t the only ones learning. They were our teachers, too. They taught us how to parent, how to budget, how to make the most of our time, how to stay up for too many hours (ha!), how to fight for something no matter how slim the chances of success are, how to be a child advocate, how to love others in ways we never understood, how to be adaptable, and it doesn’t stop there. The lessons they teach us every day will continue on after they are gone not here anymore back with their mom go home…well, you know. Having a hard time saying and hearing all of those.

I know you’re reading this and it’s probably hard to know what to say. Some of you have expressed love and comfort so willingly, others have stayed silent, some have sent a text or a Facebook message. Some of you have told me something along the lines of, “I have been following your story…I don’t know what to say…I’m sorry that…” Please don’t apologize. You checking in on us is perfect. Saying you love us and we have been great is perfect. Saying you don’t know what to say is perfect. Saying, “This is what you signed up for…” or something like that is not helpful. This roller coaster of emotions is super hard to navigate. It’s all new to us, just like being parents was new to us. It’s weird when they aren’t here. It’s weird I won’t see them until Monday night. I cried on my way to work Friday morning knowing I wouldn’t see their sweet faces for what seemed like forever. Maybe that sounds silly/stupid/dramatic and maybe it is.

If I have learned one thing in the last few times that they’ve gone on overnight visits with their mom, it’s that I believe having kids gives me a life that I love. It makes me feel like I have a purpose. Before them, we were so casual, and we liked it! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we don’t enjoy a quick and rare chance to have a date, watch a movie together at home after the kids go to bed, or sleep in, but it’s different when they’re gone for a long time. And it’s different when you have a family. I want to be the snack mom at their sporting events. I want to join the PTA and put my fundraising skills to use again. I want to be the reason they look back on their childhood and smile. I want to let them be a child during their years of childhood, something in which is robbed of far too many kids. 

How soon after the girls leave can we continue to contribute to the well-being of a child and their family? That remains to be seen, but I know we want to do it. We are scared. I know how much this hurts us right now and I know it’ll hurt even more come “the day” that they…go. I’ll be honest, I really don’t know how our hearts and energy will be replenished after all of this, but I know it’ll happen. When it does, we’ll welcome him, her, them just as we welcomed the twins. We will love them, provide for them, encourage them, and fight for them because if not us, then who?

xo,

a

P.S. On April 2nd, we are participating in a bowling fundraiser for foster children in our area. We are $50 short of our required minimum and we need your help. Please donate any amount here. Thank you!

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Bumps in the Night

The kids were at their visit with their bio mom. Mitch was asleep because he had to get up in a few hours to work the graveyard shift. I can’t begin to remember what I was watching on Hulu. It was 5:15 pm on Thursday night. I was supposed to have the night off from the crisis line but I eagerly picked up an extra shift at the last minute. The phone was on, charged, and ready to be answered.

*Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing.*

“Hi, this is Aubrey.” It’s the answering service. “Hello. I have a caller named Bob* that didn’t want to give out his information and said he’d like to speak with an advocate.”

The answering service connects the caller to me and within the first 1.5 seconds, I froze. It’s my dad. I haven’t heard his voice since my wedding day on August 2, 2008. Irrational. Irate. Infuriated. Ranting. Raving. Screaming. Swearing. Spitting. And this is about the time during the call that things start to go black for me.

If you’ve ever been to “da club” or “clubbin” or seen raves on TV, then you’ll know what I mean when I say how jagged people look when they’re dancing under a strobe light. It’s a bunch of 1 second stills, then it goes dark, then there’s another 1 second of light but the picture is different and so on. Jerking. Jostling. Jumpy. That’s what this call was like in my mind.

He’s yelling about how pissed off he is. He’s so angry and talking so fast that I can barely make out what he’s saying until he says, “I’m just going to kill all of them or maybe myself!” He has been unstable my whole life, so I’ve heard this from him before, but does he really mean it this time? How do I know? What do I do? I know! I will get him to calm down. Deescilate the issue so we can talk this out. I’ve seen my mom do this with him. I’ve tried to do this with him. I’m experienced in trying to deescalate my dad’s temper. These are all coping mechanisms a small child should know nothing about, but I know it all too well.

Me: “Bob. Bob…Bob, I need you to listen to my voice, okay? Bob. I need you to listen to my voice so you can take a deep breath, okay? It’s okay for you to be angry right now but I need you to breathe for me right now, okay buddy?

Bob: “Fuck you, you dumb bitch! You don’t have a fucking clue, do you?

Me: “Bob, you will not speak to me like that. I am trying to help you, but you are not going to speak to me like that again.”

My voice is firm. He calms down. 

Me: “Bob, I need you to take a deep breath for me and tell me what your location is.”

Bob: “I’m at the convention center. I’m sitting on the bricks.”

Me: “Okay, now I’m going to ask you a question and I need you to tell me the truth. Do you have a weapon on you right now?”

Bob: (irate) “No, I don’t have a fucking weapon on me, I’m not going to hurt anybody!”

Me: “I’m going to call to have someone come pick you up. What are you wearing?”

Bob: “Nobody here takes me seriously, nobody is coming to pick me up! That’s why I’m just going to kill every one of these assholes!”

Me: “Bob, I’m sorry but I have to take these kinds of threats very seriously so I need to call someone to come get you. I have to hang up now.”

It took me 3 different transfers to get to the correct city 911 operator. When I get to the right gal she tells me they are very familiar with this guy. I give her the full details (many omitted for privacy reasons) and we hang up. I called my boss to let her know what transpired. She asks if I’m okay and I tell her I’m totally fine. We get off the phone. I go to the bedroom to check on Mitch since I’m sure I woke him up by accident.

He asks if I’m okay. I crumble. 

For a good 20 minutes I’m hyperventilating on the bed, in my chair, on my back porch, and back to my chair. My legs feel week. I can’t stop crying. I HATE THAT I’M CRYING. The strobe light of memory lane flashes glaringly in my mind. My dad, all 6 ft 1 of him, towering over us in the middle of the night as we all quiver in the bed we’re sharing – begging of him to leave us alone and let us all sleep. The room is as black as his eyes but his casted shadow and his foaming mouth burn through us with the heat of 1,000 suns. He says the most awful things to the 3 of us. He is scarier than the monsters in the horror films I grew up watching. He is THE monster.

Maybe you’ve guessed by now that the guy on the phone wasn’t my dad, but his voice sounded just like my dad’s. It’s like I heard a ghost and when that happened, when that ghost kicked in the door, busting the frame, like he had time and time again, I instantly traveled back in time. Panicked. Shocked. Disbelieving. Yet, there I was, on the phone, trying to hold it together to help this guy calm down enough to get a description of what he was wearing, whether or not he was armed, and where he was at so I could report to police in the area he’s in since I have no tracking information like a dispatch center would.

I was truly terrified tonight. More terrified than I can remember being in years. It was a full on PTSD flashback and it completely drained me. At times, I couldn’t figure out if I was standing on my back porch or if I was hiding under the covers from the monster that my dad was. Thank God Mitch was here. He did such a great job at soothing, helping me breathe, refocusing my attention on that stupid tree in the back yard that I could barely see because it was dark, but dammit, he was going to get me to focus on ANYTHING other than the trauma I was reliving.

He grabbed my work phone, he called my boss, and he told her I couldn’t finish my shift tonight. She was extremely understanding and I appreciate that. I have been a crisis line advocate for a year now and this was the first time a call triggered my PTSD. I should also mention that the man I spoke with tonight has called multiple times before, and I truly like the guy. He’s a good man with a hard life. I think part of my tears tonight weren’t because of him, but for him. My heart cries out for where he feels insufficiencies in his life. Regardless of what the outside world perceives to be true or not, he speaks his truth to me when we are on the phone and his rage is not unfounded – it just came out in a different way tonight. I feel sad for him. Sad because I think he’s lonely and sad because, in his mind, his world is so chaotic and scary.

I really don’t know what I would have done if Mitch wasn’t here. I’m so glad the kids were on their visit with their mom during the call, but when they got home…oh, how I hugged and loved on them like no other. Not just because it made me feel happy to do so, but because it’s important for kids to be hugged and kissed and doted on by parents (or parental figures) in their lives.

Mitch, just as in many other scenarios, you were, once again, my hero tonight. Thank you so much for all of your courageous and heartfelt work to try to understand what it’s like for me to live with PTSD. Thank you for loving me when I’m sure I’m hard to be loved. And to anyone else reading this – thank you for reading, for not judging, and for continuing to encourage me to share whatever it is that’s on my mind through the written word.

xo,

a