Category Archives: Foster Care

Race and Kisses and Grandsons

He was our first foster baby.  He was officially placed with us when he was eight and a half months old, but he had been “ours” for several weeks before.  He was a chubby little guy, obviously of African American heritage, and we loved him with a ferocity that scared me sometimes.  Back then, foster care agencies were known to move children if they thought the foster parents were getting “too attached.”  A caseworker, Mimi Sommers, of Franklin County Children Services, had gone to bat for us, and had literally bucked the powers that be for him to be allowed to be placed with us.

“You can’t do this,” said her supervisor.

“Oh, yes, I can,” I am told she said.  “And I’m going to!”  And she did.

His placement was legal enough that we were allowed to bring him home for Christmas in 1975.  We pulled into Daddy and Mama’s driveway very late that night, but Daddy, Mama, Sarah and Alma were waiting up for us.  There was a fire burning in the fireplace, and we brought our swaddled, snow-suited little guy in, put him down on the rug in front of the fireplace, and unwrapped him.  He sat blinking in the firelight, looking at all the strange faces around the circle, and then a smile split his little face wide open and in doing so, opened the hearts of our Delaware family.

He was with us for 20 months.  We were first time parents, and we had much to learn.  He would escape from his crib at night, and explore the territory.  We found him sitting in the stereo one time, on the turntable, the spindle up between his legs against his well diapered sleeper.  It worried us.  We had no way of securing the front door from the inside of our shed-type house on West Avenue in Plain City, Ohio.  So we devised a plan for a “lid” for his crib.  Made of cardboard and held on by shoelaces, we made sure we could easily get him out in case of an emergency.  He loved it, and would ask to have it secured if we forgot.  He was very attached to Daniel, following him around, riding piggy back all around the living room floor, and sleeping in his strong arms whenever the chance arose.  Daniel called him, “Daddy’s little brown boy,” but never in a deprecating way.  It was affectionate and defining and respectful of the delightful color that graced the skin of our beloved son.

There were several factors that went into the agency’s decision to not allow us to adopt him, and while they would never be considered viable reasons now, they were then, and in August of 1977, our little guy was adopted into a family that did not want to have any ongoing contact with us.  The adoption went smoothly enough, but in the days following, this Mama felt paralyzed.  And sick.  And empty beyond belief.  We grieved deeply, but mostly privately.  It wasn’t that people didn’t care, but it’s a difficult thing for people to understand.

It was a few years later that Joseph’s adoptive mother called me.  She caught me up on this little guy that had so suddenly disappeared from our lives.  And then she told me this story.

She said that one day, Joseph had come to her and said, “Mama, you are white.”

“That’s right, Joey,” she said, wondering where this was going.

“And I’m brown,” he said, matter of factly.

“Right again,” she said.

“Do you know why I’m brown?” He asked her.

She said to me, “I thought, ‘Oh, dear!  Not this already!'” but she said to him, “Why is that, Joey?”

“Well,” he announced with a great deal of confidence and delight, “The Mommy and Daddy I had before I came here kissed me all over and made me brown!”

I cannot tell you how that comforted me.  I don’t begin to know how to tell people to navigate through this current race thing.  So many of the things we did and said back then are taboo now in the circles I operate in.  There are nuances and familiar words upended and so many connotations that I cannot figure it all out.  Sometimes I’m silent because I do not want to say the wrong thing.  Sometimes I’m silent because I disagree so deeply with what is happening, and I’m too angry to see straight.  And  sometimes I’m silent because it feels like everything I say further inflames emotions that will come back and hurt the people I love so very much!

Ever since Joey’s story, the color of brown has been the color of love in my book.  If every child could consider the color of their skin to be the special product of somebody’s love for them, wouldn’t that solve a lot of problems?

No, it probably wouldn’t.  Because that is too simple, and our world is too complex.  There will always be bullies, and this world will produce out of the vast store of hatred and prejudice the people who seek to destroy those who, through no choice of their own, threaten them by virtue of being different.

I just wish it wouldn’t be children who bear the brunt of it.  And more specifically, I wish it weren’t our three grandsons targeted because of their color in a modern school setting in  the quiet town of Sugarcreek, Ohio.

No amount of “kissing all over” can protect a child from this kind of attack.

Read our daughter in law, Regina’s post from this week, HERE:

https://leapoutoftheboat.blogspot.com/2018/01/racismyes-again.html?m=1

And weep for us all.

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Filed under Family living, Foster Care, Grandchildren, Racism, Uncategorized

Grandchildren Gifts

The call came on Friday night.  It was our Oldest Son, Raph, calling from Sugarcreek, Ohio.  I wondered what was up.  Raph (almost) never calls.  When he does, there is a reason, usually.  (Mother’s Day, my birthday, plans for arrival, etc.)  So when I heard his voice on the other end of the line, I was puzzled.  Maybe he wanted to talk to his Dad.  No, wait!  He had called my cell phone.  That meant he wanted to talk to ME!

We exchanged our usual banal formalities, “how are you doing,” and such and then he said, “Mom, I wanted to tell you in person so you don’t find it out online or otherwise, (because you will hear it there) that Regina and I are going to be getting a  baby  girl to foster in about 45 minutes. She’s about two weeks old, and we don’t know much.  We could have her only until Monday or Tuesday, but it could be longer.  We don’t know.”

. . . and thus he set my crazy heart straight into another tailspin of joy, hope, worry, pessimism, optimism, and Grammy-love.

Later that night, we saw pictures of the little one, with the little men of the family swarming (there’s no other right word for it) around the big guy who was holding the baby, cradled in his big arms, all of them looking almost like they couldn’t get enough of this new bundle.  My heart ached with wanting to be there —  to see her and to touch her.  How long would she stay?  How long would we have?  What would the morrow bring?  And how would the boys deal with this new attention grabber? How would they like her if she stayed and grew and got into their things?  What would it do to their hearts if she had to leave?

Oh, Lord Jesus!  I had better pray!

And pray, I did!  And then again, and then again, and still praying!

I wonder how it would be to await the birth of a grandchild knowing that there would be no question of DNA or biological parental relinquishment or court orders or home studies or social workers.  I’m not criticizing any of these, you understand, because it is through these channels that we have been grandparents to our four (or, now five, however temporarily) grandchildren (and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon).  I’m not raining on anyone’s parade who have grandchildren the natural way.  I’m all for that, as well.  (Youngest Son, if you and The Girl With A Beautiful Heart are reading this, take heed!)  And I rejoice greatly with friends and siblings and cousins who have precious grandbabies to show pictures of, expound upon, and brag about.  I look at those pictures and  think I see the DNA of the generations in the little noses or eyes or chins.  They are so beautiful.  I am so happy for each and every one of the little ones, their parents and especially their grandparents.

But (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) there’s something that has been niggling at the back of my heart these days.  One of the things that has been exciting to watch has been the nurture and the excitement of other families over the coming arrival of the little one that is growing within the body of someone we love.  From the joy over the first positive pregnancy test, to the first doctor visit, to the first sonogram pictures, to the first movements, to the inconveniences of each trimester — all building up to the time when those contractions start and there is the long expected little one. A wonderful, albeit expected culmination of months of expectation

That.  That is what has been so different for our family.

It’s been close to a year since we knew that there had been application made for a baby girl to foster with the intent to adopt.  Over the months, it was amended to a girl, age three or younger.  The nursery was ready, the crib was set up, and the family waited.  In September, our daughter in law, Regina, whose instagram name is #Hopethriving wrote the following words, captioning a picture of the ready nursery:

Sometimes I feel like a piece of my heart is missing and I don’t know where it is. And the wait is exciting and scary and sad because I know the gift coming that will fill that piece comes at the cost of pain to a child, physically or emotionally or both. It can consume me, this wait. The questions of when and how long will that piece be here and how will a loss affect the boys is terrifying. So I put my trust in God for his timing and protection and whenever I walk past that room with that empty crib I say a little prayer for that little hurt heart that will someday fill it. #fostercare #waiting

(I shed some tears over that one, yes, I did!)

And so, yes, we had about nine months of waiting, not knowing, hoping and waiting some more.  When we were in Ohio a few weeks ago, I peeked into the room that had been made ready for the baby, and it was back to being a little boy’s room.  I knew it wouldn’t take much to make it into a nursery again, but it was symbolic to me of how hard it is to hope and hope and not have the ongoing testimony of things happening.  I watched my daughter in law care for her boys, her heart so full of love for them and hopes and dreams for their futures.  I watched my son, tussle and play and tease (How can that Raph Yutzy be so LOUD???) and sing and pray with his boys, and knew that this family gave more than lip service to a God who was going to do what was best for them. When they spoke of expectations, their voices changed, and there was a quiet resignation to what was, and a willingness to wait.

But still they hoped and prayed that God would send them a little girl.

So when the call came on Friday night that two week old “Baby K” was coming to their family (and ours, as well) my heart, as I said, went on a tailspin of emotions. As I processed the kaleidoscope, I realized that, for all the joy of this moment, and in spite of how grateful I am to God for this priceless gift, there was a deep heart envy of something that, while being a given in the arrival of most grandbabies, was not ours to savor and enjoy.   I wanted the joy of the anticipation, and I wanted the security of knowing that she was ours to keep for all the days of her life.  And, if the truth be told, memories of little ones that Daniel and I loved and lost under the same circumstances seemed to haunt my heart, cloud my vision and kicked me hard in the gut of hope.

“This will never do!”  I think in my saner moments.  (I do have them!)  “It will not help me.  It will not help Raph and Gina and their family or our extended family.  Most importantly, it will not help Baby K.”  And then there was that business about God being pretty specific about what he thinks about us wanting something that wasn’t ours.  He felt it was important enough to put it in The Ten Commandments, for pity sakes! So. What do we do with those empty places in our lives that feel like they are our right to enjoy, but (obviously) are not ours?  Where do we go with the broken dreams, injustices, unanswered prayers and the bitter taste of envy or resentment or disappointment?

I go to the foot of The CROSS.

It sounds simplistic, and it sounds like a stock answer.  But I’ve found that it is always the first step for me not only to acceptance, but to embracing what has been given, and believing that God has a plan, a “better thing” in what He has given than I ever could have dreamed or would have had on my own terms.

I go to the foot of The CROSS.

I wrap up the “might have beens” the “should have beens” and the “if onlies” and “I wishes” and specifically and intentionally leave them there.  I ask for clear vision to see the good that God is doing here and now (as well as what He wants me to do) and I need to push that foot right out of the gut of hope and replace it with a conscious recounting of God’s faithfulness in the past, the mercies He has granted, and the gifts that He has given when I thought that all was lost.

I go to the foot  of The CROSS.

I bring a sacrifice of praise when it feels like it might choke me.  I remind the LORD how hard this is for me, and I am not quiet about my fears, and then I fill this mouth with praise until my heart follows.  Then I purpose that I will not hold back my heart from love or hope or joy  when I think about a little girlie, loaned to us for now, and I will borrow from the strength of family and friends who love and care and support and pray.  I will remember the words of our brave daughter in law, #Hopethriving when she says, ” . . I feel very at peace and am trying to just enjoy every minute we have.”

For sure.  That’s the best thing to do.  And God helping me, I intend to do it.

“We have this moment to hold in our hands-
  And to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand.
 Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come,
 But we have this moment.  Today.”  (Gaither)

Here’s to our personal raft of grandchildren:

Charis, Simon, Liam, Frankie — You four are THE BEST!  And I wouldn’t trade you for the world.  I love all four of you to the moon and back.  I bless the day you became ours and I’m so glad you all have come to stay.  I’m more than glad that I am your Grammy.  I’m ecstatic!  (Let’s see what we can do next to make life interesting!)

And Baby K — welcome to the crazy, noisy Yutzy family.  We not only confuse people who watch us, but we confuse ourselves sometimes.  It’s a wild ride but the love holds fast and is big enough for you.  However short or however long, we welcome you and you will always have a piece of our hearts.  May Jesus stamp His image on your heart through this encounter and may you find in Him the Friend that will never desert you or forsake you.

We think you are exactly right for this time and this place, and we’re so glad you are here.

Love Always,
Grammy

 

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Filed under Family, Family living, Foster Care, Grandchildren, Uncategorized