Overcoming Obstacles: A Little Help and a Mother’s Love
It was a year to the month of my son David’s death when I received a call from a caseworker in Texas. She heard we were a foster and adoptive family of children with medical special needs. That was 15 years ago.
They had a baby boy, almost two years of age, with severe medical challenges, born significantly preterm at one pound, 15 ounces, with prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol. He spent much of his first years in a critical care unit. He didn’t have family, infrequent visitors, thus developing attachment issues.
He would require an Angel Flight, she said.
Did I have it in me? We had six children. The youngest at the time, also born preterm and considered failure to thrive, struggled with a seizure disorder. We received a grainy photo. Yes, this was my child. A mother’s heart knows.
Not walking, talking or eating when Grady came to us, he lacked muscle tone, and, as with all babies on feeding pumps, he didn’t form sounds. He was low affect and struggled with breathing issues. I remember commenting to the nurse that he had no teeth. “Honey, that is the least of your worries with this baby,” she said.
By age 3, he was getting around the house, trailing oxygen tubes — and driving his siblings crazy. Discovering a love for anything liquid, I frequently found him pouring bottle bottles of shampoo and conditioner into sinks. He also filled the lettuce crisper in the refrigerator with water — often. Making dinner became an adventure. I never knew what would come sloshing out. Bathrooms became a favorite playground. So did Time-out.
I never knew what to expect from this child of mine. I hugged him often; children with attachment challenges tend not to reach out to others.
About two years ago, as a sophomore in high school, he walked by me. He gave me a hug and said, “I love you mom.” That was 14 years in the making, and I treasure it still.
I know this child of mine always has known he’s different. He’s wanted nothing more than to fit in. I did not set limits on what I thought he could achieve. He’s more than exceeded what anyone initially believed he would do.
I homeschooled the little darlins through those medically challenging years. Grady was 9 when he entered public school. He wore glasses with a strap. His introduction to school was a child pulling his glasses out and snapping them against his head. He still bears a scar between his eyes. It broke my heart.
I took him out of school his junior year. He earned his high school diploma through home school and online. I spent the past nine months getting to know this child in a way impossible during the chaos of those early, tumbling years.
We sat through movies, and I listened to his belly laughs. He shared dreams with me. I learned his love of cooking. He spent hours in the kitchen, where he thrived.
This child of mine came to me last summer and asked me to accompany him the Work Force Center. We began a series of interviews with Job Corps. Several of the local school district staff members who’d work with him over the years helped with calls to the center, and I watch this child of mine become more excited than I’ve ever known.
We ran around stores. We packed bags and I talked — and talked — and talked to him. I talked so much; he told his sisters I was driving him crazy. I talked to him about choosing good friends. I droned on about my lifetime of mistakes (thus far), hoping he’d avoid the same.
And yes, I even pressed a handful of Kleenex into his hand at the airport and told him not to forget to blow his nose. (He rolled his eyes.)
That frail one-pound baby was meant to be. He texts and calls me daily, letting me know just how happy he is and how much he loves what he is doing.
I thank God for this child of mine. I guess we both were up to the tasks after all. I love you, Grady — more than you ever will know.
Karen Lungu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Grady Lungu is currently a student at Trapper Creek Job Corps; still in the kitchen as he prepares for a career in Culinary Arts!