The phone rang…panic set in. They could hear it ringing but were unable to find it. In her purse? In the kitchen? On the couch? Searching frantically for the small black cell phone that was set down during the chaotic scramble one Friday afternoon, they found it, but missed the call. The expectation of that call had been lingering for hours. How could they have missed it?
Eager to call back, Kathleen took her phone, looked at the missed call, then dialed the unknown number hurriedly. The phone rang and rang. Then a sudden answer. On the other end was a small voice. A young girl answered. “Sorry I’m running late, I’m having trouble finding your home.” She said while driving through the neighborhood, looking for 805. The magic number. The place for the drop. “I think I’m in the right neighborhood?” This would be the last stop of the day. The young girl’s weekend could now get started.
She was close. Within minutes, from inside the home of 805, the sound of a car door shutting was heard. Immediately, emotions peaked. Excitement? Anticipation? Anxiety? All three and even more. Scared could be added to the short list. Emotions transpired that were completely indescribable. A stranger was at their home.
Clint and Kathleen had been looking out their front window. Excitement building as they waited for that car to turn the corner, drive down their street and pull into their driveway. She finally made it.
Traffic on Friday afternoons at five o’clock is always hectic. On top of a forty mile drive, the highway congestion created delays. The young girl arrived after a long day at work. Desperately looking for the weekend, she pulled into the driveway, hopped out of the car and waived with a tired greeting. She was so happy she finally found 805.
She walked to the car’s rear passenger door. Quietly opened it. All three looked inside. He was asleep. Exhausted in the car seat that was made for a child double his size. His head was slumped over. His neck was limp. Mouth wide open and a precious little stream of drool was gently spilling out. In his left hand was a plum. He had the grip of death placed on it; even in is sleep. She said he cried and cried all of the way there until he fell asleep moments before the arrival. The plum was the only thing in her reach that she could give him in order give her brief moments of silence.
The young girl unbuckled his seat belt and slowly reached in for him. He was so small…so frail…just a baby. Out he came. He could barely open his eyes. Then an introduction was made. The young girl handed him over. “This is Bruce” she said. At that moment, he had arrived and in many ways.
He was nervous and scared. Like a puppy away from it’s mom for the first time, he’d cry and whimper. He was looking for anything to give him comfort. He had no clue what that would be, but he knew what it felt like.
Some fourteen months prior, on May 14, 2007, Bruce was born. That day he became sibling number five. Exposed to a world of unfamiliar sounds, smell, and all of the new experiences any newborn would sense. But for Bruce, his life would be different than most loved babies. That day in May, Bruce was born into the world of homelessness. An unfortunate situation too many undeserving babies face every day; simply victims.
His three older sisters and one brother new what was coming for Bruce. Although Bruce had no clue, his siblings lived it. Prior to the families move to Oklahoma, the oldest two had been removed from the family due to neglect and sexual abuse. Shortly after the move, the next two children were born to the same world Bruce joined. A world of neglect, no sense of security and love. A world of malnutrition and physical abuse. Children are born with the instinct to survive, but will only grow to the potential their environment offers. They need nutrition to grow mentally and physically. In addition require love, affection, and attention to develop socially. Children starve for this and these five children lacked it completely.
Bruce’s life before the day a strange girl delivered him to a new family was short in time but long in life experiences. His first four months were spent living at a homeless shelter. From there, the Department of Human Services stepped in and put him into the world of temporary living. Although temporary, it was a safe environment and possibly saved his life. First with emergency foster care, then three months in a children shelter. Life was offering him no security, nor consistency. Then one day he found new life. He was born again on August 1st, 2008. Yes he was fourteen months old, and he was delivered a new opportunity on a silver platter. On that bright shiny platter laid the world of love, affection, hope, and security.
That August afternoon, Clint received a call on his cell phone. It was shortly after lunch and with no anticipation of the call, the nature of it took him by surprise. He answered and the caller said “Mr. Ellis?”. He replied “yes?”. She continued, ”Mr. Ellis, I’m with the Department of Human Services and I understand you became officially licensed to be foster parents today and we’d like to place a child in your home immediately.” There was a short pause and she continued. “there is a fourteen month old boy who seems to have been overlooked…he’s been in a childrens shelter for over three months.” She continued to explain that while living in the shelter Bruce had his first birthday and learned to walk. “Ok” he said politely cutting her off. “Can I speak with my wife and get back with you later today” She offered, “sure, please let us know!”
As soon as he hung up, he dialed Kathleen. “DHS just called! They have a child for us!” With hesitation he immediately followed with “are you sure we are prepared?” At that point he panicked giving her the phone number. She gave him confidence saying “it’s ok, we have everything we need, if not we’ll go get it”, “what’s the number? I’ll call her.”
Within fifteen minutes Kathleen called him back. She told him ‘Bruce’ was coming over between five and six that evening. Panic set in. Fear of the unknown. This was their first foster child. Together they took weeks of classes required by the DHS. The total process took well over eight months. It had been building for a long time. Almost seeming as if it was never going to happen. The scramble was on. They thought “Was the house ready? Are we ready? Can we do this?”
That first night presented change to their household. A young child joining a family of four; an eight year old boy and a twelve year old girl. Things were about to be different. Clint and Kathleen were so tremendously naïve. The had set up a baby’s room. A new crib, changing table, baby clothes, and toys galore were ready for a deserving child. Their expectations were off track. Thinking a strange baby would come to their home, they’d feed him dinner...rock him...and he’d sleep peacefully in his new crib. It was so sad. Bruce cried and cried. He was so scared and everything was new. He was protecting himself from change, that’s all he could do. On an occasion, he’d play with the toys they’d offer.
Later that evening friends and family came over to see the new addition. Coming to see this new baby who’s life just made a turn, a turn for hope and love. The guests all knew this, and could see the transformation of his life was on the horizon. But for Bruce, it was all too uncomfortable. After an hour or so of traffic throughout the house, it was time for bed. Bruce couldn’t stand to leave the living room. Any other room he’d panic an cry. He was slowly taking to their affection, although that wasn’t gaining anyone a guarantee on a good night’s sleep. That night was exhausting for everyone. Poor Bruce in his ability to accept change was resisting and practically didn’t sleep the entire night.
With limited information, Clint and Kathleen started piecing his life together. Gathering the puzzle pieces of Bruce’s life and assembling the irregular shapes in order to gain some understanding was challenging. He was delivered with limited information. The only thing that came with him was a small bag and in it was old prescriptions and a couple of outfits that were too small. Slowly the portrait of his sad life was coming into focus.
Without Bruce? This question crosses my mind daily. A thought I have trouble imagining. How will his life end up? Without Bruce is a fact many will have to live with forever. His mother and father…his grandparents…his siblings…his foster family… people he’s encountered along his journey of life thus far. Without Bruce is a term I’ve coined for what I consider a void of his presence; the inability for him to receive my continued and undying love, affection, attention, care and a true sense of security.
Our relationship is more than an acquaintance; more than an attachment. To me, an attachment is a bond for a puppy, or a way of sending a jpeg with an email. Without Bruce is more than me missing Bruce. It’s him missing out on all I pledge to offer him. Yes, I love that little boy and no one can take that away. What I fear is, Without Bruce, the vision of his future that I hold close to my heart looses the probability that it will ever come true. Sure others could offer him a similar plan, but I know I will offer him the absolute best.
Today, Bruce turned 20 months old. All of this makes no sense to him. As much as I hope to officially adopt Bruce and make him a permanent place in our family, I know he has already adopted me. If today I could sit down and explain to Bruce exactly how I feel I would say…
Bruce lived with us for a little less than a year. During that time his newborn half sister (Cherry) was also taken into DHS custody, then placed in our home. After many battles in court, the State eventually placed both Bruce and Cherry in another foster home. They were gone in a blink of an eye.