Thursday, February 20, 2014

It's January... well it was at any rate.

*I began writing this last month, but have been stalling finishing, because vulnerability is scary and it's sacred.  I don't write this lightly, but I write it in hopes that somewhere someone else needs to hear what I have to say.

Three years ago, my father died.  It was January 4, 2011.  On January 6, 2011, I called my husband and said, "Congratulations, we have a 400 lb.. 12 year old.  He's a mess, but he's ours."  And I smiled. And I cried.  Because as those words came out of my mouth, the reality set in: our lives would never be the same.  I was scared to death.  I was having second thoughts.  I was anxious about how we would actually do this.  And then a peace settled back into me as God reminded me that no matter what happened next, this was the right thing to do and He was with us every step of the way.

And He has been.  But that doesn't mean it's been pleasant... or pretty... or calm... or happy.  It's been a very rough, very messy three years.

And it's January... again.  Which always unlocks a new level of messiness as my brother and I both grieve in our own (and quite distinctly different) ways for this man who gave us life.

I've been waiting since before Christmas for the proverbial shoe to drop.  After all, the first January he was in my care, we had to clean out our father's house, fight with family over where to spread our deceased father's ashes; we got rid of practically everything Bruncle (my brother+my kids' uncle) owned, including his most beloved pets and dealt with lawyers and military administrators and, at the end of it, said goodbye to one another, going our seperate ways to wait for his passport.  Two Januaries ago, Bruncle had his first really tangible mental breakdown--I say that because although we'd dealt with hallucinations and emotional/behavioral issues, we hadn't had an outright mental shift--and he began having manic episodes that were foreign and euphoric and frightening.  Then, last January, he was in-processed at an outpatient mental health program... for the second time and he spent six weeks in their care.  Yes, I was waiting for our world to shift again this year.

Last weekend was a youth conference at our church.  There were activities Friday evening, all day and through the evening Saturday and then a testimony meeting on Sunday.  Bruncle came home from the meeting Sunday night, I was half-asleep on the couch.  I asked how it was, he said, "it was a testimony meeting" and gave a non-committal shoulder shrug and headed off to bed.  And I thought: January is almost over, I think we've made it.

The next day I received multiple phone calls about Bruncle's apparent melt-down/panic attack the night before.   There were lots of opinions on the matter and lots of advice and tips for my parenting skills.  Lots of suggestions for what he needs more of and lots of pointing out what he was missing.

I wanted to scream.

Don't they see me?  Don't they understand how hard this is?  Can't they see how my rope is unravelling as I try to mother the son of the man I grew up hating?  Dont' they know that it takes all of my energy to love and not resent this mess that isn't mine, this boy that is my brother?  Can't they see how complex and unfair and very tiring this all is?  Can't they see I'm giving it everything I've got and still it's not quite enough?  Still they clamor for more.

And I realized something: they really don't.  It's not that 'they' are unsympathetic, or overly judgmental, I believe 'they' actually mean well... but 'they' don't actually understand the entirety of the situation.

While talking to dear friend she said: part of the problem is he's your brother; people assume that means you know him (like grew-up with him know him) and that you love him like a brother.  The reality is very different.

I do love him and I have come to know him, but he was born when I was 18 and headed to college.  He is the son of my father (who I hadn't been on speaking terms with for most of my life) and his new wife who I refused to ever even think of as step-mom.  I only saw Bruncle a few times, like on holidays from the time he was born until he and my dad moved to Wyoming to be close to us, when Bruncle was 9.  Even at that, we lived near them for about 8 months and then moved to England and rarely spoke to them.

And though we chose to bring him into our home and make him a part of our family, we weren't looking to adopt, we weren't feeling inspired to rescue an orphan or become foster parents to at-risk youth.  We were plugging along in our own lives, dealing with our own children's many and varying issues: like aspergers, hearing impairments, sensory processing issues, anxiety, OCD, severe allergies and asthma, and quite debilitating learning disabilities; not to mention our marital, financial and own mental and physical health issues.  We weren't looking to add more to our plate (and, as I mentioned, it was not my first idea of fun times cleaning up my father's--the man who repeatedly hurt me growing up--mess) but when the time came, we decided to step up to the plate and bring Bruncle home; we decided in that moment of crisis and need to add more to our already crazy, busy, full lives.

Which I guess, is what all adoptive parents do.  They all make that decision, but maybe there is more preparatory time and there is definitely more training involved.  You see when you decide to petition for custody of your brother, no one thinks you need training... no one says, well sure, if you take this parenting course first, or read this book and attend a seminar first.  They just assume because you're his sister, you know what you're doing.  And the rest of the world makes the same assumption.

I don't say that to point fingers, just to point out that our experience is different and not everyone appreciates that... simply, because they don't think about it in those terms.

No one trained us, forewarned us, taught us how to deal with the issues that would arise.  Sure, I have a degree in psychology and my dear husband has worked with troubled youth before, but that doesn't make us prepared.  We knew we'd deal with grief, but have yet to understand all of its forms and manifestations.  We knew we'd deal with the affects of neglect and abuse, but we didn't understand that those affects would trickle out over years, leaving a trail of blood and tears in their wake.  We knew we'd deal with social awkwardness and communication issues, but we never imagined that he'd be reprimanded at school for stalking, or that people would blame us for his short-comings in those areas.  We knew there would be health issues bringing home a 12 year old that weighed nearly 450 lb., but we didn't comprehend just how tied they would be to his mental health issues.  We knew that he'd need a lot, but we didn't realize that there would be days where we would drown in his needs.  We knew this would be messy, we expected the first year, heck even the first two years to be difficult, but we didn't expect that coming into year three, we'd still be fighting some of the same battles, that there would be old issues still unresolved and new issues still surprising us as they rise to the surface.  We knew there would be hurting, but we didn't expect there to be so much healing wrapped up in the hurt.

We knew our family would be forever altered, but we didn't know what that would look like.  We didn't know then that our children would mature faster.  That their testimonies in Christ would grow deeper, that their love and frustration with us and with each other would compete for equal space in their hearts.  We didn't know that our marriage would suffer and be made stronger.  We didn't know, we couldn't comprehend that every day for the rest of our lives we would have tangible experiences with the Atonement in our home and that our children would get it, that they would see it for what it was and that they would become more compassionate, more loving, more Christlike, more accepting of others' differences and more accepting of themselves.

We didn't know that Bruncle would ever have enough confidence to ask a girl to dance with him, let alone the twenty girls he asked to dance this past weekend.  We couldn't have seen that he would be able take on the mantle of leading his quorum at church and planning lessons for Sunday school.  We had no idea that he would ever choose to seek out friends, or become self-aware and alter his behavior for others, or that he would ever be able to ride an escalator without crying and without being forced.  We didn't know that he'd climb mountains, play football, try out for a play simply because he thought it looked fun, or be responsible enough to take care of baby chicks that he paid for himself.

We had no idea the miracles God had in store.

It's been quite the journey.  And it will continue to be, I'm sure.  There will be plenty of more melt-downs, defiant arguments, and mixed-maturity moments.  I'll still question and fear that I'm not doing enough, that somewhere I'll lose all my children as I battle to save the one I didn't give birth to.  My husband and I will agree and disagree on how to handle issues.  My kids will fight.  There will be a trail of blood and tears.  But there will always be hope.  We will continue to give it everything we've got. We will never lose our faith.  God will always fight our battles alongside us.  His Holy Spirit will attend and someday, yes, someday, we'll all be able to breathe again.  Someday, the storms will cease and we will just be.

Until next January...

Summer 2011, Snowdonia Wales-- Bruncle near the top of the mountain

Fall 2011-- On the coast of the North Sea

Fall 2011-- London England Temple 

Fall 2012-- 8th Grade football
Christmas 2013-- Perhaps his very first genuine smile ever caught on camera

February 2014-- Proud Papa with his baby chicks


Fe Adamsonn said...

Life is full of hardships but never forget the happy moments and the people that are worth fighting for. I know you are strong in conquering all those trials and you will overcome it all including those are not yet have come. Keep your faith in God and continue to be an inspiration for others.

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Miranda L Marrott said...

Thanks for your encouragement, Fe. God is good :)

Maryl Johnson said...

Miranda, you are one of my heroes!

Nora Rhodes said...

I just have tears rolling down my cheeks for the beauty of your ability to put on paper your so very intimate thoughts and experiences. To the outside world you seem to be so together and so very patient with such kind words for all. Who would know that you have a family investment (your own & Bruncle), that seems to be more than any one person could ever handle. It just goes to show you how Heavenly Father takes care of us and ours. I am so glad that I have come to know you. You are truly an amazing role model.

Miranda L Marrott said...

Thanks for the love... This isn't me. God provides the strength and courage to keep moving forward.

SarahEvans, L.Ac. said...

None of us can appreciate the depth of another person's struggle unless s/he has the courage to share it with us.

Blogger said...

I understand you. My father died when I was 10, almost 9 years ago.
You are like hero for me but I know nothing about you. I'd like to talk to you :) Marina.