Wednesday, February 5, 2014

My foster siblings - a lifetime of wondering

When I was three years old, having foster siblings didn't thrill me. My mother explained that we were going to be an emergency and short-term foster family for kids whose families couldn't take care of them. But I didn't understand short-term. A day lasted forever when I was a child. I enjoyed my alone playtime and having my own space, so I didn't get why strange kids could come into my home, play with my toys, use my things, take attention from my parents, and I was supposed to be okay with it. These were my parents. This was my house. I didn't want to share. But I quickly adapted, as kids tend to do.

Some amazing "brothers and sisters" came into my life and even when they were shy or scared, they always opened up to me first. We played, we argued, we acted like, well, siblings. But the shared times with these kids never lasted. Every single one of them eventually left. Was taken away from me. Just like that. And there I was, once again, wondering why. Did I do something wrong? Why did they want to leave me? Didn't they like me anymore? Why couldn't we just adopt them all?

My mother tried to explain about the return to their birth families, or extended family, or that they were finally getting adopted by someone who always wanted children. I was a very intelligent child, so I could understand some of this, but I was also very sensitive. My heart ached each time one of them went away. And each time, they took a little piece of me with them. I know two were adopted and one went to live with his grandparents. I know nothing about the rest. I've asked my parents but they don't know, either. Once most of the kids left, they were never informed of anything else.

As an adult, I understand exactly what kind of horrors some of these children went through and I'm grateful I was able to make them smile or, at the very least, help them feel safer with me. A few years ago, I had the fabulous luck of getting in touch with one of my former foster brothers. I was already a teenager when he came to live with us and never thought in a million years I would learn anything about his life after he left. Despite the abuse he suffered as a kid, he's thriving and successful now. I'm so very grateful he came through alive and whole in the end. I can't express what a relief it is to know what happened to him and to be in touch after all these years.

But I still wonder about the others. The one who was so afraid she didn't speak to anyone but her biological sister. The one whose stepfather broke his leg because he was angry. The brother who was my best playmate and friend, who never talked about his family. Ever. Not even with me. The one with down syndrome, who would forever be a child inside and wanted nothing more than to laugh and hug everybody. The deaf brother who learned a few hand signs from a book with me so we could communicate. No one had ever taught him.

Some weren't with us very long, a few days at most, others stayed much longer. But each and every one of them touched me, and that uncertain little girl I was long ago is now thankful she had them in her life. My life. My brothers and sisters. I hope one day I will learn what happened to the rest of them. For now, I will just envision that each one of them found a good life and someone to love.

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