Thursday, April 3, 2008

"All Things Temporary" - Confessions Of A Young Foster Mother

Greetings from Mars -

Some couples create gobs of children and plaster the hallways of their homes from ceiling to floor with school pictures. Others thrive on quiet and solitude with one child as the focus of their energy.

I've met screaming families who would argue about the color of butter, but whose genuine love and deep loyalty kept them afloat during all manner of disease and heartache. I've met siblings that appeared loving but in actuality had swallowed gallons of anger until the day one of them burst into a murderous rage over funeral decisions for their dead mother.

Entering foster care exposed a different side of family life, a side where parents beat children senseless for wetting the bed. In this world, mothers twisted little boys' arms to the point of breaking them and fathers tore their daughters apart from the inside out with cutting words and deadly insults. Still, I'd never seen a family like Sandy's.

We officially met Darryl and Maricela Hooper on November 14th in a mediation room at the Laramie County courthouse. When they walked in the door, I recognized them right away because Maricela sported the same high-heeled boots she'd worn to the mall on Halloween.

Watching Darryl Hooper's precise demeanor reminded me of Sandy's comments at the dinner table. In the past weeks, she'd worked to make a connection with Raymond by discussing her father's military career. To me she'd said, "My dad's from Georgia just like you."

Darryl nodded to Jenny and Mrs. Benefield. Before sitting down, he leaned across the table and shook hands with Raymond. "Pleasure to meet you," he greeted my husband. And like a southern man should, he pulled out a chair for his wife.

Sandy's mother might well be crazy, but as I suspected, she possessed the same timeless, exotic beauty as her daughter. Maricela crossed her arms and slid into the seat. When she did, she seemed to shrink, to fold in on herself like origami. I wondered if I should reach out to her; introduce myself as the woman who'd stepped into her maternal shoes. Unable to act, I took a deep breath and somewhere in the middle of my exhaling, Mrs. Benefield spoke up.

She clasped her hands and rested them on the table in front of her stately bosom. "We all know why we're here. When a child has been a ward of the state for one year, there is a case review meeting between all parties involved. This is Sandy's review."

Sandy's father interrupted, "I got something to say before we go any further. My wife and I won't be takin' the girl back."

"Mr. Hooper…"

"Nope. No use in talkin' about it. We've made up our minds. You just go on and do what ever it is you plan to do. That'll be fine with us."

"Mr. Hooper, reunification is the state's ultimate goal. I'm compelled to ask why you don't want to be reunited with your daughter." Mrs. Benefield leaned forward. Her fingertips had turned white as if she were channeling her frustration into her clenched hands.

Darryl pushed back from the table. "Come on Maricela. We've said what we needed to say." Maricela unfolded from the chair, preparing to walk out with her husband.

"Sandy can't stay in foster care forever," Jenny blurted out.

Darryl turned to Jenny and pushed his thumbs into the pockets of his crisp Wrangler jeans, preparing for a showdown. "Won't be forever. She'll be grown soon." Before any of us could scream out in protest, he pulled the door closed behind them.

I held my breath and watched the door. For a moment, the knob seemed suspended in mid-turn. I wondered if the Hoopers wished to hit the rewind button and change the decisions that would surely follow. But, the lock slipped into place and the sharp click of boots on tile could be heard as Sandy's mother left the building.
_____________________________________________

What you've just read is an excerpt from my memoir "All Things Temporary".

6 comments:

Anna said...

Lisa, this is really sad. I think the problem with some parents is that they don't tune into children needs, and some are self-center, that they don't see what is important in life. When parents become parents, that's life time repsonsibility, good or bad, we made decision to have children, and our responsibility is to take care of them, until they are ready to take care of their own. Again, that is sad story, I wish I knew what is going through these parents head, and I wish we were able somehow change that state of mind. Thanks for sharing Lisa. Anna :)

RainforestRobin said...

I teared up over this one. It is imcomprhensible to me. You wonder if the parents EVER had a soul. I don't even know what to say I just know that we HAVE to love the children. We have to. And bless you for sharing. : )

Lisa McGlaun said...

Anna,

I never really understood what their motivation was. This took place in the early '90's and I can say, after some years to think about it, that I know Sandy's father was very conflicted. He didn't want to give up on his daughter. Her parents waffled back and forth for over a year about taking her back.

They seemed cold at times and very strange to me but when writing the book, I tried to "walk a mile in the shoes" of all the players in Sandy's life.

I"m excited about this story making it into the publics hands. I think there are very important lessons in Sandy's life and the time I spent as her foster mother.

Thanks for reading,
Lisa

Lisa McGlaun said...

Robin,

This is a short excerpt from a full length book. On my first exposure to Sandy's parents, I felt the same way you discribed..as if they were monsters. But through the telling you learn that's not completely the case.

Sandy's story was sad in many ways but also uplifting, funny, and quirky. The year she lived in my home was one of the most exciting and memorable years of my life. And I'll never forget her.

I think that's why I was so compelled to tell the story. In the end I think the reader will find that hope can rise out of the ashes.

Best Wishes,
Lisa

Anna said...

Lisa I did not realized that you are writing book about it, but you are right it is good to get it out. I think it is hard sometimes to understand parents, and like you said what the motivation was. Glad that you were around for her. You know there are a lot of kids, that we think its them causing the trouble, but in fact it is not, I really think when children are born, and if from the beginning you don't give them love and attention they need, they can be develop all kinds of troubles in life. I really think it is important to have that relationship at the very beginnings, and as a parent it is our job to help the child development. I always say evolution has all the angles covered, and somehow there are some that don't follow. God bless you for beeing a foster parent, and foster parnet that makes a difference. Anna :)

Lisa McGlaun said...

Anna,

You're right. It's up to us to nurture our children. And I'll say this, as the mother of an 18 year old. Sometimes even with all the effort and sweat that goes into parenting, you have to let them walk their own path - just be there to catch them when they fall - with some kids it's the only way.

I agree that it takes a special person to be a foster parent. Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was only 25 and Sandy was 16...so, I'll admit at times it was like the blind leading the bling. The great thing to know is that love can take you as far as experience..so we didn't do so bad together.

Thanks for you interest! Hugs,
Lisa