Little things remind me of her. Fried chicken. Cat-eye glasses. Dutch braids. Cookie dough ice cream.
Everytime I make an online order, I hear her teasing me. I baked a bundt cake yesterday and had all the ingredients but the bundt pan, and I could have swore she jumped in the car with me for the quick Wal-Mart trip. We went to Portland and I kept thinking Look at what she’s missing.
We were a family in thought only, but for a brief time we were a family. Paperwork was just barely getting filed when everything disrupted. We knew each other for only a few short weeks but we knew each other. We knew each other.
I keep thinking she’ll call. I’ll say hello and she’ll start with, “Okay, question…” But she doesn’t. And I still have the phone reminder ringing every night at 7pm to call her. I can’t turn it off.
I keep thinking she’ll write…but who even does that anymore? Not teenagers, that’s for sure. I keep picking up cards wanting to throw them in the mail for her but I can’t. It’s not appropriate.
In the world of foster care I have to love a child I barely know and think of her often without ever getting the right to know how she’s doing, how she’s coping. Did someone sit with her? Hold her hand when she heard the news? Did she cry? Did someone hug her? Did she walk stone face to her room, demanding she was fine?
My first two kids are 9 and 6 now. My first two respite babies who spent 10 days in our home and forever in our hearts are out there somewhere, too, and I think of them just as often as our forever children who are in our home. Did they get adopted? Are they doing well in school? Does she still like giraffes? Does he still like legos?
The door to her room is always open. I understand those people who have to close it off and not look at it, but the difference is she never slept there, never left her mark, so there’s no lingering presence. It’s just empty. She had grand decorating plans for it, though. We went to get paint samples and taped them all over her room so she could decide what to paint the dresser and what to paint the walls.
I went in there the other day to find the smallest dog curled up in the bedding. I wonder if he misses her too? And saw that someone had ripped the paint samples off the wall–probably Kevin–there was a mark on the wall wear the tape had worn off the paint.
Now we just wait for another phone call. We impatiently wait for the phone to ring or the email to ding and we guiltily feel so calloused (as this foster care life has made us) to worry and mourn one child while immediately anticipating the next.
You get it. I know you do. You get the simultaneous stomach butterflies of expectation and heartburn of loss. You get it. I get it.
It doesn’t get easier. I don’t know how it can get harder. It’s just there. A side effect, a symptom, like morning sickness that never ever fades away.