Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Adoption”

The Difficult Talk

One of the most difficult talks to have with your child, is that when it concerns death.  Experts have all kinds of opinions on what to say, when to say it, the do’s and don’t’s of what to say to children.

My own memories as a child and dealing with death, I do not have many memories of funerals until middle school age, one particular Christmas break.  Four family members had passed away over that one week timespan.  I recall it sending some of my “older” relatives into a tailspin, often making flippant comments about their “time.”

Over the decades of my survivorship, I have said goodbye to many fellow survivors who either faced insurmountable further challenges because of theirs health, or their bodies simply could not take anymore.

Personally, I have dealt with two major deaths in my adulthood, that to this day still leave a hole in my life.  The passing of my grandmother, and my father.

I was obviously well into my adulthood when they both passed on, so besides dealing with the emotions of the loss, I was able to process and prepare for when these events would happen.  It does not make it hurt any less.  I am fortunate that I had both in my life as long as I did, and did not have to deal with the sorrow as a child.

My daughters have been fortunate not to have seen or heard of many deaths either, that they can recall.  The closest family member to them, was their Uncle Mike, who was definitely a “fun” uncle with them, until his passing from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  But again, they were so young to have had the awareness of what had happened to their favorite uncle.  Today, they do still get to hear wonderful stories about him.

But as my daughters have grown, they understand that they have some friends, who have a tragic story, having lost a parent while they themselves are still a child, a loss so unimaginable as a child, to never see their mother or father again.

My daughters are very empathetic and sympathetic, so they grasp the tragedy and the sorrow.  They also know that they are fortunate to still have both of their parents.  As they are older now, however, they understand more about my health issues related to my late health issues from my cancer treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma decades ago.  On many occasions, the situations could have resulted in never seeing this post.  I have seen their friends live with and occasionally struggle without having their deceased parent in their lives.  And as I face each challenge, that is the last thing I want to do to my daughters.  As I lay on any hospital bed, I make sure I let every doctor and nurse know, they need to make sure that I pull through.

Through family, my daughters fortunately have not had to deal with death.  In school, among friends, they have been fairly isolated from that as well, though there has been a classmate or two over time who has died, their personal interaction had been limited, so the emotional toll was not as great.

I received a text yesterday from my younger daughter.  Evidently word had spread, via social media, as her former guidance counselor in middle school had passed away.  Details are unknown, so I will not speculate so as not to be disrespectful.  But social media being what it is, I reached out to a few people I knew that would know if this was indeed true.  Sadly, it was.

I spent a lot of conversations with this man, seeking help for my daughter as she progressed through middle school, along with the challenges of dealing with a divorced dad who in spite of not having custody, was still involved in his daughters educations.  He spent a lot of time, guiding her in decisions on course selections and some other struggles.  In other words, this was someone who passed, who she personally interacted with in her older childhood years, likely to remember.

I told her that it was true, but we did not have any further conversations.  I take it, that there were “stories” that she had seen, but did not feel the need to question any of them.  But there was one situation that I do not think she is aware of, but I am.  And if she were, it could likely have a bigger impact on her that I do not wish upon any child.

Besides being popular among students and other staff, his passing left behind a wife, but also two children.  Again, children who would grow up without a parent, just as some of their friends have.

I try not to burden my children with how serious some of my health conditions are, or how they are corrected, because I do not want them concerned with “what if.”  For now, my children remark how “tough” I am, and have no issue boasting that I am a cancer survivor.  That is what they know.  That is what they expect.  And that is why I do all that I can for them, and to make sure that I am always available to them, and to be there with each milestone they have.  I never take any day for granted, as I am sure neither do they.

A Super Sunday For A Different Reason

It was mid-January.  The Seattle Seahawks, my favorite team was in the playoffs and heading to the NFC championship against the Rams.  I told a co-worker, a known football game gambler, “bet your house on the Seahawks beating the Rams and go to the Super Bowl!”  His response?  “You’re nuts!  The Rams offense is too good for the Seahawks.”  I said, “I’m telling you, the Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl.”  He asked with a smirk, “what makes you so sure?”

Murphy’s Law.  That was how I knew.  The Seahawks did beat the Rams to advance to their first Super Bowl appearance in their franchise history.  The reason for my bold claim?  I was expecting news any moment of the adoption of my second daughter, travel news.  I was preparing myself, that it was likely, I might be flying to China to adopt my daughter during the Super Bowl, missing my favorite team’s only appearance.  It was bound to happen.

And that is exactly what happened.  On Sunday, February 5th, 2006, Super Bowl Sunday, I flew from the Newark International Airport to adopt my second daughter.  It was a sixteen hour, non-stop flight.  I checked with the airlines if the game would be televised on the plane.  They said, “no.”  And so, my older daughter and I, adorned in our Seahawks gear, boarded the plane with many passengers wearing black and yellow colors, Steeler wear.  Nobody ever remembers who loses a Super Bowl, but I do, and to whom.

Landing in Hong Kong, those black and yellow passengers were celebrating.  How?  How could they have known the results already?

There was no time to mourn, what I did not see.  The biggest moment of my life was about to take place for the second time, becoming a Dad again.

Yep, I had packed all my Seahawk gear I could take.  I was a Dad again.  That was sixteen years ago.  I remember all the details of that trip.

Every year, I recognize this date, as I do with the similar date with my older daughter.  We happen to refer to it as the “gotcha day,” though some get upset about the term, implying that they were taken.  Others call it a “forever family” day or “rainbow family” day.

She is my Super Bowl baby.

The adoption process is a fascinating one, in how families are matched up.  There is no mistaking that my daughters are sisters in the familial sense.

Both have their differences as well in the personalities, their dreams, and their character.  And next month, I will recognize my older daughter’s “gotcha day” as well, a very special one.

There is no forgetting what this weekend means to me.  Yes, it is Super Bowl weekend.  And as I prepare for another visit with my daughters, I will miss the Super Bowl this time as well.  That can mean only one thing, my daughter is coming home… again.

Go Chiefs!

15 Blessed Years

On February 5th, 2006, I landed in Hong Kong for my second journey in parenthood.  Having gone through this almost two years earlier, while I was familiar with the process and things to expect along the way, I would soon realize, that I would learn even more about where my daughters were from, important so that I could let them know what it was like.

On February 6th, Emmalie was placed into my arms.

This was one of the events that was very familiar to me, and why I express, this moment, and the adoption of my older daughter, being the top two moments of my life, both their adoptions tied in the number one spot.

I was in China during the tail end of the Chinese New Year, Year of the Dog.  Fireworks cracked day and night celebrating the lunar new year.  Although I was pretty screwed up sleep-wise from the 13 hour time difference, I had no problem sleeping through the nighttime celebrations.

This is a picture of a new hospital across from the hotel we stayed in.  It is the same hotel as two years prior for my older daughter, but two year prior, this was a hole in the ground.  A couple of days later, I would get to see Chinese medicine first hand.  Long story for this post.

One thing we did not get to do two years before, due to SARS, was travel.  This trip, we were taken to a village, very similar to where my second daughter is from.  It was a humbling experience to say the least because unlike those living in the city areas, here, there was no running water or electricity, floors were concrete, and the people who lived here, survived on bare minimum.

Other things we did included going to a temple.

A trip to the medical clinic at the US consulate to make sure my daughter was healthy.

Big sister also got to deal with the new sleeping/sleepless routine.

Pictured here with my daughters, are the two most precious people to me, the ones who helped create my family, Helen and De.  Normally they do not get to see the children after the adoption is complete, but by coming back to adopt my younger daughter, they got to see Madison again, who they had not seen since two years before.  They were so happy to see her and showered her with gifts.

She has a million different expressions that she can make with her face, and almost all bring a smile to anyone near her.  I describe her as my comic relief, because she really is such a funny daughter.

But if there was one thing for certain, I would not be here today, if it were not for my daughters giving me the will to keep fighting.  Having had cancer, it was next to impossible in the US to even think that I could become a father.  China gave me that opportunity no questions asked.

I have been blessed to see both of my daughters grow through their childhood.  This time of year always reminds me of those first days and how far we have all come.


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