The rooms were filled with noise. I often found the much-needed nap cut short by high-pitched squeals followed by Lisa’s firm reminder, “INSIDE SCREAMS!” Lisa was sure that, with pure love and affection, they would have a chance at a good life. This is a Memoriam for two young souls that were never ours to keep, but have permanently affected this once safe space called home.
We opened the door in mid-December. Sarah Beth ran inside, dropped her doll on the floor and screamed, “This is amazing!” We were taken aback as we expected withdrawn children, unsure of foot, afraid of what monster may lie behind the corner. Little did we know that these children were used to unseen shadows behind the curtain as part of the daily routine.
Sarah Beth sported too small pull-up diapers, holding a secured death grip on the precious pacifier in her mouth from sunup till sundown when she marched into our home. Teeth damaged, speech impaired, she spoke of growing up to be a big girl, just like her “Frozen” heroine, Elsa. Equipped with survival skills not normally found in a two-year-old, she hid her anxieties well until Lisa’s special brand of love and acceptance fractured the walls. From that moment there was a war between love and survival. We began to feel as if plowshares replaced the unseen weapons permeating our peace. Once her sister began to show signs of life and personality.
Zoey, partially blind due to a malformed brain and genetic dispositions that will permanently hamper her development was hospitalized for the fourth time with a diagnosis of “Inorganic Failure to Thrive”. The scrutiny speaks for itself. An “Organic Failure to Thrive” occurs through some chemical or anatomical malfunction for an infant to receive sufficient nutrition. An “Inorganic Failure to Thrive” occurs when the necessary nourishment is withheld. Zoey came to us at her third month birthday. It wasn’t her older sister’s fractured collarbone that prompted action. It wasn’t the older sister’s own “Inorganic Failure to Thrive” diagnosis that quickened the response. It took four admissions before someone decided something was wrong.
She lay limp in our arms, born at just over five pounds, weighing just a trace over eight pounds when she came into our home. We visited the clinic weekly at first to check her weight progress. Her doctors told us to feed the equivalent of one ounce per hour. She slept when she wasn’t taking in formula. Early on, she threw up enough for concern, causing us to consider a Soy based method.
She eventually gaining enough weight and strength to develop quite the beautiful personality. She started kicking and talking. But the cause of many rivers of tears was the sound of her laughter. Once she heard herself, she could not stop.
However, this growth in Zoey triggered a tussle for control and attention in Sarah Beth that would not be satisfied by normal parenting. The survival skills not normally found in a two-year-old roused with a fire that would not quench. Suddenly, our foster toddler identified a new enemy … her sister. We often heard how she wanted to stomp on her sister’s head or how she felt good about the fact that she didn’t want to kill her parents that particular day.
Lisa remained undeterred, believing that something would turn things around for her. I was ready to call the county but trusted my bride’s heart for this child. However, I chose to keep one eye focused on Lisa’s health. The final battle for Sarah Beth became toilet training. I can’t get back the wasted energy spent cleaning feces from the living room carpet or bathroom floor because she chose not to actually sit down on the kiddie potty she wanted (not five steps away from where she stood). She often pooped her panties and sat down on the ground to feel it moving on her skin … which also left a trail for us to sanitize.
The final straw came after countless accusations from her heroine addicted parents and grandparents. At a court-mandated parental visit, Sarah Beth informed that she needed to go to the bathroom. We soon received word of multiple accusations of sexual assault. The county’s emergency response officer came to investigate. After a private, non-heeded warning from me that Sarah Beth was a habitual liar, a five-minute discussion with Sarah Beth and a walk through our home, the officer said, “I really don’t know why I’m here”. I responded, “I do”.
Both children are somewhere else. Sarah Beth realized that she was going to a new family and protested. When asked why I told her that her momma told a lie about Lisa. Though she complained about meeting a new mommy, the damage was done to us and would not be undone. I have been at this precipice before. I knew how it felt. I thought I was strong enough to walk Lisa through her pain. It turned out that she was stronger still.
Will we open our home again? Time will tell. But what we do know … words matter. Lisa will move forward, more jaded than ever. I have a scar on my heart that will scar but never truly heal. My limp will be less pronounced, but I will limp nonetheless. System one. Humanity zero.