Time Limit?

Jemberu - moments after meeting us

When my dad was the age I am now, he was diagnosed with cancer.  It was found in his right leg and within days of his diagnosis, he underwent an above the knee amputation.  I was 12 and remember that time well.   I recall the first days after he was home, watching my mother as she changed the dressings on his stump.  I remember him being unsteady on his crutches, especially when using stairs.  He had a hard time with phantom pains, the leg that was no longer part of him would hurt or itch.  Our New England winters created real challenges as he learned to navigate the ice and snow without two steady feet beneath him.  I remember nights that I heard him out in our living room, softly crying, trying not to wake us.

It was a huge life change for my dad, but he handled it with a lot of grace.  Over time, he made adjustments and family life seemed to go back to normal.  It was something I didn't think too much about.  I am sure that is not true for my dad.  I bet he missed his leg everyday.


Recently a friend told me about a conversation that she was had with some other moms.  She didn't name names and didn't give me a word for word account but it went something like this.

Some kids who are 'rambunctious' were being discussed.  My sons were mentioned (I know, I couldn't believe it either).  A friend piped in that she thinks my kids are awesome, especially considering the fact that they spent their first years in Ethiopia.  Another mom wondered out loud, what the time limit was for getting over that.  'Yes, they had a tough start, but when is it time to move on?  What's the time limit, how many years?'

Maybe it would be helpful for the mom who said this to imagine a scenario where her own child was left an orphan.  Her own child left without her.  Her child unable to find a new home or family because of dire poverty.  Her child sometimes without a place to live, often without enough food to fill his or her belly.  Her child being placed in an orphanage.  Can she imagine how scary that would be for her child?  Can she imagine her own child being adopted by strangers from another race, another continent, from a culture so different that it may as well be another planet?  Can she imagine her child losing so much?  What would she set for the time limit for her child to get over that?  How many years?

Like my dad, the boy's losses affect them in ways that others can't see and can't feel.  My dad couldn't predict when phantom pain would occur.  We couldn't see that his missing leg was causing him pain.  The same is true for the boys. We don't know what might trigger sadness, fear or an ache they can't explain. Their effects of the events of their first years of life will always be with them.

Thinking that the boys can 'move on' from their start in life, is like asking an amputee to grow back a limb.  It just doesn't work that way.