I’m pretty sure that last Thursday morning ranks in the top five Thursday mornings of my life. Come to think of it, it was one of the top five experiences of my life, period, Thursday morning or otherwise!
Erin, Cori, Wesley, and I made our way through the snowy streets of Springfield to the Juvenile Justice Center, where we walked through the metal detector and into a crowd of friends. Mark and Vickie were there with their parents and their three boys, Sam, Cody, and Ethan.
Of course, we’ve known Cody and Ethan longer than we’ve known the rest of the bunch; they came to live with us two years ago, having been taken into state care one morning and arriving at our house that same afternoon. We provided foster care for them for 13 months, and during that time we loved them and fed them and taught them to walk and use their words and we changed their diapers and read them books and … well, you get the picture.
Until the following March, when they were placed with Mark and Vickie Fischer, who became their foster parents as a “legal risk” placement, meaning that there was the possibility for adoption at some point, should their case head in that direction. We were so happy to help with that transition, as Cody and Ethan first met, then got to know, then started to love their new family.
Since then, we have been the foster family for four other kids, including three brothers who are now reunited with their mom (we went to a birthday party at their house just last week!), and the little girl here now, who has been with us since August. And since then, we have stayed in touch with Mark and Vickie who have kept us posted on all the things Cody and Ethan have been up to. From all accounts, life in the Fischer home has been quite an adventure these last ten months or so!
And the adventure started a brand new chapter on Thursday. We were there to witness the adoption of Cody and Ethan! It was amazing. It was emotional. It was unreal.
I had been there before, a few times, to attend hearings in the boys’ case. I had sat in the same room in front of the same judge earlier in the case, alongside the boys’ birth mother, before we knew anything about Mark and Vickie or even what exactly was going to be happening with the boys at all. Needless to say, the atmosphere Thursday was just about as different from those other hearings as it possibly could have been.
The small room was full with family, case workers, and court officials. The boys’ first case worker Michelle, who had become a supervisor and no longer worked directly with the boys, came just to be a part of the day. There seemed to be a buzz in the room, a kind of anticipatory joy that was contagious. Everyone felt it.
After the judge opened up the proceedings, there was a list of legalese questions that Mark and Vickie had to answer, and some official sounding things that the judge had to say. I confess I was kind of distracted because Ethan got restless and started wandering, so I got out my phone and started showing him pictures to keep him from mischief .
But then the judge said something that yanked my attention back to the proceedings. He was making his declaration, that the boys would be the children of Mark and Vickie Fischer, as if they were their naturally born children. That’s pretty amazing in and of itself. But he continued.
I’m not sure exactly what he said, but I remember hearing, “…and his name is to be legally changed to Cody Aaron Fischer…” and a few moments later “…and his name is to be legally changed to Ethan Andrew Fischer…”
Even then it didn’t fully sink in what had happened, until Vickie and Mark turned around and looked at Erin and me. Then their parents turned, then the case workers and others in the room. There were tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces, and we realized what they had done.
Mark and Vickie had changed the middle names of the boys to Aaron and Andrew. I’m pretty sure it’s not a coincidence that our names are Erin and Andrew, too.
To say it is an honor is not even close to sufficient. It makes us cry every single time we think about it, much less tell anyone. It is just so … I can’t think of any combination of words that would finish that sentence appropriately. We are very, very happy. We have a richer understanding of what it means to be “blessed” than we did before.
Thursday we were completely unable to say anything to Mark and Vickie about it. I don’t mean that we didn’t have the opportunity; we went to lunch with them afterwards at Chuck E. Cheese, for goodness sake! (Which by the way, was probably the highlight of the day for Cody and Ethan!) No, I mean that we were literally unable to speak of it. Every time we tried, words would not come.
As she hugged me in the hall after the proceeding, Vickie was just able to whisper, “What do you think of the names?” in the midst of her tears. In the midst of my own, “It’s wonderful” just seemed laughably inadequate. I hope that our embrace and our tears were more eloquent than we ourselves were.
There aren’t a lot of rewards for foster families. That’s not why we do it, anyway. It is hard, often heartbreaking, and frequently disturbing. So when something happens like what happened Thursday morning, we really savor it! Cody and Ethan have a forever family where they will know love for the rest of their lives, and we are a part of that. Wow!
The thirteen months they were with us will be a tiny fraction of their lives, in the end. And yet it feels good to know that those thirteen months made a real difference. But it feels even better to know that Cody Aaron Fischer and Ethan Andrew Fisher are going to grow up with a family who will love them and take care of them and help them become the amazing and beautiful people they are going to become.