Your wink and smile,
(Maybe a bit manipulative at times,
but charming nevertheless.)
You've come from such pulsating heartache,
such resonating fear,
Much braver than I was at 8
when my only careless concerns were what to pack
in my Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox
for a quick picnic at the dredge ditch or
whether or not my best friend
could come over to play Barbies for the afternoon.
I knew my friends' phone numbers by heart
and I would dial their number on the rotary dial phone
in the carpeted kitchen.
At 8 you know how to survive and
what it feels to be hungry
and when to shut down
to avoid more thinking, more pain.
Your coping mechanisms equally
scare and stun me.
You've lost so much,
miss so much, brave boy.
Not a day goes by that you don't mention
your friends from Ethiopia,
your love for your home country.
Please know that with me it's always safe
to discuss heart matters like that.
I'll hold your soft secrets carefully.
(Just promise when you're a teenager
that you'll still want to talk to me about the
things that cause you tear-stained cheeks
and deep belly laughs.
When you have a seizure, my heart stops
for a minute or two and it feels like twenty because
you look like you're in such tremendous pain
and I want to do whatever I can to stop it.
But I can't.
I can't even help you understand why you have
to take such dreadful pills twice a day,
why we let the doctors poke and prod.
The other night you prayed for our family,
and Dad and I tried to repress our giggles
when you said to the Father,
"Mom Dad peace.
Getu Endale peace.
(Then we realized that perhaps we've watched
Kung Fu Panda 2 a few too many times.)
that sloppily land on my cheeks because I know
there will come a day when it's just not
acceptable to cozy into Mom's lap.
And your creativity?
You make helicopters and houses for birds
and wings to fly from cut-up boxes and string.
Please also never ever lose your unashamed joy after
scoring a goal in soccer or
beating your record at Bop It or
sounding out a difficult English word or
getting your face rubbed by Dad's "chin hair".
I can't promise you forever, Getu,
as nice as that sounds.
It's a promise that I might not be able to keep.
But I promise that we're your home now,
that I will love you even when you maybe
don't want me to.
(Or at least you pretend you don't.)
I promise to daily lift you up to the One who heals,
The One who can promise forever.
I love you, buddy. So much.