I am not a saint…and frankly, it isn’t even something I aspire to be. But this is the go-to description when people discover we are foster parents, and it occurs to me that as compliments are showered upon us, onlookers might get the impression that in order to foster, one must be extraordinary or special or saintly. We are none of these things.
Five of us sit, silent in a 10 x 10 hospital room. Our foster son is on an operating table down the hall having a minor procedure which feels major given the previous months of recurring illness and sleepless nights. We are hoping this one finally does the trick. The last procedure, six months prior, brought little improvement.
“I’m selling the shop,” he said. “With places like these, you never know what kind of offer will come when you’re finally ready, so if you get one that’s any good, you have to take it.” A week later, he walked out the door into retirement and my beloved heroine was left slumped over a laptop, deflated once again.
“Did you know that some people charge two, even three dollars for a cup of coffee? Coffee!” the cashier scoffs as my husband hands her $1.25 for the gas station blend that’s been sitting on the warmer since dawn. It’s pushing 1 o’clock, and we are the only patrons in this forgotten town.
The naked baby bird lay nearly motionless on the ground, opening its beak every minute or so, the periods in between movements so long that more than once I was convinced it was finally dead. My youngest two boys were on either side of me, peering at the hatchlings gasping on the ground. My oldest son stood back by the swing set, hands to mouth, looking down.
There is a little boy who lives at our house. He sleeps in the corner of our bedroom cuddled under the fleece of hand-me-down blankets inside a well-loved crib. The teeth marks of our three children decorate the railing. A sad gray bunny sits at the foot of the mattress keeping watch.
“It’s really about the anticipation of the trip - not the trip itself,” I overhear the tired mother tell the eager insurance salesman over coffee. He nods his head and says something about a pricey trip to the ocean, thousands of dollars spent and nothing remembered by ungrateful children. He’s trying to make a sale; she’s trying to be heard.
Yesterday, I cried into the arms of my six-year-old. We were on snow day 12 or maybe 27. I’d long since lost count. We'd been riddled with fevers and vomit and rashes and runny noses since the onset of winter.