Friday, November 23, 2012

Maximilian and Philip won't spend this Christmas at home

Maximilian and Philip won’t spend this Christmas at home. We had anticipated this would be a painful Thanksgiving as my Mom is not physically with us—but could not anticipate how much more excruciatingly painful it would end up being. When a few days ago Lisa posted that she had been demanded to come up with $4,000 in order for her adoption to keep on processing I thought I was mistaken in my belief that both she and I were working with the same agency. I thought how happy I was to be dealing with a much more understanding, much more caring, much kinder one—and still hold the people who run and operate it in my highest regard. Yet, unfortunately, the agency’s Board of Directors has now a much harder approach. They are the ones who set the rules—and even the agency’s director is bound to abide by those new rules . . . whether she likes them or not.

It was made it very clear to me that I wouldn’t travel until all fees were paid up. That was not all, though. I couldn’t even have the chance to try. The U.S. Consulate in Sofia holds the visa interviews only on Thursdays—and they are booked solid for December 13. That included the slot already reserved for us. There is another family with already finalized adoptions as well. They are bringing home two little girls who are medically fragile. Apparently their court date was a little after ours—but their agency fees are already paid. I was asked to give my slot to them.

On one hand, it is wonderful that those two little girls will see a doctor sooner. On the other hand, though, the emotional damage to all my children will never heal.

I was allowed to see Maximilian for the first time for a brief moment over two years ago, in August 2010, when I was on my first trip for Stephen, and had hand-carried my commitment letter for Philip and for him. The bonding between that little boy and me was instantaneous—and reciprocal. At one point Stephen held my hand—and Maximilian reached out to hold my other hand. That was almost two years and a half ago. How much should a child wait? I saw both Maximilian and Philip in December 2010 when I picked up Stephen. They knew I’d return for them.

By that time our decision to move out of state had been already made. Unless at the very last moment our local homestudy agency in Southern California agreed to approve for two more children immediately after Stephen’s homecoming we would leave California. It was a total leap of faith. My license to practice law is from California—and California does not have reciprocity with any other state. Personally I don’t regret the move at all (I love RI!)—but Catherine does miss her parochial Young Adults group where she was an active participant and leader since her Youth Ministry time. Gerard and Warren pretended to be really enthusiastic about the colleges and grad schools on the east coast even though they’d have rather made it all the way within the UC system from junior college, where they had had their first class at the age of 10, through actual college with no ACT or SAT and then to grad school with priority for admission. Yet, they didn’t mind the ACT exam and the need to do extra well in college due to the ferocious competition later on in order to enter graduate school. The road trip was too cold for my Mom—and the very first place we’d get acquainted with in RI would be RI Hospital. That was her first hospitalization in April 2011.

Through no fault of our own many issues delayed the processing. I make it clear that none of those delays is attributable to any adoption agency. Despite how desperate I was to move ahead, there were some things I couldn’t handle any faster. The packing was not ready, judges wouldn’t excuse my presence in San Diego, finances didn’t come together, the house I rented in RI was not yet available, fingerprinting and medicals needed to be redone—and the list could go on and on.

When I finally traveled on my first trip last May Maximilian and Philip couldn’t have been any happier. I was told that for a long time Maximilian had kept on asking about me—but then had stopped asking, obviously thinking we had just forgotten about them. They had no idea of how many tears we were shedding. They had no idea of how much we were struggling against all odds to make it happen. They had no idea that their Grandma had sacrificed her mobility and eyesight for the sake of the adoption expenses—not only for them, but for all her younger grandkids, first from Haiti and then from Bulgaria. They had no idea that Catherine, Gerard, and Warren wanted to avoid any barely avoidable expenses for the sake of having them home. They didn’t know that even if not everything had worked out as expected, we had moved from one end of the country to the other in a desperate, faith-filled attempt to have them home the soonest we could.

One of the caretakers in Bulgaria told me that since I had arrived Maximilian was a much happier child.

They expected to be home for Halloween. Maximilian was going to be a knight and Philip was going to be a pirate. Yet, I had not taken into consideration that the courts would close for one month and a half for the summer.

When the court finally reopened, because Maximilian had turned 10 in August his presence was required in the courtroom. Even the judge was surprised to hear how very well he spoke. When after the hearing Toni asked him whether there was anything he’d like her to tell me, he replied, “Please tell mom that I love her.”

Since they first met me, this will be their third Christmas away from home, where they belong. I failed them. I feel I have failed all of them. Can you imagine what Christmas will be like without my Mom being physically here with us any longer and with Maximilian and Philip being across the ocean only because I couldn’t gather the fees on time? Worst of all, I don’t even have the luxury of trying at least.

For many years since she was a girl Catherine has been taking care of the Thanksgiving dinner. Now the twins do the turkey, and the three of them make the younger ones participate pouring something, mixing something, doing something.  Yesterday Catherine’s comment was, “I messed up everything!!!”  Things couldn’t have been worse—even some canned food was wrong, and the entire dish needed to be thrown away, and—to crown it all the yuckiest thing also happened: we found a dead mouse on the kitchen floor next to the door to the backyard. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!!!!!!!

Once again I want to stress that I don’t blame Victoria, Carla, or Toni. Even if Victoria is the director, I do realize that she does regret this change in policy. Yes, I did count on paying part of the large amount of my still outstanding fees after my pick-up trip. Nevertheless I was not expecting them to do for me anything that I’m not ready to do for anyone else. The majority of my clients are immigrants with no status. Actually, with the exception of our fellow parishioners and the Reece’s Rainbow community, they are much more loyal, much kinder, and much more appreciative than most U.S. citizens typically are.  Yet, they could vanish into thin air from one day to another—but I have always trusted them with my fees all the same . . . and they have never failed me. On the contrary, sometimes I feel I have “too much on my plate” and I have been the one failing them—but then I have also taken the initiative to plead ineffective assistance of counsel against myself on their behalf—and am proud to have had both the courage and the integrity to do so. In California I used to do bankruptcy law—which means that obviously my clients were not the most solvent people—but, once again, I always trusted them as well . . .and only once in many years had one client who betrayed my trust.

We are literally destroyed, disheartened, devastated, distraught. It feels like I’ll never see my two new sons again. We don’t even dare voice it, but it feels the same to all of us.

I don’t know what else to offer in exchange for your help now: legal advice, etiquette consultations, personalized online books with your kids’ very own stories (or eventually printed, if you’d like to pay some minimal printing costs), help with you future fundraisers, help for all the waiting children—anything I can do for anyone. Please feel free to ask—after Maximilian and Philip get home . . . if that ever happens because at this point I’m afraid I’ll never be able to hug them again.

I’m posting again the link to the videos from my first trip. Please watch how very much we cried on the day of my last visit. We cried our hearts out in Bulgaria then. All of us here have been crying our hearts out over many months. I didn’t want Catherine to use her tripod for the Thanksgiving pictures. I didn’t want to be included. I didn’t want to get scared of how I looked. Now I’m at a point at which I have no more tears left. On top of everything, there is something I will never be over about this horrible Thanksgiving Day: with so very much going on I couldn’t just cry only for my Mom.

The videos are unlisted, and the links are as follows:

  1. Fourth day visit (this is very nice, yet very long one--so you may want to skip and go to the latest ones)
  2. Philip with photo book. Greeting new family members through video.
  3. Family photo books. Learning the names of family members.
  4. Last visit, May 11, 2012
  5. First video of last visit, when Maximilian was told that I'd need to go back to U.S.
  6. Last moment of last visit (everybody crying).

I know that time is limited for everyone---but those videos are really worth seeing!!! Tissues will be needed.

And these are fourth and fifth day pictures from my first trip:
These are fourth-day pix (Thursday, 05/10/12). No words are needed.
Mommy keeps on getting more and more kisses.
They look so thin and so tiny. Why couldn't I smuggle them in my carry-on luggage?
I don't look so nice in this picture--but the moment was one I did want to preserve.
The fifth and last day started with some nice smiles. . .
When we started telling Mximilian that after that visit I'd have to go back so as to work on the second stage papers and return for him and Philip.
We cried and creid together. I was not much comfort because I was crying as well.
And we kept on crying, and crying, and crying. . .
I'm not sure what Kolinka told him, but for some time that wonderful, heartfelt smile of his was back on his face.
We took some pix with all the staff members who are close to our boys.
Pavletta, she other social worker, is wiping some more tears.
More group pix. Maximilian is really close to Domka, the lady in white standing right behind him--to the point that in one of my early visits he had asked whether Domka could come to U.S. with us as well.
And that awesome smile is back on his face. . .
. . . until the moment of the final good-bye arrived.
Why couldn’t I just bring them home?
As the final moment was approaching, Philip ran up to me, hugged me, and burst into tears as well.
Philip decided that his brother and his mom shouldn’t cry any more. Still in tears, he started pushing Maximilian’s chair towards the door. As staff members accompanied them along the corridor, I could still hear them sobbing. Please watch the videos.

Please pray—and, putting my stupid pride aside, please try to help.

God bless,

Lillian Godone-Maresca

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