Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Not Just "Happy Birthday"--but "Thank You, Catherine!"

April just came to an end—and with it the first quarter of 2016. Even if belated, I must post what I should have posted on Catherine’s birthday, April 26.  God gave me the priceless privilege of conceiving, carrying, and giving birth to that then tiny preemie baby girl who was incredibly beautiful and who would grow up to become an even more beautiful, more incredible young adult.  You can see her outer beauty as you look at her, and you can feel and be comforted by her inner beauty as you interact with her.  She is, and always was, the very best daughter any parent may wish for and the very best older sister to her seven younger brothers as well as an active Catholic with the courage of her convictions, always ready and willing to speak up for the right to life, equality, and social justice, always siding with the weakest ones of all, always reaching out to anyone in need. She envisions her Psy.D. not as a personal achievement for career success but as a tool to better help others, particularly children with special needs—and she does have a very special place in her heart for special kids. 

Catherine, and also Gerard and Warren, my twin sons, bio as well and now adults too, devote to their five younger brothers, all adopted internationally with special needs, inordinate amounts of time, buy for them many more things than I should even allow them to buy, take them places, and give them more love than words can say. No, I’m not exaggerating or embellishing anything. The three of them inherited from their maternal grandparents that total selflessness, that complete self-abnegation, that unconditional giving of themselves that my parents had—which, I must admit, I don’t have. . . . at least not to that incredible extent.

Catherine is always ready to search high and low here and there to find exactly what everyone needs or wants.  She always comes up with new activities for her five youngest brothers to engage into and learn from. In a matter of seconds her presence can change the most conflictive moment with escalating behaviors into the most harmonious, joyful, peaceful one where all acting out deescalates to give in to affection, willful compliance, apologies, and smiles.

As I’m mentioning smiles, I can almost visualize not only the happy ones on my sons’ faces but the condescending smiles on the faces of all those who will be reading this post. Please allow me to say that it’s not my own observation, appreciation, or interpretation of the events. Others who had a chance to witness one or more of those instances have been surprised, astonished, amazed at what they’ve seen. It’s like her walking into a room makes a storm shift into sunshine. Because that sunshine comes from inside her. She radiates that totally selfless love she has in her heart. Not just I, but others not related to us have called it ‘magical,’ ‘incredible,’ ‘unbelievable,’ and even ‘a miracle’.

When she was only three years old, instead of asking Santa for toys for herself, she asked him to give toys to all poor children all over the world. When she was four, at a restaurant she jumped out of her seat and, before we could even realize what was happening, rushed to place herself in harm’s way as a waiter was pushing a tray on wheels at full speed without realizing that there was a small toddler sitting on the floor in between the tables and just on his path. Everything happened in a second. Catherine jumped in front of the child—and the waiter stopped right in front of her.

When she was seven, she told a classmate who was not really pretty, “You are so beautiful! I wish I were so pretty as you are.” No, she did not want o look like the other girl—but wanted the other girl to feel better about herself.

She would always stand up for, protect, and befriend, any child who was teased by then other kids, who had gotten somehow marginalized or left out, or who happened to be the only or almost only non-Caucasian child in an eminently Caucasian peer group. 

One day when she was a little girl, she made me take an exit and stop in order to free a butterfly that had gotten caught in our wind wipers.  She wanted to save that little winged creature. I wish I had a picture showing the joy in her eyes when she saw it free and safely fly away.

At one of her undergraduate internships, she would ignore everyone’s prompts to drop a burning paper she was holding. Even though the flames were advancing towards her right hand, she wouldn’t let go of it until able to make it to a metal trash can where she could dispose of it in the safest possible way for everyone else.

She would jeopardize her whole master’s degree only because of some tears in one of her younger brother’s eyes. She arrived past the cut-off time to drop off the take-home portion of her comp—simply because Thomas was crying . . . and she wouldn’t leave until he felt better.  As always, God did His part, and even though by the time she finally made it to submit her assignment it was twenty-five minutes past the deadline, she saw her instructor getting to her mailbox . . . as she was getting away from it after having just dropped off her paper into the box.

When after having been affectionate, cuddly, clingy for six years, during the summer of 2014 Thomas started exhibiting some aggressive behaviors, Catherine and the twins were much more patient and understanding than I could be. Had it not been for them, things might have arrived to a point of no return. Thanks to them, instead, and notwithstanding having been through some bad moments and bad times, our Thomas is coming back to us—the one we used to know from his homecoming in July of 2008 until those new behaviors that started around June of 2014. Even though with some ups and downs, thanks to his older sister and brothers, he’s somehow going back to being the cuddly, loving Thomas he used to be.

Well, I guess it’s time to say it one more time: Without the total, absolute, unconditional support that at all times, every time, and at every step of the way I had from my family, maybe none of my five younger sons, all adopted internationally, would be home today. My Mom, now with God, sacrificed her own health for the sake of my adoption expenses to bring home her five youngest grandkids. At one point in mid 2008, my Dad’s intercession from Heaven saved the adoptions of Thomas and Nicholas from Haiti when the U.S. Consulate in Port-au-Prince had made a very serious and very stupid mistake. Catherine, Gerard, and Warren were active participants in every adoption. I won’t say that they were the best helpers with every one of their younger brothers. That wouldn’t be a fair terminology because, even if risking criticism, I must say it in plain language the way it is: the three of them have always been doing much more than I myself ever did or could ever do.

Christmas 2015 - Catherine always makes sure that every holiday is a magic, memorable one to be remembered forever.

Comforting Thomas before he becomes really agitated.

Easter 2016 - She always bakes the yummiest treats--and makes her brothers take part in the process so that they can feel proud of themselves. And . . . look at the happy, joyful, heartfelt smile on Thomas's face now!

Easter 2016 - Decorating Easter eggs with her brothers

Hugging Maximilian on any regular day

Hugging Maximilian. BTW, please note the Jurassic Park drapes in the background. Just one day she decided to buy Star Wars and dinosaur drapes for Stephen and Maximilian's room, and Batman and Spiderman curtains for Thomas, Nicholas, and Philip's room so that all of them could have their favorite characters or themes.
All the teachers know how very much Catherine and the twins do for their younger brothers so that around my older ones' birthdays always my younger boys come home with something made at school for their older sister or brothers. Here you can see Catherine with Stephen--and you can also find the Star War drapes in the background.

Just on two regular days, Catherine is doing one of her many arts and crafts projects with her brothers. She's helping them make bird feeders and flower pots so that they can feel better by being active stewards in God's miracles of life that are symbolized by the beginning of the spring.
Above and below you can appreciate a couple of Catherine's numberless projects for her brothers to do. Above: colored Easter eggs. Below: flower pots with newly planted seeds by our kitchen window.

Catherine and Nicholas with our Stella, who, in return of all the love she receives, is showing Catherine some very expressive love of her own.

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