I always think that Rules #1 & 1a when you travel abroad are "Flexibility" and "Expect the Unexpected" because things don't always (usually?) go the way you think they should, so you must go with the flow. I thought I was prepared, but nothing could have prepared me to meet Dean's foster parents of nearly four years.
As we were driving from Hope Foster Home a man on a bike suddenly darted in front of us. That's hardly unusual in China, but when he turned around and motioned for us to follow him I realized he was the foster dad. He was pedaling up a storm, showing us exactly to their home. The mom was waiting at their gate and was wailing as she flung open the van door and started pulling us out of the van. She grabbed my arm and is talking a mile a minute while dragging me inside the house.
Once inside, our guide could not keep up with the flow of information. They talked, and talked, and talked. They cried, and cried, and cried. They showed me the 'altar' of pictures of him. I probably won't do it justice, but the basic idea is they thought we had Dean with us already, they didn't understand why his adoption wasn't finished because he had already been gone so long, they knew the orphanage must be taking horrible care of him and therefore they had purchased sacks of treats that filled half a twin bed for him to have, their heartache was immense.
They told us that even though his Chinese name was Fu Tian Suo, to them he would always be Li Tian Suo. Li is their family name, so they are saying he is their son, not 'only' a foster child. It was clear they had given their lives over the past few years to this precious boy and their grief was palpable.
It was also clear they had spoiled him...they said so themselves! They showed me all the many types of treats and candies he loves, and so when I asked what kind of regular foods he would eat they didn't have an answer. Apparently, he ate the treats!! Can't wait to see those teeth of his.
They were able to give me lots of good information, though, about things he likes to do and how he sucks his thumb when he falls asleep.
None of the above was terribly unexpected...they loved Tian Suo and still do. I have heard, via the orphanage in Jiaozuo, that he is a kind and helpful boy so he was clearly not totally spoiled. Once he got over not having his treats in Jiaozuo he even ate very well!
So what's the big deal? The unexpected was this: at one point during our visit the foster father left the room and came back with a bag, which is pictured above on an outside window ledge. Inside the bag was a ziploc full of Tian Suo's hair clippings. Again, Americans save a baby's first lock of cut hair so that isn't too strange. It was sad to hear him say that he would take out the bag and run his fingers through the clippings so that it felt like he was rubbing Tian Suo's (Dean's) hair again.
Are you ready for the big one? No, you're not, but I'll tell you anyway. He next pulled out a bag that contained Dean's last diaper change from the night before he left. His DIAPER! In a bag for over a month. I'm not sure I can tell you the rest, but here goes: there was a stool in it. A large one. Which he brought out to show us. Holding it in his hands. Apparently, the wife took one look at it and said 'Get that stinky thing out of here!" So there it was, on the window sill for further review later, I suppose. I think I have now seen, up close, what it means to be crazed with grief.
I hope this doesn't sound disrespectful about the only parents my soon-to-be son has ever known. I do think they have done their best by him and it was very good. I wonder if perhaps they thought the day would never come that he would really be gone because our adoption process took so very long. They have a new grandchild, and I am hopeful that will soothe their broken hearts.
I suppose I expected it to be an emotional trip to see them, but not so emotionally exhausting. And under no circumstances did I ever expect a filled diaper. That's just something they don't mention in the adoption literature.