There's a killing frost coming Monday. I could blanket the garden, but I won't be home. So today, using up my steroid-induced energy, I disassembled the garden.
It's 30 feet long and 3 feet wide, on the sunny side of the house's foundation. We started it years ago when our foster kids refused to eat veggies, thinking (correctly as it turns out) that a kid will eat something they grew themselves before they'll eat it from a pot on the stove. My memories of the garden are very intertwined with those children, so I spent most of my day thinking of them
You see, they are in a rough place. We had them for the first time in 2001. JuJuBee (aka Boo'sMommy), G, and GiGi were 9, 8 and 2. LittleBro was born that year but stayed with biomom while she finished rehab. While they were with us, Babygirl arrived, also 2. Since Curlygirl was 8 and Citygirl was 12, it was a very busy time - thank God our 'oldest' was there - she was an invaluable support. G and GiGi went home in 2002, and JuJuBee stayed with us forever. In 2006, biomom crashed and went to prison and the girls came back, bringing LittleBro, then 4, along. And that was when we started the garden. After 18 months, biomom got out and the kids went 'home.' Maintaining contact was challenging. We knew things weren't going well, but there was nothing we could do about it.
One week after we discovered that Babygirl had nephronophthisis and was going to need dialysis and a transplant, social services called us and asked if we would take the kids back. We prayed. We cried. We said no. Babygirl HAD to come first. And GiGi was exposed to a LOT of alcohol in utero. Kids with FAS/FAE don't quite think the way other people do. Boundaries are loose. Impulses are obeyed. Instructions, forgotten. We couldn't have a child who still trims other peoples' hair while they are sleeping in a house with a dialysis machine. We soldiered on. Last September they called again - it would be permanent this time, they assured us. We prayed. We wept. We said no.
A month later, their biomom died, in her forties, pregnant again - complications of tough life full of bad choices. By this time G was 18, on her own with a baby of her own. GiGi was 13, and LittleBro turned 10 the day his mom died. I was there when they told them - it seemed the very least I could do for my JuJuBee and the rest of them.
Last month, they called AGAIN. There is not one person they are related to who is capable of taking care of them.
We discussed it. Babygirl is stable, no dialysis, it's safer. But we are unexpectedly out of town on a fairly regular basis. GiGi is a teen from a family where abuse is the norm. Hubby can't be alone with her overnight without risking his safety and reputation. And there is the enormous cupboard of medications, posing a poisoning risk to a child whose impulse control is minimal. And there's energy, and time.....
And on the flip side is the only hope that LittleBro will have family, Boy Scouts, camping trips.....And the joy of GiGi's quirky humor and great love.
If only they had never sent them home. If only.....
We prayed. We wept more. My heart (and, I suspect, Hubby's) says YES. But Babygirl must, must must come first. However adaptable and loving she is, her life is overwhelming as it is. We can't. And we musn't. And we said no.
So all day, as I pulled weeds, cleaned out dead plants, found the only green bean of the year on a stunted plant, washed lettuce, hung herbs to dry and put green tomatoes in sunny spots, I thought of them. Prayed for them. Mourned the loss of them.
Fostering kids is the toughest job you'll ever love. JuJuBee is one of the greatest gifts God ever gave me, and the gift of being Boo's Grandma is a never-ending joy denied to her bio-grandma. G flits in and out of our lives, and her little boy is the image of LittleBro. And you know something? I think he could use a Grandma too. I need to start counting my Grandkids differently, I think.
Of all the griefs in my life, this is one of the very biggest ones - at times even bigger than all Babygirl has lost. After all, she still has us. And they have no one.