Somewhere in the world, triplets are turning 14 this week, on the feast of St. Serafina, the Little Angel.
Fourteen years ago, Brian and I fostered three newborns, one of whom had a hole in his heart and a colostomy. This was an extraordinary year of sitting in the rocker at 3 a.m., humming the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song to a baby with the croup. It was a year of first teeth and first sitting up.
But sometimes miracles end. Indifferent lawyers and prejudiced social workers delivered our babies to a woman they knew was unfit to raise them.
There are days when I don’t know why God does the things God does. Mostly it’s about the small stuff, like why Tom Cruise still looks good at 58 while I look the way I do.
There are days I don’t get life, like why Tim or Qp or Nurse Vivian passed away. I don’t know why Trump is president.
Thirteen years ago, we lost our children, and I thought the pain would go away, but it never really does. A few weeks after the loss, we sat in an adoption support group, and this woman sat there with her knitting, and said, “Those weren’t the children God meant for you to take care of. You haven’t met the children who really need you.” I wanted to slap her.
And then a few weeks later, by either a miracle or an accident of highly improbable odds, a social worker met a drug-exposed baby whose smile reminded her of me.
We met this 10-month-old boy who had the good sense to fall asleep in Brian’s arms. Brian said, “We’ll call him Zane.”
Two years later, another crafty social worker introduced us to an 8-month-old drug-exposed mixed-race baby, and this one, having heard the rumors, knew the first thing he should do is fall asleep in Brian’s arms. I wanted to name him Zek. Brian wisely chose Aidan.
Over these 14 years, Krypto, Buddyboy and Bandit joined us in the Batman Blue bungalow.
I wonder if the dead come back as ghosts. I wonder if angels whisper in our ears. I wonder if there are tests of faith and principle. The Fisher-Paulsons had a role to play in the lives of those triplets, but only for a season, and that was enough to give them hope. And then after a season with the triplets, we were meant for a lifetime with Zane and Aidan.
The other day, as I was driving the boys in the Kipcap, Aidan asked, “Where do we go?”
“To school, “ I replied.
“No, Daddy, where do we go when you go?” He kicked my seat.
“When I go? Where am I going?” I zigzagged past the 43 bus.
“When you die?”
“I don’t intend on dying, thank you,” despite the fact that I was driving through a suspiciously stale yellow light.
“No, when you die, where do we go?”
“No, no, Papa goes first.” (Brian quit smoking two years ago, but Aidan has the heart of an actuary.)
“Well, we have lots of family. Brother X and Uncle Jon ...”
Zane woke up from his stupor to say, “No, they’re all as old as you!”
“Well then, Uncle Payo —” Aidan was worked up by this point, and so I said, “Listen, Aidan, no matter what happens to me, know this: We built a family in which you will always be loved, whether we love you as humans or ghosts or angels.”
Zane chimed in, “I already told him that.”
Instead of triplets, we got two boys with no hope of normal, but along the way we learned how to love abnormal. Zane’s therapist said we’d never be able to count on ordinary but that Zane sitting through an entire dinner would be a victory. Zane jumping out of his basketball game to give me a hug is the best I’m gonna get.
If angels whisper mysteries, then the secret is to let go. And listen. And when I do, I see that we all suffer, but that courage means going through the pain and being open enough to face joy again.
Fourteen years, and we’ve been through two adoption/christenings, 26 birthday cakes, 17 class trips, three vacations to Disneyland, a wedding and an uncountable number of trips to the principal’s office. In short, I am much happier than I ever thought I would be.
I still don’t know how life works. I still don’t know how death works. But I try to enjoy the questions as they come.
Happy birthday, little angels.