Three Minutes on the Porch

Read the fine print.  They don't tell you everything in foster-adoption class and what they don’t tell you could break your heart.


What they didn’t tell me in foster-adoption class was that I could raise triplets for a year from the day they were born, only to lose them because a born-again Christian social worker didn’t think gays should adopt. What they didn’t tell me is that I adopted two boys who were born exposed to drugs.

It has been a rocky year. Zane has been expelled from two different schools. My younger son Aidan has developed a sleep disorder and wakes up at two in the morning to do things like use all the toilet paper to set a bonfire in the sink.

I wonder sometimes at these strangers who live with us, and I marvel that the four of us have held it together.

Aidan and I have almost nothing in common. I like books and he likes the iPad. I like spaghetti; he likes chicken nuggets. So I work hard at sharing things. I coach soccer and basketball but there are very few commonalities other than the adoption order signed by a judge almost a decade ago.

He has severe attention deficit order. Watching television, he flips the channel about every 20 seconds. (I timed it once.)

Doctors thought that Aidan was either catatonic or had a severe form of autism. He did not speak until he was 2 years old, and only in short, one-syllable words. The first time that I ever heard an understandable word out of him was sometime around 2008. We had driven down to the Monterey Bay Museum, and in one of the exhibits there was this little plastic bubble under which people sat, and every few minutes, a wave would splash over the bubble. Aidan sat there holding my hand, and on the third time that the water came over us, he smiled at me and said, “Rain.”

With global warming and all, San Francisco has become a semi-desert city. Journalist Herb Caen got it right 30 years ago when he called this city “Baghdad by the Bay,” since we share the same lack of precipitation if not the same politics.

It has been four years since we have seen any real rain, and I have come to miss rainy days as much as I miss normal. And other forms of precipitation can be counted on one hand. I have seen snow once in San Francisco. I have seen two thunderstorms.

But last night it rained. The boys were watching the Disney Channel, and I was putting up Christmas decorations. Didn’t feel much like Christmas this year. The dog died just before Thanksgiving, and we were facing the first holiday without our East Coast relatives.

But this rain turned out to be a real soaker. We call a big storm like this the "Pineapple Express” because the moisture builds all the way from Hawaii before it gets here. And the pattering of rain on the roof was magnificent. But then, softly punctuating it was a sound I had not heard in years. In fact, I almost confused it for background noise on Lab Rats.

But then Aidan and I looked at each other and we both said, “Thunder!” Aidan clicked off the television, and I shut off the lights, and the two of us walked out on the porch. We sat on the old wooden chair that had sat on Nana’s porch, and we watched patches of sheet lightning light up our snug little corner of San Francisco. We held hands and Aidan whispered, “Rain.” But other than that one word, we both were quiet.

It lasted three minutes before Aidan asked, “Do you want to watch 'Teen Titans’?” For a boy with ADHD, three minutes was him giving me an hour. But it was those three minutes, in a long week, in a long year, that made all of this adoption business worth it.

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