Tag Archives: children

Isolation: “Its Like Forever Only Much Shorter”

I’ve never understood how people who once loved and cared about each other can not merely drift apart (which is far more normal than we think) but who end up hating each other. In my early twenties, somewhere around 1969 (I think) I had been living in Berzerkely and wasn’t taking very good care of myself. I became very ill with a form of asthma. I ultimately decided—thanks to the I Ching; the Chinese Book of Changes—to return to Los Angeles and get medical help. I don’t quite remember how I met Susan, but we ended up living together and she literally nursed me back to health. Our relationship didn’t last that long, mostly due to my being an asshole, but we’ve remained friends over the years; perhaps because we shared a lot of the same friends. Susan Marlow is her name, and she sent me this short essay, which I want to share. Self-isolation, social-distancing, shelter-in-place, whatever we’re calling it . . . seems to be fueling some interesting creativity and innovation. I’m happy to share it.

PS – Thank you, Sue . . . for this and, especially, for taking care of me way back in the wayback machine. I’ve long regretted how I acted back then, but I’m pleased we both went on to have wonderful, interesting, and fulfilling lives and that we remained friends. Hopefully, we’ve got another decade or two to enjoy . . . once this is behind us.


by Susan Marlow – 26 March 2020

I am finding this Covid-19 isolation, while mostly strange, not entirely unpleasant. The disease has me frightened. It is such an unknown and one that I want to keep that way.  Yet clouds can be fluffy and white and pretty or dark and sullen. They bring us rain which cleans and they filter and cool the heat.  So too has this isolation that we are living through brought some very interesting and beneficial changes for us all.

“This too shall pass” and “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” are my favorite quotes. And perhaps that is what is happening.  I actually do not mind being home I am not bored. I have oodles of half baked ideas and partially concocted schemes that I can pick up and play with.  Who knows I might finish the knitting project, or begin my composting and renewed vegetable and flower garden. The composter has been ordered through amazon prime.  I have learned to order household items to avoid shopping. My pointer finger is getting stronger, as I push those order buttons. With each boxed item it’s a bit like Christmas.  

Learning to Cope

I have gone into the garden to collect worms for the composter.  They are busy I hope eating what is in their temporary home. Now I’ve read that there are specific worms that are better than the garden variety.  Wouldn’t you know it there are designer worms available on line 1000 per pack.

I am not much of a cook and my husband (the cook) has grown tired.  His meals are not so exciting after 37 years. So we joined a meal delivery service.  The food comes fresh and ready to prepare with complete instructions. Surprisingly it is a lot of work but very tasty.  My back aches as I stand by the sink cutting chopping and stirring. So I prep the meal early allowing myself time to rest.  Then maybe 2 hours later together we finish. It’s become a very nice, even anticipated activity for the two of us. Time is not of the essence anymore or maybe it is but there is a lot of it to spread about. We don’t have anything to argue about and we are able to laugh at ourselves quite a bit.  I like that part the best.

I should tell you that I have actually been in semi isolation since 2/27 so I consider myself the expert.  I love the quiet streets which remind me of my childhood where a kid could safely ride a bicycle at break neck speed  down a hill across a residential street without much chance of getting creamed unless you hit a pothole and there were fewer potholes back then as there was less slurry, trees were younger and their roots had not yet begun to encroach.  People are out walking cranky children or happy dogs. We are walking Peanuts twice a day and he is now a very happy doggy. We waive at our neighbors most of whom we have never even met. Hundreds of bees are darting to and fro through rain soaked flower beds.  

Maybe people will once again remember how nice this all is and make the necessary changes to keep it that way once this crisis passes.

The amount of world nastiness seems to be reduced.  Everyone seems to be getting the message that we are all in this together.  Borders, walls, languages will not protect us. Jobs have changed and are still changing.  Many types of employment never to be seen again or never seen before. Creativity is running high.  California needs ventilators and someone is crafting them on 3D printers. 

My husband and I seem to be getting along better than ever which amazes me.  We treasure humor and stuff that makes us giggle a bit.  I am checking on friends whom I rarely see.  Despite our limits we are finding common concerns. People are caring for each other even at a distance which I find nothing short of magical. The  meanness that Trump fostered has finally been challenged by something far bigger than that “Stable genius.” He can not buy it, sell it, hide from it, or manipulate it.   Nevertheless, I know he tries.

I am learning more about myself.  I’ve been sequestered for a month now.  I can withstand a fair amount of isolation from others. But I can not stand our 24 hour news cycle. Our TV isn’t going on until 5:00.  

I am finding that when I casually throw out “I love you,” I really do.  I mean it. Likewise, the kiss throwing emojis have sincere meaning to me now.

And so to all my essay girls and guys—stay safe.

🥰      


Love in the Time of Corona, or a Possible Good-bye Poem for My Daughter

This poem was written by a Facebook friend who I’ve never actually met and who lives on the other side of the continent, as do many of my FB friends. It’s haunting, poignant, beautiful, and not a little sad. I feel the same for my daughters, though my youngest is so troubled and needy, I can’t seem to do anything for her.

I’m trying to stay inside for the duration, but grocery deliveries are either delayed because of the demand or horrendously expensive. I will probably go through the weekend, but will venture out to Trader Joe’s on Monday, as I did this past Monday. Wish me luck . . . but please read the poem. It’s really a tear jerker (though, as a man, one of my superpowers is to choke ’em down.)

For Micaiah 3/26/2020   You probably don’t remember this: One day we were joking in the car after school. You said something about being a mistake. I corrected you.   “I got pregnant by a…

Source: Love in the Time of Corona, or a Possible Good-bye Poem for My Daughter


Who Is This Guy?

I believe I wrote this poem in the early nineties. It was, at least obliquely, addressed to a woman I had fallen desperately in love with (this would be the last time in my life I fell that stupidly, at least until we adopted and I became a father.) The love of one’s child—especially the first—is far more powerful and nuanced than any other type of love I’ve ever experienced.

This poem, however, speaks to my desire to see this woman* open up and face some of what I thought were self-destructive fears that were keeping her from enjoying her life. It was complicated, as was she . . . and it just wasn’t to be. I have little doubt the somewhat crazy depth of my desire was just too overwhelming for her. Hey! I was just a kid . . . in my late forties.


There exists in all things
A strength and beauty
Unappreciated by those of us
Who have suffered the constraints of narrow education
Yet . . . it exists
In repose
Silently waiting for the moment of discovery
In many of us it is doomed
To remain unannounced
unapprehended and, yet
Undeniably
It is there
And there are those of us
Who by some mad twist of fate
Crush the beauty in ourselves
Divert the strength
And smother the fragile wonder of our lives
Beneath pain and isolation
Which we call self-protection


* I will not use her name in deference to my wife and children. She is a part of my history, but only relevant today to explain the motivation behind this particular bit of communication.


What Would We Do Without Our Fur Babies?

I’ve always loved dogs (and cats), but I hadn’t had a dog in my life for something like 40 years after I had to put my beloved Heinse down when he developed an inoperable lesion on his spine, which paralyzed him. I suppose I could have developed some kind of wheelchair for him, but I didn’t have much money and I’ve never been terribly handy.

During the interim, I’ve had lots of cats; they’re easier to take care of and deal with, IMO. However, about two and a half years ago, Linda (my wife) came across this little sweetheart and she entered our lives. I’m very pleased.

I learned something interesting in the last few weeks. I was going through a bit of “empty nest” syndrome issues following my oldest daughter’s final dance recital in High School. The reality of her growing up and leaving really caught up with me, but the part that hit me the hardest was my sudden fear I’d screwed up; I hadn’t done the right things or I’d done some of the wrong things and I would never be able to make up for it! It was debilitating for a while. I’m better now, thank you very much.

Before this all happened, though, I was lamenting the reality that I could no longer hug and kiss my little girl, as she was a teenager (and had been for some time) and wanted nothing to do with that sort of thing, though she will let me kiss her goodbye . . . sometimes. What I realized was that I was able to get some of the closeness and the satisfaction of showering affection on Angel, our dog. Harder to do with a cat, but dogs can be super affectionate. This has got to explain why we have so many pets in this country. We can shower affection on our fur babies for their entire lives. They never lock themselves in their bedroom for days, ignoring those who labored mightily that they may have a good life.

So . . . let’s hear it for fur babies.


An Interesting Age

Kind of interesting to be spending part of my birthday waiting for my younger daughter to get out of school. I hadn’t quite put my foot on what always feels just a bit strange every time I’m here.

It finally hit me. It’s the knowledge I’m at least 54 years older than the oldest kids here. I’d venture to say the vast majority of parents here are no more than 30 years older than their kids. I mostly don’t feel like an outlier, but I am.

I’m also processing the reality that Alyssa had far more challenges than Aimee, who also has three friends who’ve known each other since kindergarten or the first grade, and whose families we have spent a lot of time with over the years. Alyssa doesn’t have any friends like that, which troubles me deeply.

I guess I’m living in interesting times. All I have to do is stay healthy and productive for about another eight to ten years. Slice pie!


Facing The Abandonment Issue

In September of 2002, nearly four months after my 55th birthday, I became a father for the first time in my life. I was in China with Linda, who would later take me as her husband, to adopt our Aimee. Actually, since we weren’t married she had to adopt as a single mother and I was sort of along for the ride, though I was all in.

As part of the process, I had joined a Yahoo chat group especially for parents and prospective parents adopting in China. I also joined a group led by internationally adopted adults who were willing to share their experiences, as well as their admonishments.

I was very active for a while and what follows is one of my posts (from October of 2005) that is still being shared every month with prospective parents of Chinese children being adopted by people in the U.S.:

************

Gosh, Gordon. You ask such simple questions. My heart truly aches (along with my head) contemplating what our children will eventually deal with as they grow older and their ability to understand matures and develops.

I agree with you, in that we can’t possibly settle the abandonment issue for them. As you say, they own it and we, at best, are innocent bystanders. (I won’t even discuss on this list what “at worst” might be for fear of provoking a firestorm of protest.) What I think we can do is respect them enough to let them take the lead, by becoming loving, attentive listeners. As they gather experiences and come to realizations about the meaning of their lives, we need to be there for them; nonjudgmental, understanding, and supportive. It doesn’t hurt to read about the experiences of adult adoptees (from their own mouths – or fingers) and their parents.

Even then, we have no guarantee they will be able to answer their own questions, or resolve the issues (real or perceived) they will deal with. As you know, I have been following the discussions on IAT for some time now. It has changed how I view my role as an adoptive parent and, at times, I find myself somewhat uncomfortable with it. I consider the discomfort part of my growing process for, as you also know, it isn’t stopping Linda and I from returning to adopt another child.

I know you and Patti well enough to believe you will give it everything you’ve got (and maybe a little more) to do right by your children. If you haven’t already, you might want to read Cheri Register’s book “Beyond Good Intentions: a Mother Reflects on Raising Internationally Adopted Children.” I hope others will contribute to this thread. I think it’s important to understand these issues as early as possible, preferable before one travels to China.


I Didn’t Quit; I Just Stopped

I smoked my first cigarette when I was five years old. That’s right. Five. I didn’t inhale; didn’t even know that was an option back then. My best friend, Jim, had “liberated” a cigarette from his father. It was either a Camel or a Lucky Strike. This was in 1952 and the first filtered cigarette to be successfully marketed – Winston – would not be available for another two years.

Jim and I sat on a merry-go-round similar to the one below, though nobody bothered to paint them back then. We used to hang out at Panorama Park, just north of where I attended Kindergarten, Chase Street Elementary School. A couple of weeks later, Jim managed to snag a couple of rolling papers from his dad.

Playground Merry-Go-Round

Round and Round and Round We Went

We went to the Thrifty Drug Store on Van Nuys Blvd., in “downtown” Panorama City, and walked out with a can of (“Well . . . let him out!”) Prince Albert tobacco, then absconded to the east end of the parking lot, where there were lots of bushes to hide out in.

Five-year-olds do not have the manual dexterity to roll cigarettes by hand. I’m not sure we could have done it with a machine. We were unsuccessful and, dejectedly, had to settle for “borrowing” cigarettes from our fathers; his the Camels or Lucky Strikes, mine Pall Mall.

Filterless Cigarettes

All Three in One Photo!

It would be another three years before I actually inhaled my first cigarette, an act from which I would not look back for quite some time, and which I now look back on with some remorse.

Look. I’m not trying to justify or celebrate smoking. When I first set out on that path, the only negative thing I can recall hearing was that it stunted your growth. Nobody mentioned cancer, emphysema, bronchitis, etc. Nobody! Smoking was permitted everywhere, at any time. And it was so cool! Cooler than Elvis’s sideburns, which I could not grow at nine years old to save my life.

It wasn’t until I was 15 and, through a combination of teenage hubris and stupidity, almost burned down our modest suburban home, that my parents gave up and decided it was better if I smoked in front of them, rather than had to continue covering it up and, maybe, killing everyone.

By then I had become, like my father before me, a Marlboro “man” and within a few years was smoking about a pack and a half a day. I cut down somewhat when I started smoking pot in the late summer of 1966, mostly because tobacco tasted funky on top of the taste of weed. I didn’t stop.

It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I managed to stop smoking for fourteen years. During that entire time I never said I had quit smoking; only that I had stopped. I knew I was a hopeless addict and, in the intervening years (I’m now 70), I have stopped and started numerous times.

Each time I stop I go cold turkey. Generally, it’s only taken me a day or two, at the most, to get over any physical craving for tobacco or nicotine. Unfortunately, I never get over – only manage to control – the ingrained rituals and habits of smoking.

I’m bringing this up because last Friday, after over a year, I stopped again. In a few hours it will have been a week since I last inhaled tobacco smoke. I took advantage of a trip to the Bay Area for a memorial service and didn’t take any tobacco with me and I had no plans of purchasing any while there. I was traveling with my oldest daughter and wouldn’t dream of smoking where she could breath it second-hand. In fact, in the last twenty years, of which I’ve probably smoked for about six or seven, I have either not smoked in the house, or did it under the stove’s exhaust fan set to high, very carefully blowing my exhaled smoke into the updraft created by the fan. And that was only on the bitterest and coldest of days, which are few and far between here in SoCal.

So, after a day or two, I had no cravings at all for nicotine. I do still have to fight the habitual affectations that went along with my smoking; the numerous breaks one takes in the course of a day to grab a couple of “hits” in between whatever you might be doing. I’ve also gained a couple of pounds and my next challenge will be continuing not to smoke and still get back to the weight I believe I should be to be as healthy as possible.

I don’t ever want to smoke again, but I’m aware of my proclivities toward tobacco and just can’t honestly rule out a cigarette or cigar at some time in the future. If I’m strong, I can probably make it through what remains of my life without shortening it even more. That’s what I have to keep reminding myself.


Another Father’s Day In The Books

I spend a lot of time on Facebook and, once in awhile, I write posts that are a bit longer than a paragraph or two. I seldom cross post here, but it’s a habit I’d like to get into. This was originally posted Sunday morning, June 18, 2017 and I’m memorializing it the following day. Better late than never, eh?


 

My father died nearly 33 years ago; my maternal grandfather passed earlier that same year. I never knew my paternal grandfather. For nearly two decades, Father’s Day meant precious little to me.

Nearly 15 years ago, despite my having concluded for over a decade fatherhood would not be something I would ever experience, 14.5 month-old Aimee Lian (Cen Fuxing) was placed in my willing arms, and I became an adoptive father. I repeated the exercise when 33 month-old Alyssa Bai Yuan (Guang Bai Yuan) joined our family a few months after my 59th birthday.

At times I still marvel at the reality I am a father, and have been one for quite some time now. Today, I give thanks for the tremendous responsibility this has placed on me, which I have happily embraced and thoroughly enjoy. I have no idea how I’m doing or, more precisely, how I’ve done so far. Both my girls are now teenagers, who are notoriously difficult to read beyond the rolled eyeballs, the “I know”s, and the wholesale dismissal of virtually anything I say or do.

Yet, I take comfort in knowing I have done all I am capable of. Being a father at my age has been the most challenging and, definitely, the most satisfying thing I have done in my life. Today I am grateful for my wife’s desire to have a family and for our two girls, all three of whom have caused me to become the man, the father, I am. That thought, on this day, gives me the chills and fills me with gratitude and humility.

Happy Father’s Day . . . Today and every day, to all the men who struggle to be the fathers they believe their families deserve.


How Do You Talk To Children?

Came across this on Facebook and wanted to share it. I have seen adults doing these very things; in fact, I believe I’ve been guilty of it myself, though I make every effort to be engaged with children, especially my own.

I recently attended a new school orientation, as my 12-year-old is beginning 7th grade and it is her first encounter with middle school – we chose to keep her in her elementary school through the 6th grade, which we believed was useful for her special needs. I was very encouraged by the welcoming and uplifting tone everyone at the school took when dealing with the children. Better yet, my daughter’s 1st grade teacher is now the Director of Student Services at her middle school, and my wife told me she’s the only teach she had who didn’t complain about our daughter. Encouraging.

Take a look at this video and see if you recognize anyone; yourself or your child’s teachers or some of the administrative staff at any school. They’re not all like this, not by a long shot, but it’s important to keep in mind how easy it is to dismiss children and affect them in ways that will stay with them; possibly for their entire lives.


Another Letter Regarding Our China Adoption

Had I been paying closer attention, I likely would have realized I sent this email the day before I sent the one I posted yesterday. Nevertheless, they are closely related in both time and content, so I want to share this one as well. I know I also have a file with the emails I sent from the sports bar in the China Hotel in Guangzhou, while we were there completing our adoption of Aimee and, eventually, I’ll post them here as well.

This particular email was in response to a post by another adoptive parent who, in seeking to understand adoption from her child’s POV, wrote “Maybe some of the referrals come with information that stretches the truth, but I think that the act of being placed in our loving arms is not quite as wonderful for these girls as it is for us. Give them time.” Here’s what I wrote:

This has to be one of the most important, and profound, statements I have read on China33* in some time. We must, repeat must, remember what these children have experienced. Each of them has had to suffer two major, life-changing upheavals. The first was being separated from their birth mother (no matter the circumstances under which it took place); the second being taken from either a foster family or the only real home they have known.

We have to control the tendency to see our good fortune in finding them as the only interpretation of these events. We must fight against trying to impose our perception of reality on them. I believe the wisest thing we can do is try and understand their lives from their perspective. They may not be able to give voice to it, and their memories are almost always pre-verbal, but that doesn’t negate the powerful emotions these events evoked.

I have watched our Aimee nearly shut down in situations that were similar to the evening she was placed in our arms. A room full of children, adults, noise, and pandemonium. Even an open house at pre-school has greatly unnerved her. However, with every day she has grown a little more secure in our existence as a family and now, at over four years old, she is finding her place and blossoming like we hoped for her.

The most important thing we can give our children is the knowledge not only that they are loved, but also that they are respected. I can’t emphasize this enough. Remember the concept of “walking a mile in their shoes”. By all means, revel in the joy of finally having her in your arms; the ineffable depth of emotion you feel when holding or even just watching her (or him). Just keep in mind that you are the lucky ones. If our children were truly lucky, the conditions leading to their abandonment would not have existed, and they would still be with their birth family.

Remember, one day they will be all grown up, and they will almost certainly be at least curious about why they were separated from their birth family. You will be doing both them and yourselves a great service by keeping that day in mind – always.

Rick Ladd

* China33 was the name of the Yahoo group we used to stay in touch during those times. When we adopted, the wait time was nearly two years and the time spent in China was three weeks. For some, the anxiety was overwhelming, though it was significant for even the most sanguine among us.


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