Steve really wasn't lost. He was on Washington Island. When Joe was evacuated from the Island I figured it this way: Steven had "lost" his mom to cancer (I had spent more days in treatment since my diagnosis in November, 2009, than at home.) Steve had "lost" his dad to break-down, (at the time of Joe's evacuation from Island, Joe didn't know who he was nor where he was). Steve had lost his birth mom and birth dad before us. At fifteen years old, he sure didn't need to loose his life which includes playing soccer, drumming in a praise band at Bethel Evangelical Church, close friendships and much more.
When a person has cancer, the to-do list puts "settle your affairs," near the top. Who gets the toaster has nothing to do with it. "Mom, are you going to die?" is a routine topic at our house. After I tell them that one day I will die, the next question is "what will happen to us?" I listen to each one of our children for what they want for themselves. I already knew with Steve. He loves the Island. In April, before I left Washington Island for the bone marrow transplant in Seattle, I spoke with Joe, the school counselor and administrator and shared my intention. They concurred. Then, one Saturday night at the Bethel Church, after singing praise music with Steve as a drumming worship leader, in the band with his friends Andy and Joey and Ben the youth leader, I asked Lisa Munao if she had time to talk. We sat on the little chairs in the church nursery. I shut the door and gave a preamble summarizing my health risks before cutting to the chase. "If I die, will you take my son?"
I offered my little boy, my little boy who came to me when he was three -- brought to the door in grey and green Spartan t-shirt and shorts bulged with a diaper by an emergency foster care provider working with Children's Protective Services. That first night, twelve years ago, Steven walked into the parsonage, stood in the hallway and started pounding his head against the wall. I sat down on the floor, called out his name and held out my hand until he took my fingers. When Steve was five his adoption was finalized. Steve was seven, when three-year-old Joshua arrived. Joshua stood at the back door window, looked out and cried on his first night with us. Steve walked over to Joshua, put his arm around Joshua, patted his shoulder and said "It will be o.k. buddy." Steve moved over for every new kid who came into our house, shared his toys, shared his mom and dad.
When Joe was evaculated from Washington Island, Steven stayed on Island with the Munao family. Now is the time to re-bond as a family, orient Steven to what we are living in Seattle at the Pete Gross House and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, provide him with time, space and support to process before school starts.
The night that Steve arrived in Seattle, the door on Room 603 at Pete Gross House had a welcome home banner with his name on it. Even after all the kids fell asleep, I couldn't sleep that night. For a long while, I stood by Steven's bed listening to him breathe.
11 months ago