Three years ago yesterday that boy was living with us. He was calling me mom. And I have to admit that I was a little scared of the intensity of my maternal instincts towards him. That boy, who I had known for just over one year was a part of my family as inseparably as my own daughters. We went out to Red Robin that day. Everything about the day just felt right. We came home and stayed up half the night playing Guitar Hero with kids from the ward and just feeling what it means to re-define family.
|Hailey Jane, March 13, 2008|
|Carrot Cake? Homemade or boxed?|
Two years ago yesterday that boy was no longer living with us. Because of issues and complications, he had been "removed from our home." (Which is really just the state's cold-hearted way of making sure that children never really develop appropriate relationships or emotions.) We were still able to spend the day with him. All the anger, all the frustration, all the fear about this ever-changing family dynamic went on hold for a 24 hour period. We ate at Los Hermanos and went bowling as a family. Everything that was going on simply did not get to affect us. We were family.
One year ago yesterday that young man turned 18 years old. As far as the state was concerned, he was now an adult and completely able to make his own decisions. (Which is just the state's cold-hearted way of making sure that they don't have to actually care about someone one day longer than the law says they have to.) He was still not living with us. And visits and contact had been severely limited. But birthdays are kind of special. We were allowed to spend the day with him again. And again, nothing else mattered. When I asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday he looked at me like I was crazy and said, "I thought we always had cake and ice cream with the family." We had so much fun. And we knew that the best gift we could give him was the gift of love and unconditional acceptance. That's what family does.
Yesterday that boy turned 19 years old. And I know you are all sick of the emotional ramblings of Miss Brodie Hughes, but I just have to tell you how the story is shaping up. He lives with us again. (Yeah, take that, State of Utah.) And contrary to everyone who questioned and judged the love we have and the intensity of those feelings, he is doing better than I could have ever hoped for. He has finished his first semester of college. He submitted his mission papers. He is one of the most caring, loving teenage boys I have ever met. His desire to serve neighbors and friends defines who he is. He is self-less, courageous, and beating every statistic that foster care and his background offered him. To those of you who doubted him and tried to stand in his way, I am sorry you don't have the privilege of knowing him today or seeing the future he has ahead of him. I really am.
Dwight, it has been an incredible four-year journey of watching you evolve into the man you are today. Thank you for allowing me to observe and learn from you. Thank you for all you have done to build our family. Thank you for encouraging family prayer and family scripture reading. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of the Gospel. Thank you for laughing with us, and more importantly, for the times you have cried with us. Thank you for being a great example to Paige, Hailey, and Easton of values and respect and strength. Thank you for being a friend to Brandon (who, let's face it, never lets anyone in as much as he's let you in). And thank you for forgiving me for the times I let you down. I said I wanted to share with everyone how the story is shaping up. I am excited that I don't have an ending for my story. I have gotten to share your last four birthdays with you. The next two will probably be spent apart... we hope! But thank you, most of all, for the knowledge that there will always be more birthdays. Because family cannot be defined by blood, or by lawyers and caseworkers. Family is defined by love. Happy Birthday, Dwight.