You know the dream that happens right when you start to fall asleep, before you’re actually all the way out? The ones that sometimes will incorporate your surroundings. Whenever I have one of those that is not so pleasant, like maybe a death or a car accident or some other tragedy, I have a weird OCD obsession and force myself to wake up fully, sit up and acknowledge, out loud, that it was just a dream. Because that way it won’t come true and become déjà vu. I have no idea if I heard this somewhere or if I made it up in my mind, but I have to do it. The most haunting one that I can recall stirs up such a powerful response in me that my body quivers and it is almost too disturbing for me to put down on paper. I had a “dream” that Malachi was standing in the middle of an abandoned street looking for me, and one-by-one, several angry-looking men appeared on either side of him with their guns drawn. They were so intent and angry with each other that they didn’t even see him standing there right in front of them. I was running to get to him, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. As the first gun-shot went off, Malachi looked straight at me and as our eyes locked, I sat up with a scream and repeated out loud, “this is not real, this is not real.” I didn’t get much sleep that night. I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing that dream and in my non-expert opinion, I believe that it is derived from the fear that I had every time I would hear about an innocent bystander getting shot in a gang incident. Even to this day, with him safe and sound in our home, when I hear of a child getting caught in cross-fire, I cringe and think about what could have happened to him if Bio-Dad wasn’t required to go through the foster-care system. What if they had just handed him over after paternity was proven. It sends a chill down my spine and brings tears to my eyes every time.
As we approached Malachi’s second birthday things were calm. Bio-Mom was inconsistent with her visits and I never knew when she was going to show up. Even though it was annoying every time I would expend the energy that it took to pack a diaper bag and get a toddler ready for a three-hour outing, only to find that she wasn’t coming, it was with a twinge of guilt that I found myself exhaling as I remembered that she had missed another court requirement. Although my compassion for Bio-Mom did not go away completely, it definitely made fewer appearances as time went on. I started to develop some anxiety when thinking about how I was going to describe Bio-Mom to Malachi one day. I wanted him to have the full picture of his biological mother, but also wanted him to know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that she loved him the best way that she could. I will have to explain to him that she was not born with the ability to be a mother. She didn’t know how to love him the way he deserved to be loved, even though I do believe she tried. My husband is one of the most logical, yet fair people I have ever met, and when he used to catch me rolling my eyes or smacking my lips with distaste when I would hear a story of someone doing something that I didn’t deem appropriate or right, he would remind me that we are all doing the best that we can with what we are given. He was right. We are all born with our own individual strengths and weaknesses, and we have to maneuver and climb through life using both of those the only way we know how. Then, in his always very calm demeanor, he would add, “Some people are barely holding it together every day, so this may be the very best they can give at this moment.” He makes me a better person in this way. Somehow, as time went on and Malachi grew, it became easier to not take things personally with Bio-Mom. Even though I started to ease up on my anxiety and feel more confident that Malachi would ultimately be a Davis, I still occasionally let the paranoia creep in that she would get custody. I did not trust the process at all.
One Thursday morning when Bio-Mom showed up 15 minutes late to the Peekaboo Room, I noticed something was different about her. Not in her physical appearance, but in her presence. She hung her coat up and maneuvered her way to us with all of her bags in tow, and when I bent down to start my departure routine by trying to calm the storm that was to come when Malachi saw her, she abruptly blurted out an uncomfortable but confident laugh, and without resentment in her tone, said, “Why don’t you just stay today because he’s just going to call for you anyway.” Our new case aide, Pamela, shared a shocked glance with me and then agreed that it was a good idea. It ended up being the best visit we had. Malachi even picked up on her new and more relaxed vibe. He didn’t physically go to her, but he did allow her to help us build blocks and even handed her a few of them so she could contribute to his creation. At one point, even though her tone was still hard and not kid friendly, she said to him, “Malachi, why don’t you give that one to your mom,” and was pointing in my direction. It was the first time in a very long time that I allowed myself to feel something resembling compassion toward her and our unique situation, and I found it hard to contain my emotions once again.
During one of our home visits, I learned from Kena that Bio-Dad was not being compliant and was angry with her because before he was incarcerated he was almost done with his 60 days of drug rehab; however, when he got out of jail he had to start at ground zero again. He was still mad because he didn’t think he should have had to complete any services at all. He felt like Kena had tricked him into revealing personal information about himself and then held it against him. He was unhappy because it was hard to get around to his visits and requirements without a car or bus money. Kena told me that he accused the agency of only accommodating the foster parents, and that he had to work too hard to even get to see his son once a week. Considering the obstacles I had on a weekly basis dealing with foster-parent requirements, I chose to remain silent, take the high road and remind myself that we all have our own perspective. In the end, I did not believe that Bio-Dad would be able to complete all of his services. Even though I was happy that it was one less hurdle to jump over to gain legal custody of Malachi, it made me sad for the young man who not only shared my son’s DNA, but was also once a child in a foster home himself. At one point I saw potential in Bio-Dad, but I also knew that he likely would not recognize that he had other choices in his life and continue to choose the wrong path. I knew this for sure when my husband called me in the middle of his work day to tell me he received an interesting phone call.
I was making dinner on a Wednesday evening when Daryl is normally at his busiest time in the office, and I saw his name pop up on caller ID. I cautiously answered and then just got confused. Our private agency has never called my husband regarding anything, so when he said that the CEO of the agency, Melanie, had just called him, I went into a tailspin of questions before I even knew what the conversation was about. She told Daryl that she chose to call him because I was more emotional and she did not know how I would handle the situation. She went on to inform him that the agency was on lockdown until further notice because Bio-Dad had repeatedly threatened the life of our case worker and he was “on the run.” When I asked the myriad of questions that popped into my mind, he could not answer any of them… because he did not ask any of them. I was not irritated with him for not asking the questions, he was consistent. I was really angry with the agency for not calling me. When he said “I have to go, I have patients waiting,” my heart started to triple beat and I quickly responded with “No, not yet, I need more. Should we be concerned?” In his always calm, always confident way, he said, “Well yes, that is why they called. But if we are aware and on guard it will be fine.” I was not satisfied, but agreed to let him go back to work. Of course I immediately picked up the phone to call Kena, and as expected, she didn’t answer.
Kena called me back the next day and told me what she could, or what she wanted, of the story. She was obviously shaken up, and said that it had been escalating for weeks with Bio-Dad phone calls and texts accusing her of stealing his son, manipulating him and not giving him a chance. In the end, she had pages of texts from him threatening her life, and although she wouldn’t tell me the specifics, she was adamant that they were very real threats and included the use of the words gun and knife. Kena went on to tell me that because the police had not been successful in finding Bio-Dad, the FBI was called to assist, and they believed that he was in Indiana. I was unsure if I believed the FBI part of the story because I thought that if that were the case, we would have been notified by someone other than the CEO of the agency. Given the fact that Bio-Dad had all of our information and our office address, and we had his son, I was shocked that our local police were not involved. I had so many questions, but as always, I was only given little pieces. Ultimately, Bio-Dad was arrested a week later in an emergency room in Chicago where he was assaulting his girlfriend in the waiting room. He was charged with a felony and I did not worry any more about him getting custody of Malachi. I did, however, wonder how my son would handle the knowledge of his biological father one day. It’s hard to explain situations to our children when we don’t fully understand them ourselves. I am certain Bio-Dad also loved Malachi the only way he knew how. He was born with the ability to parent inherently; however, his life circumstances prevented a certain type of growth that is essential in making the right life choices. The situation that he was born into was part of a vicious cycle that made it hard to even recognize that there was another way. It’s hard for me to grasp because I grew up loved and provided for by my family, but it appeared to me that Bio-Dad lived his life in a constant state of anger.
Malachi turned two-years-old on October 23, 2014 and our case goal was still “return to home.” I gave up trying to understand why the process was so long, because there was nothing that could help me make sense of it. However, I did settle in and learned how to live with the constant invasion of our privacy and parenting. I’ll talk a little bit more about that next time.