It reminds me that when I was in eighth or ninth grade, I very nearly had not just one sister, but three sisters and a brother. It all started with my father selling his old TRS-80 computer to a small business in Portland, Oregon. For our family, it meant a short vacation a few hours away from home so that my father could deliver the computer. He spent the day with the owner and secretary of a small office machinery business, setting up their computer with business applications, and teaching them everything they needed to know to get their business computerized. My mother took my sister and I shopping in the big city. We had a great time, and that was the end of it.
When the secretary called us a few months later, I’m certain that my parents thought that something had gone wrong with the computer, and she needed some help fixing it. She called for an entirely different reason, however. She had been diagnosed with cancer, and she was a single mother, with four children, a fourteen year old, a ten year old, a three year old and an eighteen month old. She had no family, the fathers of the children were not in the picture, and she had no one to turn to who could take the children while she dealt with her illness. She needed someone not just willing to watch the children while she went through cancer treatments, but if the worst should happen, someone who would raise the children. She had been praying that she would be able to find someone, and one name kept coming to her over and over again: My dad’s.
Out of the blue, she called up a man she had only known for the one day, and the family she had met only briefly at the end of a shopping trip to ask us to take the children. She didn’t know why my dad’s name kept coming to her, but she felt very strongly that he was the answer to her prayers. It was a time of some serious soul searching for us. Was this something we could do? Was it something we wanted to do? I remember a few family councils where we discussed the possibility. We prayed about it a lot, and came to the decision that yes, we wanted to help this woman. We worked with state Family Services to arrange to foster, and possibly adopt the three youngest children, the fourteen year old choosing instead to stay with friends up in Portland. Just like that, we opened our home to Christy, Antoine and Angie Ide. Our family grew overnight.
This wasn’t an easy prospect. We had a three bedroom house, and there simply wasn’t room for five children. Not to mention room for a baby! We didn’t have beds, much less a crib! We scrambled to convert our family room into a makeshift bedroom for the two youngest. We put bunk beds in my sister’s room. My sister was the same age as Christy, and they could share. We had also signed up to host a Finnish exchange student that summer, and my sister’s old bed went into my room for her. We were packed full.
There was a lot of adjusting to do, and it didn’t always go well. Antoine was the cutest little boy you ever saw, but he would steal things from my room. I was a teenager. My room was SACRED, and no one was allowed in it! I lived in my room, playing music, and reading books, and my door was always CLOSED. I would be so angry every time I found something missing. My mother never understood my pain. She simply reminded me that he was three, and he would learn. I probably slammed my door in a huff more than once over the situation.
Dealing with diapers and bottles and high chairs was another issue. I did a lot of babysitting, but it was different when the baby was with you all the time! Angie was a beautiful girl, and her favorite word was “NO!” It was almost a game. We’d ask her silly questions like, “Are you a pretty girl?” just to hear her answer, “NO!” When it wasn’t cute, it was very annoying.
The first few weeks were really hard. Everyone was adjusting to this new situation, and all of us were wondering how permanent this was going to be. After that first month, we fell into a routine, and by the third month everything seemed normal. Antoine was lively, but no longer made me angry. Angie still said “NO!” when I asked her for a hug, but then she’d wrap her little arms around me and give me one anyway. Christy and my sister were soul mates, and couldn’t be happier. This was starting to work.
That’s when we got the most wonderful, and the most heartbreaking news ever. The kids’ mother was going to be just fine. The treatments had worked, and the cancer was going into remission. Just like that, it seemed, they were gone, and our house seemed very empty with their absence.
I’m not really sure how we fell out of touch with the family. We moved a few years later to California, and when my parents tried to get in touch with them again, they were unable to locate them. I have tried to Google them, and found out that Antoine was playing baseball in the minor leagues. I’d imagine that the two girls are married and using different names now. I wonder about them a lot. I wonder what it would have been like if they’d really become ours-one big family. I wonder how my life would have been different. I wonder what their lives have been like. I wonder if they even remember us.
I do know that we loved them, my almost brother and sisters.