A couple of weeks after we had adopted Caleb, our son, my mother and father came to visit. I remember my Mom looking at this perfect little First Nations baby in the bassinette with a look of disbelief, even horror, on her face.
“You’re not serious. Are you going to keep him? Adopting an Indian baby will bring you nothing but pain!”
I was hurt and angry.
“This is our son. He’s ours. We are very excited that he is going to be part of our life.”
We never resolved that moment and the underlying difference of perspectives between my mother and father and I.
Over the last 36 years, I can honestly say that I have never regretted the decision. True, there has been more than enough pain, worry, fear and terror during parts of our life as he has wrestled with drug addiction and many other demons and ghosts. I have seen the inside of more jails than I ever imagined, endured the decision of placing him in foster care, experienced too much of a legal system not designed to provide help. I don't think I will ever forget that after the first time he ran away, wandering the streets of Victoria in the early morning searching for him, showing his picture to any and all. And I count it a miracle and a testament to the love and strength of character of each member of our family that we, as a family, did not disintegrate. "Gratitude" is a pale reflection of what I feel.
Worry about whether he had been killed by the drug fentanyl and was lying unidentified in some morgue or dirty alley behind a dumpster consumed this past December. In early January he phoned to say he was in jail, arrested December 27th. The process of resetting his life began again.
The previous eight months had been the best he had in almost 25 years. I loved that time and greatly mourned their passing when he started to use again.
However, this time of resetting seems different than all those during the past 23 years. Major new influences have entered his life, he has reconnected with a part of his Cree heritage, and he has the period of success to build on.
“I’m in jail, but I’m doing good,” he said.
As our phone conversations progressed the idea of using writing as a tool for his health and recovery emerged.
Over the next few weeks. I will post these reflections on my blog.
The schedule may be irregular since this is the process. Caleb writes, sends them to me in the form of long-hand pencil cursive on foolscap, I transcribe, edit, and return the revised version to him. He reviews the text and sends back any comments through the Post Office. Then I prepare them to post on the blog.
His hope is that the reflection of these episodes of his life will aid others, particularly First Nations youth, in their healing.
At times, his recounting proves difficult to read. Even though we may have suspected certain themes - abandonment, sexual abuse, etc. - He has never really wanted to examine those or provide details and so we, as parents, simply were guessing.
As a parent, lots of emotions arise: How could these things have been such a part of his life, and we could not identify and respond to them? Was there not some way in which we could have protected him?
But there is also a sense of release that comes from knowing that with which he struggles. I continue to have awe and sincere respect for his willingness to enter into battle with things that came within two fentanyl overdoses from defeating him. Somewhere in his DNA he truly does possess the heart of a warrior.
We hope that these efforts provide not only insight into the reality of many adopted First Nations people but also a measure of inspiration and hope.
P.S. Those looking only for the Caleb blogs enter “Caleb” into the search bar and his posts will appear.