We were told, “Here he comes…”
Through the opaque glass door, two adults—an older, sadder-looking dark haired man with sorrowful eyes and tired face; and a younger woman, smiling eyes sparkling like she’d been let out of work for the day to run errands.
And the boy, so tiny, holding their hands, walking bow-legged like a chimpaneze. Wait—wasn’t he supposed to be 2 1/2 years old? My gosh, he’s so tiny! And he walks like he’s got polio or something! Why didn’t they tell us?!
He was wide-eyed, cautious, uncertain, clutching a small bread roll, looking around, walking him towards us. He stared blankly. Our host, the woman with Holt who’d driven with us from the hotel and was our liason, bent down, pointed to us and said something to him in Chinese—he stared, blinked, and started to cry. They coaxed him into my arms. He began to wail. I picked him up, someone took some photos and I had a monstrous grin while he shrieked.
Clearly we were both out of sorts. He cried some more, sniffled; and then like a crab burrowing into the sand, sunk into a state of shock and despair. Sorrowful, downcast, gloomy.
We sat on a sofa—Susie, me, our boy, and his delivery people, happy-girl and sad-man—and posed for a picture. Three out of five looked happy.
We had some on-site procedures to conduct, paperwork, administrators, most of which I don’t recall, except for one: as we approached an administrator seated at a desk, our host warned me: “Every child who meets this man cries. Your boy is going to cry, he will get very upset and cry. Be prepared.”
Sure enough, as we met with the man and he spoke with us—I remember nothing of what he said, but was sorely struck by the deep sorrow and despair of our boy. He repeatedly broke into tears; this may have been a bonding moment for me with my son, for I was pissed.
Infuriated. What was this man saying, doing, or conveying to my son—yes, MY SON—that upset him so? They took a picture and I squenched out a smile, but I was perilously close to giving that guy a fierce pointed-finger and a “Look here, mister—“. We got out of that meeting just in time.
We named our son Casey after my Dad. That was his nickname. Casey’s full official name is Dirk Casey Jackson Mullenger. Two middle names? Sure, why not. Susie liked the name Jackson, lofted it as a choice—Casey, or Jackson? I said, “Both.” Jackson, we later found out, derives from Greek, —and that from Hebrew, meaning “God is gracious”.
Back to the hotel (no stop for shopping), a quick visit to our room, then downstairs to a kid’s play room that the previous night had been empty. Now filled with adopted kids and their parents. We brought him there to play, and he did so, but reluctantly. Sorrow.
A long, sad sorrowful night—but no more crying, nothing more out loud. Just downcast sadness and sorrow, resigned and dejected.
The next day I booted up my Mac laptop and Skyped home with our three daughters, staying with my Mom and sister Suzanne. We introduced them to Casey.
The girls were bubbling and beaming, cooing and smiling; on our end, Susie was putting tupperware on Casey’s head while he stared at the screen. He lifted the tupperware, locked eyes with our daughters..and smiled. Then Giggled. Then Laughed.
The girls and the tupperware became a game of engagement, and in that moment we got our first glimpse of the baseline benchmark of this special boy’s soul.