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A Grief Unobserved

Thursday, June 30, 2011

So many experiences since my last post that it is hard to know where to begin.  It seems as if every day has brought me to thoughts and emotions that were worthy of blogging to help me create some form of order from the chaos of emotions going through my head.  First time to cook, first time to the gravesite, ordering the headstone, first time to gravesite alone, first children’s birthday party, first Barranco family gathering since the funeral (Michael’s brothers were in town from Nashville for a Barranco Brothers concert), and the list continues.  The one that surprised me the most concerns our foster child, Keagan, who we had from April 7, 2010 to February 23, 2011.  As I have stated in a previous blog, he left our home the same day I was informed of Michael’s death.  Grieving for the loss of Keagan has been somewhat unobserved, until now.

While Keagan was in our care, we sent him to a local private preschool.  The school was offering a one-week carnival camp last week that I knew would be lots of fun for him and would enable him to see all of the friends that he had made during this last school year.   I had asked his parents two months ago if I could have him, along with his 3-year-old brother, for the week so that they could attend.  I offered to pay for the camp for both and keep them all day, (7:30 – 5:30), take them to the pool after the camp (which was only from 10-1), and then keep them for a couple of overnights.  The week went great for them.  They had so much fun all day long, every day.  Keagan was happy to be back and settled right back into his routines of playing with his favorite toys, eating his favorite snacks, drinking his favorite juices, watching his favorite movies, and, last but not least, calling me “Mom”. 

They stayed overnight Tuesday and Wednesday night and it went smoothly.  After they went home Thursday evening, my 26 year old niece came over and was helping my girls organize their closet into new bins and baskets.  I was coming in and out of their bedroom, occasionally, to facilitate in some way.  I picked up a small pink boot they had found in the closet that belonged with the Build a Bear clothes and went to the low dresser in the landing where all of the bear clothes were kept.  I pulled out the top drawer because I could not remember which drawer or cabinet held the other clothes.  Once I opened the drawer, I was suddenly stopped in my busy actions and things began to move in slow motion.  Inside the drawer were some of Keagan’s clothes that had been left behind from his departure four months ago.  I spotted his Batman pajamas and gently pulled them out to look at them.  They were still stretched out in the shape of his body from the last time he had worn them.   My mind was taken back to the week of Michael’s death and I discovered a grief unobserved.

February 24th was the scheduled date for the court hearing for Keagan’s custody.  We knew ahead of time that the recommendation was going to be that he would go back to live with his parents.  Michael was going to be out of town Tuesday night then come in town Wednesday late afternoon just in time for us to take Keagan’s parents out to dinner to discuss the transition.  Monday morning, February 21st, I decided to go ahead and pack a suitcase full of all of Keagan’s clothes in preparation for Thursday.  I had opened the rolling bag on the floor next to me, sat in a chair with the dresser drawers open, and began to take my time going through all of his clothes then folded them into the suitcase.  Keagan found me doing this and joined me by sitting next to the suitcase, holding up the top and asking lots of questions.  When I was not answering his questions, my mind would drift as I looked at each piece of clothing and remember how he looked in each, where they came from, and sometimes they even took me back to a particular event. . The lyrics to “The Sound of Silence” were actually running through my head….  The cute play clothes given to me by so many generous friends at church that he wore over and over again.  His “cool” clothes that I had bought him from Crew Cuts, which the girls loved to dress him in when he was going out in public.  His cute little cotton boxer briefs in size 4/5, that I had folded a million times.  The shorts on which I taught him how to close a snap…I was interrupted with his question, “Mom, do I get to take my Superman pajamas?”  I told him yes and he did a big cheer.  Then he said, “Do I get to take my Batman pajamas too?”  I said yes and he did another cheer.  He thought he was going to a big spend the night party at his parents, with whom he had never lived.  I left out about one week’s worth of clothes, including the Batman pajamas, for him to wear the rest of the week.  We closed up the suitcase and carried it downstairs, then placed it in a corner in the foyer waiting for Thursday.

 We had our last family dinner together that night.  We ate on the back patio by candlelight, listened to Nora Jones playing through the IPod speakers, and roasted marshmallows over the fire pit while Keagan danced and ran around playing chase with Michael Anthony.  It was a very happy family moment… peaceful, joyful, loving, stable, and comforting.  Michael left the next afternoon, after coming home to show me his new haircut and get more hugs, and never came back again.  In light of the news we received on Wednesday morning, the Department of Human Services decided to go ahead and send Keagan home that day, instead of waiting until the hearing on the following day.  There were over 200 people in and out of the house that day.  Keagan went to his preschool, as usual, that day and I chose not to tell him yet.  His parents came to pick him up about 6:00 that night in the midst of all of the people and activity.  Keagan grabbed his suitcase in the foyer and began to pull it toward the door then was out before I had time to think about what was happening.  He waved good-bye from the front patio and was excited about his extended slumber party ahead.   I never went back or remembered the clothing that remained in the top dresser drawer, until last Thursday.  When he and brother arrived last Friday morning, I told him about the Batman pajamas and he was thrilled.  He kept pulling them out of the bag and carrying them around.  His brother, Kaidan, asked if he could now wear the Superman pajamas… Keagan said yes.  That night their dad texted me this photo and said, “Nighty night.”  In the background are the Spiderman sheets that I let Keagan pick out at the store for him to put on his new bed in his new home.

I sobbed that night I discovered his clothes and wandered for a moment around the playroom, not knowing what to do with my emotions.  That is when I realized I had not had the opportunity to grieve over the loss of Keagan along with the dream of adopting him.  It had been a grief unobserved but came on with intensity that night.  I was thankful for my week with both of them last week.  I was thankful that I got to stick my face into his neck and smother it with kisses.  I am thankful that we still get to see him.  We miss his presence.  We miss the good and the bad.  We miss him.


Anonymous Says:
June 30, 2011 at 10:36 AM

Love you, sweet Jene.
Hilmari xoxoxo
We miss Keagan too and talk about him often. Loved the picture!

susansgypsyspirit Says:
September 11, 2012 at 10:33 AM

So thankful for the only real loving family these precious boys were blessed to receive with your love. My prayer is of course that God in His infinite love and compassion will protect and keep you all forever. My Hope is that His Will would be to open the hearts of the boys' birth parents to put their selfish desires aside once and for all for the sake of their children. To free their children from this consistent confusion and allow them their God given right to be adopted into your loving and stable care. Spoken through personal knowledge and prayers for peace protection and love.

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