Heart, stomach, and shots

I have a little more time before Wilfred comes to take me to the Surgery. Dave and I talked for a short while yesterday. We have not yet had a conversation when I have been alone. It is hard to be alone in Africa, especially as a muzungu in an African neighborhood. There is no such thing as taking a walk alone, finding a spot in the house that does not already have someone else in it. The only ones with privacy in the house are Wilfred and Vena. Their bedroom is a sacred place, and no one enters it unless they ask. It is good to see that Africans, too, have that sense of privacy—it is not just American. Yet I know that there are many African families where 8, 10, 12 or more people live in two rooms. How have Vena and Wilfred learned this? Is it just a part of human nature, to want some time alone, to want privacy? Or is it cultural?

I know I want privacy with Dave right now. I long to pour out my heart. I miss talking about spiritual things with him, the things the Lord is teaching us, deciphering our days, relationships with others. Perhaps it is God’s grace that keeps us from private talks, because I know that if I told him all, I would cry (and my African family would be upset), and then I would want more—his arms around me, the warmth of his chest, his strength. So instead we chat, sharing events, things the children have done, nothing deep. He can tell me more than I can him. He can tell me that he misses me, that this feels awful, the indefiniteness of it, the strange sense that I am not coming back. He tells me the kids are holding up well—God’s blessing that Anna came. Such a wonderful distraction. But I miss them! And part of me wants to know that they miss me, their mother, that they feel bound to me as I feel bound to them—because here I am without binding. I am not yet bound to Patrick in the way that I am with Em, Maddie and Jake. And Dave. Oh, Lord, you have bound my heart to Dave.

Oh, I don’t know. I’m babbling now. Oh, Lord my strength, restore my heart, be my tower that I dwell in no matter what surrounds me. And once again, You bring to mind families who are going through far worse, Christian women who have seen their husbands imprisoned for preaching the gospel, who wait, not knowing if their husbands will ever return—or what is being done to them.

It’s time for honesty. There are moments I wonder what we are doing, adopting this little boy who at moments seems African to the core. He is language-confused, and because of it, does not speak much at all, just words that are the same in Lugandan and English—like names. His stubbornness unnerves me, frightens me, because it strips away the general, ushy-gushy feeling of love that has been building in the past year. This is where the “love” gets stretched and pulled and tested, and at times my frustration with his behavior makes me question my sanity—or, worse, I wonder if I will ever feel bound to Patrick as I am to the other three. Only God can bring that kind of binding. So once again I face the frailty of my flesh and its inability to produce what is inherently good—and I must allow God to be able for and through me. I have not been giving Patrick enough slack, enough room to be just-three, enough room to be confused by what is happening. He is not in a strange place yet, but here is another muzungu—and not his beloved Jody who rescued him—and everyone is telling him to call her “Mommy.”  Then, on top of that, this “Mommy” is sometimes soft and sweet, cuddling him, talking to him in ways his African mothers never do, and then she is hard, stern, telling him not to suck his thumb, not to run away, these are his limits, limits he has rarely had to have in his staying-at-home-African world. Then she is stern in a different way when the African women are around.  

Too confusing. And “Mommy” needs to remember that. This morning the Lord gave me a good, old-fashioned kick-in-the-rear. Patrick was at his medical checkup. He didn’t want his weight to be measured; he didn’t want his height to be checked; he screamed bloody murder when the medic got close to his thumb with the pricking needle.  And I was a bit annoyed when he wouldn’t step on the scale, refused to stand on it. Then the medic said, “He’s frightened. No reason to do it this way. I’ll weigh you first; they you holding him.” And it hit me. He’s scared.  He doesn’t understand—he’s NOT been raised like my other kids, who take doctor’s visits in stride because they’ve gone since they were tiny—and always with Mommy or Daddy, whom they TRUST! Patrick has no one whom he can trust like that, and it will take time to build it. And because I am stressed, I am not extending the love and patience (with boundaries, of course) that he needs.

We’re adopting him. We’re in this for the long haul—just as my God, who adopted me, has committed to me for eternity. Someone said that to me when he heard we were adopting. “We who are Christ’s are all adopted. He is the only rightful heir.” We are doing for Patrick what You have done for us—on a much smaller scale—because Your adoption cost You EVERYTHING—pain and blood and dignity and a separation from Your Son that is so much deeper and harder than the time apart that this adoption is costing us—and some money (which is Yours anyway). 

Okay, totally frivolous side note: I don’t like motoke very much, which is a problem since it’s basically a staple of Ugandan diet, a banana-shaped “fruit” that grows in bunches and tastes a little bit like potatoes. Not a whole lot like them, because I LIKE potatoes, and motoke somehow seems to stick in my throat.  It is thick, not quite tasteless, but close. I don’t know what it is that makes me almost gag. On other food notes, Vena is the ultimate hostess. She tries to get me to eat ALL the time, and there is just something about the combination of the heat and the stress—and the desire NOT to get sick in a strange place—that makes me want to eat very little. I eat all the vegetables they give me, all the fruit, but I’m a little wary of overdoing it with the meat (I think it was a piece of meat that I ate Sunday that’s continuing to upset my gut) and the hot milk-tea (which is particularly awful because those are delicacies, more expensive, and they are offered to me because I am the guest—and I would rather have vegetables and tea made with water).

On the days when I am away from the house I can eat little, because I know that as soon as I walk in the house Vena will be putting a bowl in front of me and watching me until I finish it. Then she will follow with tea and bread, with another meal behind it in just a couple of hours. She is afraid I am losing weight. “I cannot send you back to your husband like that,” she says. “They will think we did not feed you in Africa. You will go back skinny.” Skinny is not a good thing in Africa, where fat equals wealth.

Today I took a gamble. At Patrick’s medical checkup (this was just the initial visit; the rest of it is on Thursday), I made the decision NOT to have him vaccinated. This decision is not based on real evidence, just on my gut feeling and the truth that I feel a peace that it is best for Patrick. Here’s the situation: Patrick has no vaccination records, none, not that it would really matter anyway because Ugandan vaccinations are different from the U.S. requirements anyway, and he will have to be on that schedule now. For the U.S. Visa Patrick HAS to have medical checkup, and there is only one place that checkup is accepted from, the Surgery on Acacia Road. So when I went there last week to set up an appointment for Patrick, I discovered that the vaccinations are the largest part of the cost. For that reason—but also because the idea of a just-barely-three-year-old getting all the vaccinations required by the U.S. from birth to age three in just a couple of days seems pretty dangerous to me—I asked Jackson, the medic, if the vaccinations were required.

“Aah, I am not sure,” he said. “We must fill out a vaccination sheet as part of our report, but we have had around six American families choose to do their vaccinations in the U.S., and they did not come back to the Surgery.”

“So the Embassy accepted that?” I pressed.

“They did not come back to the Surgery.”

Not quite the clarity of answer I was hoping for. So I called the Embassy. “Are the vaccinations required?”

“Yes, they are.”

“All of them?”

“The vaccinations are required.”

Still not what I was hoping for.

I called again yesterday, Monday—Martin Luther King Junior Day—therefore, the Embassy wasn’t open. I called this morning, hoping to speak to the man, Nathan Fluke, that our lawyer Isaac suggested I speak to. He wasn’t in the first time I called. He wasn’t in the second time either. So I spoke with someone else.

“Are the vaccinations required?”

“Talk to the Surgery. They will know at the Surgery. We require a report from the Surgery.”

“But are the vaccines required, not just the medical checkup?”

“The Surgery will know. We require a report from them.”

By now, I was feeling like I had two heads and they were bouncing against each other. So I asked again when I took Patrick to his appointment at the Surgery. After all, “the Surgery will know,” right?

Jackson: “I don’t know. We just fill out this report and send it with the other papers.” (There are about six different forms. The vaccination report is just one sheet.)

We looked at the vaccination chart together. Most of them are able to be given up to age five, but if we gave them all—ant that’s the ONLY way the vaccination report could be filled out as COMPLETE; even if he had a couple of them, the doctor would still have to check the INCOMPLETE box—Patrick would have to have about seven different vaccinations! No way. He had already freaked out when they pricked his thumb, besides the fact that I didn’t want a very sick little man.

So we didn’t do it. And we will find out if that is okay when we apply for the visa. If it is not, we’ll go back and get them. If it is, then we do what makes me feel best—get home and set up a long-term schedule for getting them done at the doctor’s office just down the street. I have one more person to ask—the doctor Patrick will see on Thursday.

And he is American.  Thank you, Lord. Not to sound like a snob, because I trust an African doctor, too, but to be able to speak and be understood and listen and understand—it will be very nice.

Last note before I sign off (my computer is almost out of juice): today the weather is AWESOME! Cloud-covered sky, temperature in the low 70s, a light breeze. I’m loving it. The Africans, though, are wearing jackets, sweaters, saying, “It’s cold! It’s cold.”

No, this—this ain’t cold! My, what will Patrick do in Kansas?

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