I remember the morning of Friday, April 29 2011 as nothing remarkable. I got up first. And then T. And then Lucas. I was in the kitchen making lunches when I heard the drag of one of T’s dresser drawers as he pulled it open in search of something to wear. I smiled, picturing him tossing the shirts with buttons and collars aside. I prepared myself for our morning game – T leaping into the kitchen proudly and fully clothed and me displaying dramatic surprise and faux shock. Oh, man! You beat Lucas AGAIN?!
I remember saying goodbye to Mika, Milo and Rocky. T gave each of them half of a Meaty Bone biscuit. He waited for Rocky to settle down in his crate and then he closed and latched the crate door. T’s morning responsibility had been the giver of dog biscuits for quite some time, but the crate-latching was new. He took the process very seriously.
I remember making a right instead of going straight. Why are you going this way, Daddy? I explained that there was too much traffic the way we usually go. T didn’t respond, choosing instead to shove his fingers back into his mouth and look out the window.
I remember feeling calm even while knowing a hearing was scheduled to start in 2 hours. Some days before, we had been told of recent events that made it unlikely T would go home on the 29th. The source – the assistant to the children’s attorney – was someone who seemed to be in the know.
I remember thinking the weekend visit would probably still happen. You’ll probably see your Mommy and Daddy today. Is that ok? You’ll get to see S and S. T loved to play with his sisters. I saw his reflection nodding and grinning in the rear view mirror.
I remember him suddenly sounding serious. I want to stay with you and Papa and Lucas.
I remember I had no words.
I remember my I love you and his I love you, Daddy. You’re my best friend! as we said our morning goodbyes. Lucas wasn’t walking then and I had to scoop him up from his crawl to kiss and hug him.
I remember being at work, reading emails and making phone calls. I prepared for a presentation I was scheduled to do at 1:30 pm – How to Weather the Storm, Practical Advice on Managing Stress in the Workplace. Yes. The irony.
I remember I was on my desk phone with my boss when I saw my cell phone display light up. An incoming call. No name. Just a number. The caller wasn’t in my address book. I let the call go to voice mail and continued my conversation, updating my boss on the presentation less than an hour away. It took a minute for it to sink in that the caller was probably T’s caseworker. I had forgotten that he tends to call from various cell phones.
I remember reaching for my cell phone and touching the screen to get to voice mail. I pressed the phone to my right ear while my boss talked in my left.
I remember a sense of slow motion and quickening all at once. The words in my left ear were drowned out by those in the right. I heard them in bits and pieces at first. good afternoon. advise you. T to return. transport him there. belongings.
I remember telling the caseworker that he would not pick T up and that we would take him there instead. The return was supposed to be immediate, but I stalled for time. Juan wasn’t going to be able to get home for at least two hours and there was no way T was going back without Juan seeing him.
I remember we agreed on 4pm.
I remember leaving my office and walking past a man in the waiting room, tears streaming down my face. He smiled and I thought that was odd.
I remember standing in the middle of the ramp between levels A and B. I dialed Juan’s phones over and over again. I got voice mail each time. At first, I couldn’t bring myself to leave a message that T was going back.
I remember driving on the expressway. Shouting. Screaming. Crying.
I remember I should not be driving.
I remember pulling up to Nancy’s house – T’s second home. Nancy, Camyll and my two beautiful boys waited for me on the front porch. Nancy’s and Camyll’s eyes were already red with tears. Their pain was almost more than I could stand. I could feel myself slipping and falling, yet I was standing still.
I remember they hugged and kissed him for the last time.
I remember carrying him as we walked to the car.
I remember his Why are you crying, Daddy? and my Because I might not see you anymore.
I remember laughing to his very sincere It’s okay not to cry, Daddy.
I remember walking through the front door and him immediately asking if he could watch a DVD in his playroom. He could’ve asked me to do anything he wanted to do at that point and the answer would have been yes.
I remember packing a few changes of clothes and his Shake N Go racetrack.
I remember Juan arriving home and us loading up the car. Our friends and neighbors – Auntie Nan and Uncle Pop – arrived from work just in time to say goodbye. My friend Dawn happened to call as we were on our way. I told her where we were going. Overcome with shock and sadness and tears, she was unable to continue.
I remember standing just outside the doorway of his new home, talking to his mother. She asked about his day care. She said she was going to get the kids into a Head Start program down the street.
I remember thinking she was making small talk and was just as uncomfortable and unsure as we were.
I remember we hugged and kissed him and then Juan, Lucas and I were back on the road.
I remember my phone rang two minutes after leaving the parking lot, the display lighting up with T’s mother’s name.
I remember my irrational She changed her mind!
I remember her Were you still planning on giving us a car seat? We had brought the wrong one. I told her to call the next day and we would coordinate dropping it off.
I remember feeling numb as we drove back home.
I remember going out to eat, because the alternative – being in a home without T – was an impossible and unimagineable scenario.
I remember silence when we arrived home.
I remember dragging myself to bed.
I remember that for the first time in many nights, I did not pray.