The Birth of a Family

What's a single white guy doing with three Mexican kids? Making a loving family — and showing how foster adoption can work.

from Reader's Digest | November 2011

The day after I brought the children home for good, Craig had a fever. I didn’t know what to do and neither did Joy, my childless sister. So I called my new boss.

“He’s really hot.”

“How do you know?”

“I’m touching him.”

“Do you have a thermometer?”

“No.”

“Buy a digital one. And get some Pedialyte.”

“Pedialyte?”

“It’s a medicine that prevents dehydration. Then take him to the doctor.”

I took Craig to the emergency room. He was so weak, his head bobbed like a toy doll. The admitting nurse said,

“What have you given him?”

“What do you mean?” I wasn’t sick. Whatever he got, it wasn’t from me.

“Medicine, what medicines have you given him?” A few nurses drew closer.

“Nothing. I don’t have any medicine.”

“You’re supposed to give sick kids medicine,” she announced through a 45-watt ThunderPower 1000 bullhorn.

The circle drew in. Should we call Social Services? Who is this idiot?

“I just got him yesterday. I didn’t think he’d be sick.”

I took Craig to the doctor many times over the next months. He was constantly feverish. When he was ill, he slept with me so I could make sure he was still living. His body was no larger than a snow crab and half as strong. I worried that if I put my arm around him, I’d make it hard for him to breathe, so I moved his crib into my bedroom. We’d wait it out in there until he was sturdier.

In the meantime, people at work told me that their two-year-olds could calculate the square root of 169 or design relay stations for the electric company. Craig was behind, let’s say. I decided to teach him numbers and letters. How hard could that be? I drew a 2.

“Draw this.”

He drew a crooked dash.

Oh, no.

I drew a C, the first letter of his name.

He drew two crooked dashes. His brain was scattered. Special ed. He communicated in Morse code like a seaman on the Lusitania, unaware of the torpedoes society shoots at children like him. I worried about his future. Should I work harder to go higher in the corporate world and make more money to get Craig lifelong help?

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