You’re ok with a part three of Francisco’s story, right? Because I have more to say. (If this is the first part of Francisco’s story that you’ve read, you should probably start here.) The last two posts have been so happy that I didn’t want to cloud them with complaint. You’ve now had a chance to bask in the perfection that was finding and reuniting this family.
I want to talk about some of the ugliness that happened before this day.
When we started brainstorming about this upcoming search, I asked Francisco to share any memories he had of the family he lived with. He had one. Only one. He said he remembered being brought to a building with lots of stacked beds and toys in a corner. He said he was asked about his life and he said “My dad hit’s my mom”. (That would be Delia’s husband hits Delia. Just want to make sure we stay on the same page.)
The only memory from the first six years of his life is of when he was abandoned.
He said that for many years it was too hard to think about other memories, so they faded. What goes through your mind when you’re that young and your world is turned upside down? No one explained what was happening to him. No one said “That nice lady who was kind enough to take you in can no longer care for you.” He thought she was his mom, that these people were his family. What do you do when you are shown love on a daily basis and then suddenly all of that is gone? If you want to survive, you bury the memory of that love very, very deep and focus on now. Today is your only reality. These are the things I thought as he talked. He communicated the actual memory in such a straightforward and emotionless manner that I didn’t think much of it. I figured that the toys in a corner were such an enticing sight that they made the cut for entrance into his long term memory.
Until that nearly perfect day with Delia.
We had been there for a while. He had stopped wringing his hands. He was sitting up straight. He had gotten his confidence back. We were in full reminiscing mode. Then Delia gets quiet and says “Do you remember the day that I took you to IHNFA?” His body freezes as he nods. She begins to recount the same scene that he had described to me. The toys in the corner. The pile of mattresses. And she says “Do you remember how I said that I’d come back the next day?”
He crumbles under the weight of her words. It was as though pressure has been building behind a dam that he didn’t even know was inside of him. He’s done such a good job of moving on and forgetting for the past ten years. But her words punched a hole in that dam that was big enough for all the pressure to release.
In one of the books I find most encouraging called ‘Reckless Faith’ (This is when all of you take a break from reading and go buy this book. I’ll wait…), Beth Guckenberger talks about the day a child is left.
“Every one of them has been abandoned or abused. There is no exception. For some, they don’t remember the day they were dropped off, they just slowly grew up with the realization that they live differently than the other children in the village, school or on TV. For others, however, they do remember the moment they were left behind and usually it starts with a lie. They are told they are going to a fair or a carnival [or they see all those toys in the corner] so they skip off the bus or jump out of the taxi and run toward the other children. . . No kid would get on the bus if he knew he was going to the orphanage. Then sometime later on that night [or the next day when she doesn’t come] it hits them. The impact of that first day is so strong, they’ll never forget it.”
These words being found in my favorite chapter, I’ve read them many times. But this was the first time I saw these words come to life. The toys in the corner had nothing to do with why Francisco remembered this day. He remembered it because this act of being abandoned was the day his heart was ripped in half.
But we aren’t even to the part that makes me the most disgruntled.
“Do you remember how I said that I was coming back the next day?
I did Cisco. I came to that door every day for a week.
But they wouldn’t let me see you because I’m not your family. If I had known that that was going to happen, I never would have taken you there.”
Then her daughter chimes in.
“She cried every day for a month. She missed you so much. We had to remind her that she had other children that needed her too.”
Delia hugged him as the water gushed out of the leak that had sprung in the dam and my blood began to boil. He had lived ten years thinking that he had been lied to and abandoned by people that supposedly loved him. How did this muddle his idea of what love and commitment are? What did it do to his self-esteem to think that he could be ‘left’ so easily?
Ten years, TEN, that he thought they didn’t care when the truth was that she was outside the freaking gate being denied entry.
And I have waltzed through that door and so many others with barely more than a nod and smile.
As in, I arrive at a children’s home for the first time, without permission, without knowing anyone, and I talk my way in. Who the hell am I that I have access to these kids when Delia is left banging on the door? I am thankful that I am allowed to go to these homes and show a little bit of love to children that are starved for it. But what would have had the best impact on Francisco’s childhood? a) Me hanging around and telling him how great I think he is and that he really should only have one girlfriend at a time. (Seriously, Francisco, just one. I don’t care if they live far away from each other.) OR b) Visiting and maybe returning to the Honduran woman who has cared for him since he was one and loves him like her son. (My question isn’t which of these is good. I know they’re both good. But which is BEST.) Drum roll please…
Some of you may be saying “But what if abusive parents are trying to get in! It’s good that it’s hard for them to have access to the kids!” I agree with you on that one. BUT. IHNFA has an intake form. And on said intake form, a box is checked that details why the child is there. There is a box next to ‘mistreated/abused’. That box is empty on Francisco’s form. The box that is marked on his form says ‘abandonado total’. Totally abandoned. There were no safety concerns with his case. The problem was that no one on the inside seemed to be concerned at all.
I feel like so often when I write, I scratch the surface of big issues that I could dive into. When I start to get really frustrated about what the kids have experienced I cut it off before Jenny sans filter begins to rant. So as I sit here, trying to figure out to wrap this up, my mind is flooded with thoughts about
a) The color of my skin getting me an all access pass.
b) The distrust that so many Hondurans have of other Hondurans crippling any desire to decrease the violence in this country. How can you have peace when you think everyone is your enemy?
c) What in the heck can I do about this?
d) Jesus, please raise up an army of Hondurans who will fiercely fight for all children in this country.
This has been a wonderful story. Believe me when I say that this experience of finding Delia and watching them reunite ranks in the top 5 best days of my life. (And I’ve had some darn good days.) But I will gladly forgo these days if it means that kids like Francisco can avoid experiencing an ounce of the pain that made this story so powerful.
And seriously Francisco, only one girlfriend at a time.