D loves airplanes.
“Avion! Avion!” he screams whenever he sees, hears or thinks he sees or hears one. His favorite toys are airplanes. He asks me to put videos of airplanes from YouTube on the TV. He talks constantly about airplanes.
To the best of our knowledge, he’s taken exactly one airplane trip in his life — the flights that brought him from Burkina Faso to us in February.
Now, suddenly, there’s the reality of a second airplane trip.
I don’t know exactly how long I thought we’d have D in our family, but when people asked me when he might go home, I’d tell them, “Sometime in the fall, most likely.” I don’t know what gave me that impression. No one told me it would be in the fall. I just assumed a kid who had as many surgeries as he ended up needing, as many complications that threw off the original plan, would be leaving toward the “nine” end of “six to nine months.”
Then, two weeks ago, Carla got a call from the person in charge of the charitable organization that brought D to America. She told her that D’s visa expires Aug. 11 and the plan is to have him go home in late July, if everything continues as it is, medically.
The news hit us like a hammer.
D has become such a huge part of the fabric of not just our family but of our little community. Our neighbors, our friends … they all love to see little D. He has enraptured nurses, baristas, anesthesiologist, Wal-Mart cashiers. The list goes on and on.
And now he’s got a tentative date to go home.
In so many ways, we are happy to have reached this point. When you compare how D got around when he first arrived to how he’s getting around today … well, I cannot wait for his parents to see how far he’s come, to have him walk off that avion and straight into their arms.
D — whom I call “Little Warrior and for whom I play music from the Rocky movies while he’s doing his physical therapy at home — has undergone something like 15 surgeries since late February. We long ago lost count. Not only has he had a clubfoot straightened, he’s had both his legs broken and reset to create better alignment, and he has stared down a staph infection that necessitated skin being taken from his thigh and grafted to his shin.
From all of that, he has had only three days that we’d consider “bad,” the days following his biggest surgery in which the pain outpaced the pain meds, no matter what they tried.
Just three bad days in spite of all that work. The kid is amazing.
So now we start to think about life without D. When he goes home, there’s a chance we might never talk to him again. There’s also a chance he might come back to us every few years to get fitted for new braces as he grows. We hope this is the case.
We haven’t told D about the July 27 date. He, like most 4-year-olds, has no real concept of the passage of time. But we’ve started talking about what it will be like when he gets home, how Mama and Papa can’t wait to see him, how his much-maligned baby brother, Beno, might not be so quick to cry with the passage of six months.
So now he talks about avions even more. He asks us if we’ll be flying back with him. He even told us we could rip out all the seats on the plane so we’d have more room to play. I tell him that we can’t go with him, that someone from his country will take care of him all the way back home safely.
“Sad,” he replies. “I cry. I cry big-much.”
I tell him I’ll cry too — big-much — that I am so, so proud of him for being so strong all these months and that Mama and Papa will be even more proud of him.
He shakes his head.
I can tell he’s conflicted. He wants to see Mom and Dad, but he doesn’t want to leave his host family and host friends.
Or maybe he just doesn’t want to hurt our feelings by being too excited.
Either way, our journey with D — the first part, at least — is coming to an end. Yes, there is some element of relief in that; this journey has been challenging for all involved.
Still, I haven’t quite wrapped my head around not hearing that excited call of “Da-Da!” when I walk in the door and not reading “Go Dog Go” for the 5,193 time.
D hasn’t had a haircut since he’s been here. His last cut was right before he came here. He evidently associates haircuts and travel. I told him I’m taking him to the barber shop tomorrow.
He got a spark in his eye: “Avion soon? Mama? Papa?”
“Soon, kid. Soon.”
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