Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Succumbing to Hope

Continued from Catching up

Being an extreme extrovert, Roma was happiest hanging out with people. This was obvious when I first laid cautious but adoring eyes on the active little seven-year-old, armed with a cheeky smile and big personality. He was asserting his will before he could speak English.  This mode of operation never decreased in vigor. Neighbors in my small community of twenty houses where we first lived when Roma arrived would report that the little fellow would knock on their doors and say, "I just came by to say hi." He loved people. He would visit his friends, often leaving the youth to seek out the adults in the home, just to talk, endearing himself to many. Roma spread himself around, never meeting a stranger. Soon most people in the community knew Roma. When they would meet me later, they would ask with fond smiles, "Are you Roma's mom."

I would answer, "Maaaybe." But it was always in jest, for I was so proud to be known as this precious boy's mother. Even if he wasn't behaving himself, I felt that no one blamed me because he was "adopted at seven." People thought we were such "nice people" for rescuing an orphan. I knew fully well, and told many, that Roma had been the one who rescued us.

When he returned in October, he revived his people skills. He reconnected with friends he had lost touch with, and he went out of his way to greet adults he had known. It was as if he slipped right back into the role of being the kid everyone loved. He hugged all adults from his past he hadn't seen for a while, and respectfully interacted with them, rightfully acknowledging their importance in his life. One friend recently shared that Roma had the ability of making everyone feel like they were his favorite.  

And after a couple of weeks home, after seeing all available friends, he even hung out with us occasionally. He brought a new friend from basketball home to meet us. I was impressed that Roma had such nice friends, friends of character.  He would invite friends over to watch ballgames with Bruce, and to our weekly Pizza Night, a tradition predating Roma, of neighbors who had become family over the years. Roma was home, enjoying the benefits of family.  

When he was home for dinner, he would come close to me, hang his arm about my neck and say, "Mom," like he had just had a great idea. "You want to fix me some potatoes?"  Of course, I did.

Potatoes were always Roma's favorite comfort food. The first evening seven-year-old Roma arrived at our house like a ricochet on steroids, he was going through the refrigerator once we finally confined him to the kitchen. He found potatoes in the bottom drawer. "Patoshka"  he said delightedly, standing up, holding one in each hand. I was more than happy to fix this man-child of twenty-one his cherished fried potatoes.  I would sit, happy to engage in conversation with him, occasionally fussing about the salt he poured on, as I had done since he was seven.

Roma was trying to save money for a car and insurance. He would hand me a wad of bills when he got paid, asking me to save it for his car fund. Then he would borrow some back for an outing with his friends. He stayed busy. He played volleyball on Monday nights, basketball on Thursday nights, pick-up games of basketball and football when he could entice enough friends to play, as well as working. He hardly had time for misbehaving!

He registered to play on a "semi pro" football team. Those practices were on Sunday afternoons. I got to drive him to practice too, sometimes annoyed that the car fund/activity fund canceled each other out. "Mom, remember, you said God said our time in the car was precious." That was enough to snap my heart back to a condition of gratitude. And patience.

 Roma was euphoric about football. He had played quarterback in public high school, but at Fork Union he switched to be a receiver,  starting on the offense and the defense. He was an All League receiver  for Pro-bound, Penn State quarterback, Christian Hackenberg.  A newspaper in Virginia had called them the "Dynamic Duo."  

Roma's early exit from Fork Union put a pause on a college football career for Roma. Not because colleges cared, but because we didn't trust him to go off to college and work at college goals other than football. He had to come home for a year and earn our trust. Instead he took a circuitous route, never really making it to college. I hadn't given up hope. He was smart enough. Even Taylor, five years Roma's senior, was just getting back to college in earnest.

"Mom, I'm so excited to be playing football again," he would say as he held his fists close to his chest, as if in an effort to keep himself from exploding from pure joy. And I was joyful for him. And about him. Sweet little Roma was back, the same enthusiastic boy he had been, before the boredom and rebellion of the teen years dulled his bright spirit.

I watched him with curiosity and listened with interest as he talked about his dreams for the future. His physical beauty was mesmerizing. I was captivated by the symmetry of his handsome face, his manly stubble (when did he lose the fuzz?), his dark wavy hair, and his dancing green eyes, so full of hope. It was contagious, for I grew hopeful too. 

Continue with Foreboding

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