Celebrating the day we returned home with Yosef (a.k.a. “Gotcha Day”) has always been bittersweet for me.
Our ninth Gotcha Day came and went on Friday of last week. We spent time celebrating over the weekend as we typically do—allowing me the chance to take time to think about my family and how we came to be.
April 15th, 2007 feels like yesterday in some respects and a long time ago in others.
So much about our adoption process brings a smile to my face. I laugh at the thought of the plane ride back home from Ethiopia—the endless flight connections, the 30+ diapers we went through along the way and the kindred spirit we felt toward all of the other families we made the journey with.
I remember rounding the corner in the airport and seeing my nieces and nephews hold up a huge banner welcoming Yosef home. That was a great day.
I typically focus on these great moments made possible by our adoption process. I cannot deny, though, that adoption is hard. It is difficult for me to mentally look past the struggle that created our joy. On days like Gotcha Day, I can’t help but think about Yosef’s birth mother.
April 15th provides me another reminder of the selfless and awful choice she was brave enough to make almost ten years ago.
Thinking about that choice is as sad as it is humbling. I wonder if this day would bring a sense of sorrow for her. As a father, I can only imagine that it might.
I yearn to meet her – to assure her that her son is happy and thriving. I wish I had the opportunity to tell her firsthand how much her bravery has meant to me.
For now, the only such meeting can happen in my dreams or in penning a letter that will likely not reach her on the Ethiopian countryside.
If I knew the letter would get there, I’d write –
To the creator of my family on our Gotcha Day,
I’ve written this letter in my head each of the past nine years at about this same time.
I want to say “Thank You” but those words aren’t strong enough for the ways we’ve benefited from your courageous choice.
I want to say “I’m sorry” but that phrase wouldn’t make up for the void left by your son’s placement.
I can certainly find the words to tell you that Yosef is a great kid. He’s doing everything you wanted him to.
Yosef is an excellent student, a good friend to others and an attentive big brother. He loves science and reading. He can run like the wind.
Yosef is tall and thin. He’s strong—he looks like the picture we have of you.
His smile is radiant, his laugh brings out the sun.
He often wonders about you, his extended family and the country he left behind. Yosef is curious about so much—how tall you are, if you’re left-handed like him and what his biological dad might have looked like. There are so many questions that I wish I had the answers to.
When he mentions you, I assure him that you are with us in spirit—and not just on Gotcha Day. I tell him that you’ll meet again one day. That thought makes him smile and soothes any short-term confusion.
Until we meet, you should know a few things.
Please understand that Yosef will be a leader. Yosef will be educated. His dreams are limitless.
Above all, your son is safe and loved without bounds.
Your courageous choice made it so. His dreams, his smile, and our love for him are all possible because of you.
I will not thank you because you didn’t give us anything. Rather, you entrusted us to carry on from your courage. You started to raise a strong, Ethiopian man and we are continuing that mission.
You created our family and we will always work in service to your bravery.
On Gotcha Day, or any day for that matter, I celebrate our good fortune and promise to repay the sacrifice that created it.