After we hung up the phone, attention shifted to prepping for our next-day trip to NY to meet the little boy who might end up being ours forever.
The kids were still awake, and were sort of following the activities on our phone call. They were as excited as Lisa and I were to leave. We all tried as best we could to get a good night’s sleep.
Allowing for travel & rest stop time of about 3 hours, we loaded up our cameras (and extra batteries), piled into the car and hit the road. Ryan’s host family suggested that 5PM in the afternoon would be best for them – so a 5PM arrival is what we planned.
Time Check: Early Saturday Afternoon, August 2nd, approximately 2:00 PM.
Fortunately, we have easy access to the PA Turnpike Northeast Extension, which took us most of the way to our destination. The ride was unusually quick, due to our anticipation, I’m sure. We made a last bathroom break stop about 30 minutes out, and prepared ourselves for arrival. Our heads were swimming in “I wonders…” and “Does he’s…” and “What ifs…” as we wound our way from the highway to Ryan’s Host Home. We wanted to make sure we remained sensitive to their schedule, especially given Ryan’s need to begin his trek back to China the next day.
Our GPS guided us right into the driveway, and as we spilled out of our car, we were greeted warmly by Ryan’s Host Family’s brother and father.
Time Check: Saturday Afternoon, August 2nd, 5:00 PM SHARP!
I would like to say that I remember every single moment of the next hour, but truthfully the time melted off the clock as quickly as any single hour I’ve ever experienced. We loaded our camera(s) with as many future memories as we could – snapshots and videos. Ryan’s Host Family also captured some great photos as well. In the interest of keeping this interesting (and not getting lost int he weeds…), here are a few of my memories.
First Impression: We couldn’t believe how fortunate we were to be sitting in the same room as our (potential, at that time) new son. Opportunities like this just do not happen. Some parents are lucky to be able to get a good set of photographs taken by the childrens’ caretakers, or perhaps a photo or two of their new children taken by other families that had visited the CWI on THEIR adoption journeys <…author’s alert: foreshadowing…>. But here we were, 3 hours from home, yet just 6 feet from him. He was (is) indeed a very special little boy.
The first part of our visit consisted of a complete interrogation (I mean that in a good way…!) of Ryan’s family in their living room. We were introduced to his two host-sisters, and his two host-brothers. Ryan seemed a bit overwhelmed and likely a little confused and intimidated, at first. But even in the initial few moments, it became very clear that he had established very close bonds with his two host-sisters. He clung to them for comfort and familiarity as our children tried to make contact. They offered their small welcome gifts of three small dinosaurs – his host mother had told us that Ryan enjoyed dinos. At the same time, the adult conversation – about everything Ryan – was speeding along. Ryan’s host family, whom we’d just met on the phone the night before, was obviously loving with him and so generously forthcoming with us. They answered all of our scripted questions and offered some other great insights on what he liked/disliked and described in detail how he interacted with them. They even took Ryan to see a local eye specialist to confirm the details of his condition – to try to confirm what had been diagnosed in his medical records. What the eye doctor found seemed in synch with what Ryan’s reports indicated.
Before too long, Ryan (perhaps sensing that our children might be up for a bit of more ACTIVE playtime) led everyone outside on the back deck. It seems that Ryan enjoys pools, swimming, and playing with water… It wasn’t very long at all before a large pot of water and a handful of water toys materialized. Moments later it was every kid for him/herself!
Our three little ones were not quite sure whether or not it would be OK for them to join the fray – to their credit, they asked if they could & the looks on their faces were a mix of I really want to grab a water gun and I really don’t want to get in trouble for getting wet. It took about 0.05 seconds for Lisa to grant the appropriate clearances and in 0.07 seconds they were soaking wet!
All of the kids were having a blast and Ryan could certainly give as good as he got! He was really fun to watch – what a joy for us to see the expression on his face. (He had pretty good aim, even despite his less than perfect vision!)
Here’s Ryan drenching Kyle!
After 7 (or was it 10?) refills of the pot, everyone was sufficiently soaked to the skin! Not anticipating the deluge, we had not thought to pack changes of clothes for our crew!! The wet ride home was more than worth the fun…we could always dry everyone off later. After all, chances to blast your new little brother (and get blasted by him) with water guns the day before he leaves to go back to China don’t come around very often.
In a few minutes, attention shifted to a new game – one that Ryan had apparently mastered in 29 days – with the help of his host sisters and brothers. One of his sisters grabbed a handful of brightly colored play rings and tossed them onto the deck. On cue, Ryan grabbed a water gun and began pointing to the rungs and announcing their colors for everyone to hear. At times he’d point to a ring and say the color, other times he’d wait for someone to say a color and he’d quickly point to the ring. He even handed over his pointer to Ashley for a few moments as he tasked her with pointing to the colors he mentioned. Ryan was 100% on – every time.
Here’s what it looked like:
Lisa and I caught each others’ eyes when we realized two very noticeable things. First, he was able to learn his colors in ENGLISH during his stay…actually he’d been able to learn the English words several songs that his host family was fond of singing with him. We were very happy with how much progress he’d made in such a short visit. Once again, this was thanks to the care, love and attention that Ryan’s Host family surrounded him with during his Host stay – we were so happy to have the chance to see this live and in person.
Second, we got a chance to gauge his vision as he played. It was obvious to us that he had the ability to distinguish colors from at least 6-8 feet, and the ability to point out the rings easily with the water gun – despite his vision challenges. In addition, throughout our visit we noticed how Ryan could navigate his way pretty well around the house (and deck), having become familiar with the floor plan, furniture locations, doorways, etc. in the Host Family’s home. When he needed to (if he sensed any uncertainty, for instance near stairways, etc.) he did rely on his Host sisters and brothers for guidance, and he’d reach out for a hand – which was always very near.
My heart sank a bit when I pulled out my phone to snap a few more pictures. I’d caught a glance of the time – it was nearly 5PM. Somehow our hour had come and had nearly gone – much too quickly. We knew that this was our only window and we’d tried to make the best use of our time. Our Hosts invited us back inside to take a few more photos and to say our goodbyes. I can only imagine what might have been running through Ryan’s mind as all of the children mugged for the group shots. We were thankful beyond words that Ryan’s Host family was so gracious and generous to let us upend their last Saturday with him. We were also hopeful that our visit didn’t add more emotional turmoil to Ryan’s final preparations. After the final goodbyes, we made our way back to our car.
Time Check: Saturday Afternoon, August 2nd, 6:00 PM SHARP!
We piled back into the car, fastened our seatbelts and dropped into reverse to back out of the driveway. As I turned my head to see out the window and guide us out to the road home, Lisa – already knowing – took a very quick poll of our crew: Ryan would be a Lockhead. Whatever it took and as soon as we could make our move with our agency we would bring him home again, this time forever. We will always be grateful to Ryan’s host family for the 60 minutes that would change all of our lives.
Time Check: Saturday Evening, August 2nd, 6:02 PM!
We made our way back to the highway. Every time I happened to look over at Lisa, her smile was as wide as mine. The kids were all-in, too. We couldn’t wait to get home and make it happen. The trek back to our house was a little soggy for the children (as they were still wet!), but they soon settled in with their DVD and headphones and tuned Lisa and I out. That freed us to talk about plans for our future as a family of six for the first part of the ride home, and let us enjoy a peaceful simple silence (save for Margaritaville on Sirius/XM) for the rest of the drive – knowing that our decision we’d made would be perfect for our family.
As the miles piled up on the odometer, Ashley was the first to fade, followed by Kyle not long after. As he usually does, Dylan fought the sandman all the way home and won, and was the last man standing (or rather sitting up) as we pulled into the driveway.
Time Check: Saturday Night, August 2nd, 9:47 PM.
I scooped Ashley up first, got her upstairs and Lisa got her tucked away in bed in a few moments. As I carried an exhausted Kyle into the house and upstairs, I couldn’t help but glance at one of our old photos, in one of the many collage frames that line our switchback stairway. It is a photo of Lisa, Kyle and me, in Nanchang, China (on Kyle’s Adoption Day in 2006) holding Kyle between us. I could not believe just how quickly he’d grown to be 9 years old – and how he’d gotten to be so damn heavy!
In a few days we let Ryan’s Host Family know of our decision to make him ours. They were as happy as we were!! Once again, it’s hard to find words to express our gratitude to them for turning their weekend (and Ryan’s last day) upside down and giving us the impossible chance to meet our future son.
In 24 hours, we’d gone from not even knowing them, to looking forward to having them share in Ryan’s life as a Lockhead after we bring him home.
What a day it was – we will never forget it.