Posts tagged “adoption

Family Ties

Posted on 18/08/2017

Abe grinned from ear to ear as his younger brother Clement cuddled his new bride, all the while marveling over the years gone by.

He and Bart were high-schoolers when Clement joined the family. The sullen preteen kept his distance. Bart thought him a snob but Abe believed something kept Clement from trusting anyone. Although Dad loved each of his children, he was extremely patient with Clement’s mood swings. Abe remembered asking his father about the special treatment and his father’s response changed his attitude towards Clement. Unlike he and Bart who lost their parents, Clement’s parents were still alive–they just didn’t want him. He readily told Bart, and the two made it their summer project to love Clement regardless of his attitude.

Years later, their patience paid off. The once surly Clement became a responsible and loving brother who made both he and Bart proud. Abe was sure their parents in heaven felt the same way.

Clement pressed a kiss to Karen’s cheek and then turned toward his brother, one brow raised. “Ready?”

“Ready.” Abe gave his new sister-in-law a smile. “Sorry that I’m taking time away from your honeymoon.”

Karen slung an arm around Clement’s shoulders and laughed when her husband bent to accommodate her. “It’s alright. We’ve got the rest of our lives together. You’re just visiting for a week…” Her smile softened. “I’ll allow you some quality time together.”

Clement kissed her cheek before ducking out from under her arm. “Besides, she and the others are going on their own special tour.” He gestured for Abe to come with him and the two walked to the jeep.

“Be safe. Don’t do anything stupid!” Karen called behind them.

Abe smirked when Clement grunted and waved a hand over his head. “It’s already begun, huh?”

“She’s been nagging even before now,” Clement mumbled as he entered the driver’s side. “It’s coming too easily. Like she’s been practicing all her life for it.”

Chuckling, Abe folded his long legs into the jeep and strapped on his seatbelt. “So where to?”

Clement started the ignition and looked to his brother. “I want to show you what I do.”

Abe smiled at his brother. “We’re visiting a village?”

“Yes. A very special village.”

“Sounds good.” Abe patted his brother’s shoulder. “So, are you guys ready to host Eli?”

Clement sighed deeply. “Not yet. Stall for another few months. I just got married.”

“I get that but I doubt Eli will be as understanding. We’ve been stalling for months now.”

“I’ll help him understand….” Clement maneuvered the car off the bumpy terrain and onto the tarred road. Then he sighed, a blissful sound accompanied with a smile. “I like being married.”

“I bet. You haven’t stopped smiling since yesterday.” Abe chuckled. “Took you long enough to listen.”

“Trust me, if it wasn’t with Karen, it wasn’t gonna happen.”

Abe grunted and looked out the window. “Well I’m glad I could come, although I wish Phoebe was here.”

“Next time, you two should take a trip out. Maybe a second honeymoon.”

“Yeah, that’ll be good. She’ll welcome the break.”

“And see where you’re from.”

A furrow in his brow, Abe glanced over at Clement’s profile. “I remember nothing about this place.”

“Nothing at all?” Clement looked his way. “Really?”

Abe shook his head. “It was such a long time ago. All I remember was being Darah’s age when…” he trailed off, his gaze traveling to the mountains in the distance. In truth, his childhood memories were a blur.

“You know the toughest thing about being a pastor of that church?” Clement spoke through Abe’s reverie. “It’s having to balance the church affairs while working to reunite lost children with their families.”

“That can’t be easy.”

“It’s not. Especially when the children don’t remember where they’re from.”

Abe clucked his tongue. “Well, did they wander off on their own?”

“They didn’t. They were stolen.”

Frisson ran down Abe’s spine. He fixed his stare at Clement’s face. “What?”

“They were stolen from their parents’ homes and villages to be sold.”

Abe swallowed and looked away. He didn’t need Clement to elaborate; the mere thought sickened him.

“When I first heard about that, I reacted the same way you did. I was filled with disgust and disbelief. Then it turned to outrage. Then… I had to act.”

Abe’s lips twitched wryly. Clement and Darah were the most impulsive of all the Teka children; Clement more than Darah.

“With the help of Dula and later on, Ejigu, we began searching within our communities for these stolen children. Some were easier to find than others. The task was great, and we were just few. But slowly, surely, we were able to reunite families and villages with their lost children.”

Abe’s smile returned fully, pride surging through him. “Junior, that’s awesome. Man, I had no idea.”

Clement nodded. “I didn’t want to bother y’all with the details. It’s part of the job.”

“Still! It must take a toll on you.” His eyes moved over his younger brother’s features, realizing now why Clement often seemed bedraggled whenever he visited home.

His brother shrugged. “It’s a burden I’ll willingly bear.”

Abe placed a hand on Clement’s shoulder. “Mom and Dad will be proud. I certainly am.”

“… I do have a confession. I’m afraid I haven’t been fully honest about all I do here.”

“As long as it’s not putting you in harm’s way, it’s alright.” When his brother didn’t reply, Abe frowned. “Are you in danger?”

“No. Not now.”

Abe scowled. “Not now? What does that mean?”

Clement sighed. “Listen. There’s another reason why I’m bringing you out with me.”

“What?”

“On one of my trips to bring a bus full of children back to their village, I had this crazy thought.”

Abe frowned, not sure any of Clement’s crazy ideas was worth mentioning aloud. They’d gotten into trouble with their parents due to some of Clement’s crazy schemes. “What…?” he asked reluctantly.

“Your parents.”

Abe’s heart skipped a beat. “What… parents?” The only other parents he knew of had abandoned him in Wisconsin, and he preferred not talking about them ever again. The only parents he acknowledged had given him a name, a home and a family.

“The ones you were stolen from.”

Abe’s pulse jumped and his hand slipped from Clement’s shoulder.

Clement pulled up the side of the road and put the car in park. He shifted to face Abe. “I remember Dad telling me about how you and Bart came to the family. This was one of the days I was in one of my surly moods and Dad came to my room, telling me that you two had it bad as well. That I was acting like I was the only special case in the house, and that Bart didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to his parents who died tragically. And that you were stolen and abandoned by two set of parents before coming here.”

Abe only stared in silence.

“I remembered that story when I tried to get the children to remember their homes. They were so traumatized by the kidnapping and imprisonment that it took weeks to get them to remember anything. And when they did, it was a skewed image of their parents abandoning them.”

Not wanting to hear anymore, Abe turned and reached for the door handle.

Clement grabbed Abe’s wrist, stilling his movement. “Abe, listen.”

“No. Let go.”

“Just hear me out.” Clement sighed, loosening his hold on Abe’s wrist. “I did some research when I came home. Remember how I showed up randomly when Bart and Geri were in that fake marriage nonsense?”

Abe couldn’t nod, couldn’t respond.

“Well it wasn’t random. It wasn’t easy getting answers but having a meddling sister-in-law came in handy.”

Abe jerked his attention to Clement. “Phoebe knew…?”

Clement shook his head. “Not fully. I couldn’t give her much detail and I’m thankful she didn’t ask too much. She just knew I was up to something and I promised I’d tell her once I found out everything.”

Abe only stared, feeling like he’d taken a sucker punch to his gut.

“I found out about your parents, the ones who left for Australia–“

“New Zealand.”

“Right, New Zealand.” Clement warily eyed his eldest brother. “I know this is hard for you, Abe…”

Abe swallowed hard and looked down. “We’ve all had it tough.” He heaved a sigh. Even though the pain in his past was something he would rather leave alone, Abe knew Clement wouldn’t just stop there. Couldn’t stop there. He lifted his gaze to his brother’s face. “What else did you find?”

Clement nodded. “I did some attic hunting and you know how meticulous Dad is, keeping records of everything. From Bart’s broken collar to Darah’s missing tooth.”

Abe smirked wryly. “He always kept journals.”

“Exactly. So I started looking for a journal from when you were adopted.”

Abe’s smile eased away. “Did you find anything?”

“A few things. He talked about the first time he and Mom met you, made a few notes about his first impression on you.” His lips twitched. “Scrawny beautiful kid who needs to eat more.”

His eyes stung with tears that fell freely. He missed his father like crazy.

“He said Mom cried all night when they came back home, begging him to let her bring you home immediately. It took a week and a half to bring you home.”

Abe pressed his lips together. He missed Mama also. To think they’d lived a decade without them.

“Well, Dad wouldn’t let it go that you’d been abandoned by irresponsible adults and wanted answers. He made notes about finding out their background and that of the organization that gave you to them. All he wrote though was the name and their location.”

“Ethiopia,” Abe drawled, knowing at least that much. Dad had always been open about their mixed family, answering any questions he had about his origin. But at some point, Abe stopped asking and Dad let him. Perhaps he knew Abe didn’t want to dig up any painful stories about his past and left him alone. Clement was a different case. He heaved a sigh. “Why bring this up now, Junior? I’m well into my forties and I’m satisfied with the family I chose. I don’t need–“

“I found your birth parents, Abe.”

Abe jerked his stare up. “What…?”

“I found ’em.” Clement wore a smile that Abe couldn’t reciprocate.

“What do you mean you found them?” Abe couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

Clement nodded. “I know it sounds crazy but it’s true. And I feel like it’s God’s doing.”

All Abe felt like doing was throwing up. His brother’s hand to his shoulder did nothing to quell the unsettling feeling. He dragged his eyes to Clement’s face and the sympathy displayed in his eyes.

“They’re alive, Abe. And they want to see you.”

Abe’s eyes welled with tears and he shut his eyes tightly.

“I know it’s hard. I know what you’re going through.”

“No you don’t.” Abe shrugged off Clement’s hand and glared at him. “Why d’you go do a thing like that? Why did you have to meddle in something even Dad couldn’t? Did I ask you to find them? Did I?!”

Clement barely flinched when Abe raised his voice. “Calm down. Your blood pressure.”

Abe bristled, his glare hardening. “Like you cared before meddling. You had no right, Junior. No right.”

Clement nodded, calmly taking the brunt of Abe’s frustration. “I’m sorry for adding to your pain. But if Kayla or Isaac or Jacob had been stolen from you… Not only would you have searched all over for them, your life wouldn’t be the same without them. Wouldn’t you want them to know you’re still alive and holding onto hope that you’re waiting for them?”

Abe scowled. “That’s not the same thing.”

“What’s not the same, Abe? You’re their son, a son they never wanted to give up. Some wicked person came to steal you from them. Stole you right from under their nose–“

“Alright, alright!” Abe snapped, holding a hand to his temple. He noticed the tremor in his hand and curled his fingers into his palm. It then dawned on him why Clement insisted that he visit this time around. Not just to stand as witness at his impromptu wedding ceremony but to reunite him with the family he’d forgotten. He squeezed his eyes closed. “This isn’t fair, Junior…”

“I know. It’s rocked your world, it certainly rocked mine seeing them that first time. Abe, your father looks exactly like you and your mother’s got your eyes…” he paused when Abe held out a hand and waited patiently. His brother would need time and Clement was willing to wait a little.

Abe drew in a calming breath and released it on a shudder. “Are they… healthy?”

Clement smiled. Interest was a start. “Very. They’re farmers in the Southeast. A few hours from the capital. Your father grows all sorts of crops. Your mom sells them in the marketplace with her granddaughters.”

Abe raised both brows. “I have siblings?”

“Several.” Clement grinned. “Thankfully your parents consoled themselves and have a few more. All girls. So they never forgot about their first and only son. Your sisters are excited to meet you too.”

Overwhelmed, Abe eyed Clement dubiously. “Is this why you planned this fake tour?”

Clement’s grin brightened. “It’s not fake. Their village just happens to be the one I’m visiting.”

“Right…” Abe sighed. “You’re just like Mama. Won’t stop until you get your way.”

“And just like Mama says, it’s for your own good.” He chuckled when Abe rolled his eyes. “You up for it?”

“I can’t lie and say I’m ever gonna be ready.” Abe frowned. “I had buried that part of my life long ago. I don’t even remember what they look like or feel like. I don’t know what I’d say or how to react when I meet them.” His stomach turned in anxiety and remorse filled his heart. If what Clement said was true, meeting his birth parents for the first time would be like meeting strangers. In a way, they were strangers and he didn’t know how to prepare for this.

Clement squeezed his shoulder. “Like you always tell me when I’m fretting about something. You’ll know what to do when you get there. You’ve been prepared all your life for this. As a father, husband, father to both your children and to us, you’re ready for this. You’ve got this.”

Abe eyed him dubiously. “That’s not helping. It’s like ripping open a wound and then giving me a Band-Aid.” He sighed and rested his head back against the chair. “Let’s go before I change my mind.”

Clement managed a smile. “You’re doing the right thing, Bro. I’m proud of you.”

Abe only grunted.

With one more look at his eldest brother, Clement maneuvered the jeep back onto the road. “Don’t worry. It’ll be as short or as long as you want it. And if you just want to see them and then leave, that’s fine too. They’re prepared to give you time also.”

Abe closed his eyes. “Just shut up and drive. I need to think.”

“Yes sir!” Clement stepped on the accelerator, heading for Abe’s childhood home.

<<Story Page>>

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Sanctuary, Chapter 11

Posted on 30/06/2017

Clement blinked, not quite sure he heard her correctly. She couldn’t have interrupted his sleep to interrogate him about personal matters. “What?”

“A woman named Karen called asking for you.”

“You went through my phone?”

“I did not. Meko was playing with it when she called. Who is Karen?”

Clement stared at her for a moment and then shook his head. “We’re no longer in a relationship, which means I don’t have to answer that question. What else do you want to talk about?”

Her frown deepened. “You’re dating her?”

“Priscilla, I’m tired and my head hurts. Either say something relevant or go to your room.”

“So she’s irrelevant?”

“Oh my God,” Clement groaned, covering his eyes.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” There was a lilt in her tone. “Okay, next subject. How did it go?”

He uncovered one eye and regarded her warily. “Thought you didn’t care.”

“Of course I care,” Priscilla countered. “How come it’s different when Wubit gets mad about Dula’s involvement but I get crucified when I do it with you?”

“She’s his wife. It’s her right to be concerned.”

“Wow, Clement. That was low.”

He tamped a sigh, not in the mood for conversation. “On second thought, I don’t want to do this now. Please close the door on your way out.”

“You’re such a jerk when you’re mad.”

Clement arched a brow. “Who isn’t a jerk when they’re mad? You cursed me out and broke up with me on the same night.”

“I was worried for your safety!” Priscilla insisted. “Do you have any idea what I went through—?”

“Priscilla, enough already. We’ve been through this too many times to rehash it again.” He pinned a hard look at her. “I understand this isn’t what you expected coming back for the third time. But not everything can go your way just because you want it.”

“Waitamin—”

“You broke up with me twice and I’ve finally moved on. So if you’re here to stay, let it be clear the only relationship between us is for the children’s benefit, not yours.”

Her eyes glistened with unshed tears. “Are you being serious right now?”

“Very serious. Since we need a doctor and the children are used to you, it’ll be better than having to hire a stranger. So feel free to stay.”

Priscilla sniffed noisily, tears pooling.

He rubbed at his weary eyes. “If that’s all, I’d like to get some sleep.”

Wordlessly, she stood from the bed and shuffled to the door.

Clement sighed deeply. “Wait. Priscilla.”

She turned to face him, hope plain in her eyes.

“My phone, please.”

Her lips thinned. Shuffling back to the bed, Priscilla fished in her pocket for the phone and dropped it in his open hand.

Clement waited until she left the room before dropping his head back on the pillow. So much for a peaceful night.

His eyes opened, realizing Karen Wells had called. Curiosity trumped sleep, and Clement held the phone up to his face.

A smile formed as he recalled Karen planting a kiss to his cheek before hurrying away. In all honesty, that kiss had stayed on his mind and distracted him for the rest of the day. It was only the shocker of Eleazar’s absence that knocked him back to his senses.

Karen was a smart and beautiful woman, just like Priscilla. From what he knew about her, she had a gentle spirit that was necessary to take care of patients including Darah’s cranky father-in-law. Unlike Priscilla, her bedside manners extended outside the hospital; she was friendly and graceful with everyone.

Clement’s smile froze, realizing the direction of his thoughts. That wasn’t a fair comparison.

Priscilla was sweet when in the mood for it. However, her stubbornness often clashed with his. After many years of arguing and restarting their relationship again and again, Clement couldn’t imagine a future with someone as stubborn and hard-headed as he was.

Although his brother Bart and sister-in-law Geraldine had similar temperaments, one of them often deferred to the other… Priscilla deferred to no one.

He shook his head, feeling a headache creep up his temples. His five-year relationship with Priscilla was finally over, and he could move on with his life. Besides, there were far too many pressures other than relationships to consider.

Reminding himself that Karen was just a friend of the family and her spontaneous kiss was due to gratitude for his support, Clement dialed her international number and waited for an answer. He looked forward to talking with Karen, even if it was just for a minute or two. She was always a breath of fresh air and managed to draw a laugh out of him.

He’d readily forfeit an hour of sleep to chase away the troubles from his mind.

Karen struggled to stay awake, her body unable to take another minute of the grueling 12-hour seminar. It was one workshop after another all day, discussing everything from child slavery to HIV prevention. Some were informative and thought-provoking, while some felt like review sessions in nursing school.

This particular session focused on wound care and Karen instantly tuned out the presenter. She could treat wounds in her sleep.

Blinking weary and dry eyes, Karen reached for her cup of coffee only to find it empty. The groan escaped her lips and the volunteer beside her snickered. Karen propped up her elbow, resting her cheek there. The makeshift pillow only weakened her resolve to stay awake, and her eyes started to close.

“Karen,” a voice called out, followed by a nudge on her arm.

She jolted awake, earning chuckles and giggles all around. Karen blinked sleepy eyes. “Huh?”

The presenter smiled patiently. “For those with little first-aid experience, could you explain the difference between CAT and SOFT tourniquets?”

She refrained from rolling her eyes and glanced over to where Jennifer sat on another row. After the first workshop on illegal adoptions, Jennifer steered clear of her. It made no difference to Karen either way. Glancing once at the stapled papers, Karen shrugged. “One is hard and the other soft?”

Her cavalier response invoked laughter all around, and even the presenter chuckled. “Final answer?”

“Maybe…” Karen paused as her phone lit up on the table. The +251 number was unlisted but she recognized it after contemplating whether to save it or not. Clement Teka’s phone number. Without hesitation, she snatched it off the desk and stood. “Excuse me. Call.”

Not waiting for a response, Karen made her way out of the classroom, relieved for the distraction. Tapping the green call button, she held the phone to her ear. “Hello?”

“Hey.”

Against her better judgment, Karen’s stomach did a somersault. Clement’s baritone tickled her ears, a pleasant sensation that she didn’t mind one bit. Realizing herself, she frowned. “Hey.”

“… Is this a bad time? Did I wake you?”

Her lips twitched a wry smile. “Sorta.”

“Oh sorry. I can call back—”

“It’s fine, I’m awake now.” Karen attempted sounding as casual as possible, not an easy task with butterflies quivering in her belly. “What’s up?”

There was a slight pause and Karen feared he’d hung up. Then he let out a deep yawn that had Karen’s brows lift in surprise. “My bad. Long…” he paused to yawn again. “… day. Sorry.”

“Probably not as long as mine,” she said, a smile forming against her resolve. He was so stinking adorable.

“Oh yeah? What was your day like?”

“Workshops since morning. Attempting to stay awake but losing the battle before you called.”

Clement’s low chuckle felt like a warm blanket. “Hopefully you’ll get to rest soon.”

“Yeah, hopefully,” Karen replied, leaning against the wall. “So what’s up?”

“I forgot my phone at home and missed your call. Sorry about that. Everything good?”

‘At home’ was all it took for Karen to recall his girlfriend, and her smile faded instantly. “It’s all good.”

“I’d like to hear about your adventures but I might fall sleep on you and miss all the good stories. So can I call you tomorrow?”

Karen frowned as her unruly heart skipped a beat. “Your girl cool with that?”

“… my girl?”

She rolled her eyes. “Your whole girlfriend, Clement. Remember her?”

Clement choked on a laugh. “Not sure what you mean.”

“Your girlfriend. Y’know, the one who answered your phone while you were gone.”

“Karen…” he sighed. “I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“Uh-huh.” She frowned, ignoring the fluttering in her gut. “Say listen, I gotta head back to this workshop so… yeah.”

“Sure. I can call you tomorrow.”

Karen rolled her eyes. “There’s no need. We’ll have plenty of time to catch up once I get to Addis Ababa.”

He paused briefly and then sighed again. “Okay. When do you get here?”

“In a few days. I’ll call you.”

“…okay. Take care.”

“Goodbye,” she said and quickly disconnected the call.

He must’ve thought she was that gullible. And it was her fault for making it a bigger deal that it needed to be. She was thirty-three, for goodness’ sake, not some teenage girl crushing hard on a guy. There were plenty of available men out there, if she was interested, but she had no time for drama.  Relationships were more than she could deal with currently, and she had her travel adventures to occupy her time and mind space.

Still, it sucked that even a man of God attempted to pull the wool over her eyes.

Annoyed with Clement but mostly herself, Karen shoved the phone into her pocket and returned to the classroom.

<<Chapter 10 || Chapter 12>>

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