My parents saw Cricket once, when he was five and a half months old; my mother snatched him up and passed him around, and then made a joke about kidnapping him. My mother’s sense of humor is not my favorite thing about her—as it turns out, Ruth doesn’t appreciate it either. She subsequently wrote my mother a letter citing the joke and letting her know that she would never see Cricket again. My parents have been permitted to send a birthday gift each year, and they do, but that’s the extent of their contact.
But this year, I decided to ask Ruth and/or Nora whether they would be willing to have dinner with my parents on the visit—anywhere you like, they will pay, and they will be on their best behavior. Nora was willing to give it a shot, and my parents were thrilled. And then, the morning of the visit, my mother pulled Cricket aside and started talking quietly to him. I couldn’t hear her, but even assuming the most harmless chat (which it probably was), I started shaking my head at her so hard that it looked like I was having some kind of fit, my expression a clear message: WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING? I sent my dad a text from the road, saying that listen, I know this is weird and probably condescending and I’m sorry, but it would be really good if at dinner there could be no teasing or joking and no talking to Cricket where Nora can’t hear. My mother was hurt by my silent, frantic criticism of the morning, but she and my dad talked, and they ended up on the same page.
When my dad talked to me about his position, he said: “I pretend that I’m on the sex offender registry. Like, here are my hands! I will keep them in view at all times! And I know that I’m not a sex offender, but—” he shrugged. “We haven’t seen him in years, and we just want to eat him up, but we know that we can’t. But hopefully he’ll know that we care about him, and when he’s older, if he wants—we’re here.”
At dinner, my parents were interested and friendly and wholly appropriate; they thought that Cricket was lovely and hilarious. Nora told them that they could ask Cricket to call them whatever they liked, and so they are using the same terms they do with Joy and Kit: Oma and Granddad. Nora texted me later that night to say that my parents had been very nice, and that Cricket had enjoyed himself—and that they’ll try to come for a longer visit next time.
And then my mom spent her night just crying and crying. My dad told me genuinely but without any real hope that they would love to invite Cricket to our family vacation next summer. he expressed a hope that maybe next visit they might be able to give him a hug. This adoption stuff is awfully rough sometimes.