Overlooked orphan to Trophy of Grace
From Deprivation to the American Dream
The ride home from JFK airport told the story. Our new son George had arrived in America and the level of sensory deprivation he had endured was glaringly apparent. I sat in the back seat of the car with this little waif. He was 14 months old, but the infant car seat he was in swallowed him up. His frail body was almost obscured by the padding so that all I could see clearly was his bald head and alert brown eyes.
Those eyes. They were hyper-focused out the window and barely took time to blink. And then there was the frenzied kicking. Something was exciting this boy on this dark, rainy March night, but the something was escaping me. I knew George had spent 14 months of his life inside a government building. His almost translucent white skin told me he had rarely, if ever, experienced God's gift of the sun. And we had seen the pictures. He spent his days sharing a rusty iron crib with two or three other babies, their only playthings, their own shadows on the wall.
|George at the orphanage in Timisoara, Romania, sharing a crib with two others.|
And then it hit me. The rain was coming down in torrents. It was making music on the car roof if you took the time to listen. What sounded like incessant rapping to my over-indulged ear, must have sounded like a symphony to George's unaccustomed ear. And the flood lights lining the airport exit road. They were what was mesmerizing George through the window. I noticed for the first time how vivid and bold they looked; so bright they each had their own halo surrounding them. The orphan had landed and jubilee had begun.
Each week George was home he reached a new milestone. After a year of living in a prone position in a crib, George didn't have the strength to hold his own head up. Once he was able to hold his head up,
he learned to sit up, and then scoot on his bottom--which was his version of crawling. One disturbing behavior was his habit of violently rocking himself side to side whenever we put him in his bed for a nap or for his night's sleep. We realized this was his way of self-soothing and self-comforting since he had rarely, if ever, been held or comforted by the overworked and superstitious orphanage staff. It was a subconscious behavior. If we walked into a room where he was sleeping, causing him to stir, he would begin to desperately rock in his sleep to bring himself back to a deeper sleep phase.
Miraculously, before our eyes, as the love of our family and good nutrition had it's way with him, George began to be transformed. The weight added to his 14-month-old frame first made him look like a healthy American infant. And then, as his hair began to sprout, George started to look like the toddler he actually was. His sallow cheeks became the glowing color of health and when he smiled, we all agreed, God had made him handsome.
|George at about 16 months old.|
George's days became filled with all of the experiences of a typical American boy. There was preschool in our small Connecticut town. And there was celebrating: Birthdays, holidays, field trips, family movie night and family game night. George blended into the culture and started headed for what looked like normalcy, except with the flavor of the typical Dennehy family craziness thrown in.
|The garlic bread bag makes a fine hat.|
|He even cheerfully accepted the indignity of being dressed as a pumpkin. With Dad, Mike and older siblings, Marissa, Ryan and Erin on Halloween.|