They did not know I was coming to the orphanage today. It explains the absence of red carpet and confused greeting I received from Sister Camille. "You're coming for Sensi? No one told us."
"I was afraid of that," I replied.
Communication between my agency and the orphanage had gone cold. I had experienced a lag in email responses myself, as of late. "They've been so responsive up until now," I told Liz last week. "But this is when we need them the most."
Sister Camille stood before me, shaking her head. "I was beginning to wonder about Sensi. What's happening? Did they find TB or something else? We've heard nothing."
"Well, he passed his medical exam," I assured her. "And I said I would be here Tuesday because we have an embassy appointment tomorrow."
"Praise God," she said, tracing a cross from her forehead to chest to shoulders.
Sensi, of course, was not prepared to see me. Since the orphanage workers did not have prior notice, they could not tell him, "Your daddy is coming." So I was an unexpected visitor.
After a moment of commiseration, I asked, "What do we know? I just showed up. I don't know anything." I needed information about Sensi's paperwork, medications, daily schedules, diet, and how to keep his skin from drying out.
The Sister and I hatched a plan. I would wait in the sitting room, listening to rain pummel metal rooftops, while she made arrangements. She summoned Sensi and called the local lead for my adoption agency. She gathered baby oil (for his scalp) and meds (for his thyroid).
Ten minutes later Sensi appeared. So did Sister Luthgarde. "I didn't know you were coming," she said. This, apparently, was a refrain for the day. When two ladies from my agency arrived within the hour, carrying a copy of the court decree and a file of medical tests, they echoed the sentiment: "No one told us you were coming."
Sensi never said a thing, but that is his nature. I may have been an unexpected visitor to him, but he showed little sign of shyness. In fact, he quickly reflected a level of comfort and warmth. When I read him a book, he turned the pages. When I drew a picture, he added a scribble with his pen. When I crawled to the floor and pushed a miniature monster truck (an oxymoron, no doubt) in his direction, he laughed and sent it rushing back.
This boy looked similar to the one I adopted five weeks ago, but he acted drastically different. Whereas before he was braced, today he was buoyant. We laughed and joked, explored elevators and balconies, read books and colored pages, built Legos and ate cake. When he tried on a new outfit, he beamed with pride, even shuffling his feet in a modest dance.
The day was not without stretches of boredom and difficulty. We flitted from activity to activity, as if he were a bumblebee or three-year old boy. He touched every screen, manipulated every switch, messed with the phone, and stuck his hand down the toilet (after several flushes). I constantly redirected, reaffirmed, and reminded myself this was the same boy I met a month ago.
His lively, humorous, and ornery nature were not what I had expected. But my expectations were formed by a few hours in a formal setting. Perhaps, you get a better impression of someone when you come to them as more than a visitor. Today I came as a father to bring him home.