Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Visit Home

Shortly after we returned home with Conner in 2014, we found out some most surprising, and somewhat disconcering, news.  He has a biological twin brother.  Conner hadn't tried to hide this from us, in fact, he was surprised that we didn't know about it.  It was close to his birthday-- just two months after we had brought him home, and Christi and Conner were talking about birthday plans.  Conner got very quiet and sad and she asked what was wrong.  He started to cry as he told her in very broken English that his brother would get no presents and no cake on his birthday.  She clarified, thinking he must mean a foster brother, but Conner insisted it was not only his brother, but his twin.  After about an hour of talking and trying to convince us he had a twin with very limited English, he told us to look on a flash drive he had brought with him for pictures and videos.  We had forgotten about this flash drive, handed to us in the middle of the chaos of gotcha day, and hadn't ever opened it.  Sure enough, this flash drive contained images and video of his brother, and the resemblance was unquestionable.  We were a bit dumbfounded by this news.  Why hadn't China told us about this?  What is his situation now?  If our son has a twin brother, what is our relationship to him?

An immediate thought was, can we adopt him, too?  Unfortunately, by law, once a Chinese child is 14, they cannot be adopted, so that was not an option.  Fortunately, we live in an era of ever decreasing communication costs, so Conner has frequently been able to talk with his brother and other friends in China.  Until about a month ago, Conner's brother lived in the home of the foster family he has been with since he and Conner were abandoned as infants.  This sweet husband and wife are late middle age, and Conner has always called the father, "Grandpa."  It has been clear in the calls he has made since we adopted him how much Conner loves both his Grandpa and his brother.  Of the many things that an older child adopted from a foregin country might miss, these two relationships are clearly what Conner misses the most.  

Several times after a conversation with them, he has wept in Christi's arms as he has lamented both the distance that keeps him apart from loved ones and his Grandpa's poor health, which he worried would take Grandpa's life before Conner had a chance to see him again.  About two months ago, a new development occurred which was devastating for Conner.  In addition to his Grandpa's poor health, Conner's brother had developed a life-threatening illness.  His brother, who is also blind, but has some additional physical disabilities, had to be moved from the foster home into the orphanage.  The foster home was 2-3 hours from the orphanage in Wuhan, and Conner's brother needed to be closer to medical care.  So on top of a physically painful and life-threatening illness, poor brother had to leave the home he has lived in for virtually his entire 15-year life span.  Conner wept and wept after he learned of this.  Christi and I hugged him and tried to console him, but he was beside himself.  "He is my brother," he kept repeating through the tears.

Christi and I decided that the time had come to take Conner back for a visit.  We found a weekend where I had a Friday off of work and booked tickets for Conner and me to travel to Wuhan.  We let Conner's relatives and other friends from the orphanage know we were coming.  Conner was very excited.  Having been to China enough times to know what a greuling travel experience it can be, I was a bit nervous about a 3-day stay in the middle kingdom.  A 24-hour itinerary there, 72 hours in country, and a 24-hour itinerary back.  And with less-than-stellar communication with the orphanage, we were not completely sure how much time we would get to spend with Conner's loved ones.  It was a bit of a leap of faith.