The tale of two teens begins long ago.
A time before I even thought of becoming a mother. When I was living a young married life kind of dream. It starts with another mother across the ocean in a harder life. One who could not take on the care of her beautiful Chinese baby.
Our sweet Audrey Hai Ping is a beautiful young woman, older than her peers at nineteen. She walks the halls of Howell High School working harder than most do just to understand the simplest of things. Her dad and I adopted her from China when she was ten. Before God gave her to us, she lived in an Orphanage in Zhu Hai, China.
Her given name is Zhu Hai Ping. That is somewhat like Jane Doe where we live.
We do not have the whole story straight. The orphanage told us one thing, but as Audrey learned English, we learned a story far different. It was not what any parent wants to hear. The simple English words she spoke over time pieced together a puzzle that was broke. Tiny pieces are missing and a few rather tattered and torn. Our daughter from China had lived a life a typical kid here in our town could never imagine nor would we want them to I am afraid.
La Sa Po, A girl in a trash can, was her nickname at school. That was our Audrey Hai Pings beginning. Abandoned in a trash can at an early age. We think three or four but will never know. She carried on in the orphanage until the day we showed up at the door.
You would think life would be fine after that. A new life in the States. Parents who love her every way. Siblings to share the day to day. The tale goes on to one of perseverance and hard work. This Chinese gift came to us with no prior knowledge of anything but her life in the orphanage. She did not even understand the concept of planet Earth. Bodies of water or a land mass on a map. Over time as English slowly came, we realized there might be more going on. Determination was her game, while her siblings finished up their spelling words and reading time each night Audrey remained at the dining room table for hours studying hard to try and gain anything she could.
Her working memory is low; she does not process the way she should to keep up with her peers. Her challenges are great. There is more, but I think you may now understand the chance of what is considered normal would always be difficult for her.
That never stopped this girl of mine. She worked at her level the best that she could. Our schools as a whole at a loss on how to best handle her academics. Individual teachers and administration stepped in and gave her all that they could over time. The personal level of dedication to teaching our beautiful daughter was gifted by educators, whom I believe are superior and talented in skill and heart beyond what most parents see.
They are the kind of administration and teachers that should be awarded each day for the individual time and care they put into our kids. I am overwhelmed with love and gratitude for them especially the few that had Audrey day in and day out the last four years.
Her ELL teachers, Counselor, and principal never gave up on her dream of fitting in. Working hard to always treat her with respect and gave her the time she needed to do her best.
Tomorrow, this girl is walking across a stage in a cap and gown. She will not have awards or high academic praise. Instead, she has years of life experience far above most kids her age. She graduates with a degree in Perseverance and Tenacity. I have never felt as proud as I do right now thinking of the accomplishments she has made.
The other teen you may already know. A beautiful boy wanted in every way.
He was given the best, provided for by a hard working and loving dad. A mom who kissed and hugged him whenever she could. Staying home while he was young to give him a traditional and dedicated upbringing. This boy with a mop of blond waves and blue eyes had a depth into a thoughtful and giving soul in so many ways. He felt deeply and loved deeper. Sensitive and gentle in heart.
Ethan had almost everything a child could want it seems. Nothing lacking in his day one would think. Weekends spent on the family boat at the cottage across the state. Spring break vacations in warm spots. Far away family that lived for the day they could spend time with this boy and his siblings. School years with friends and playmates. A neighborhood where people care about each other and kids play ball on the street. Times came that were hard for this boy. Parents who divorced, anxiety about internal things and stress that lived inside that made new things seem like they were monsters in the dark.
Over time the monsters grew into the enemies of depression and anxiety.
They came in and battled my boy. Some days the monsters would go and leave him alone, and all was right. We would see the Ethan we knew and loved with all of our heart. Those days would go on it seems, and nothing was going to stop this teen from the good life ahead. WMU waited just before him, a degree in accounting was what he wanted. He loved to work hard and had ideas and dreams he loved to debate. He was goofy and funny and the most amazing brother one could be.
The tale of two teens, one had everything from the start. The other had nothing but hurt and pain. Their lives came together in family and love. They are brother and sister. They are my seniors graduating tomorrow. They both had monsters to battle and fight. One teen lost when his disease blinded him; one teen still struggles to find her normal in the day to day mostly with a smile on her face.
These teens are two of my children. God gifted them both to me in different ways. There is never a time I am not proud to be their mother. Overcome in fact, with gratitude to God. We focus on their accomplishments and the good in them.
The days of school gone for both. My heart hurt continues. The most bittersweet of celebrations about to begin. That awful squeeze in my insides, wrapping my heart in painful loneliness for what once was.
Six weeks ago I would have said, I do not want to let it end. I do not want to walk away from this time in their lives. Hashtag Freeze time my constant sign. For those parents who are feeling the same, graduation hours away with our kids moving on to the next chapter in life. Embrace the change and encourage growth. Life is so fragile and unknown.
No, I cannot say I want to freeze time any longer, a thing I used to voice. That just happened to our boy.
Frozen now forever in time at eighteen, his life too short.
Tomorrow, the tale of two teens continue. They walk the stage together in spirit. Audrey in cap and gown, carrying Ethan’s picture in hand, wearing his Gold Cords around her neck. Proudly displaying her joy at all, she has done, honoring the brother she loves so much.
Ethan, a memory of an amazing son who was going to go on to Western, years of walking the halls of Howell Schools as a friend, classmate, and student. Both of my graduating seniors whether in spirit or life are my proud accomplishments. Despite the disabilities they fought they are forever my Highlander Pride.
I believe Ethan and Audrey both deserve caps flying high for their accomplishments as students and life.
Tomorrow, no doubt the tears will come as they often do. I will look out over the sea of green gowns and find my heart broken at my missing son. I will cry tears of pride as I watch my daughter get her dream of fitting in with her peers one last time. I will cry tears of joy for each senior who grew up with my kids as they cross that stage. I will celebrate the accomplishments of all of these seniors, praying for success and happiness in their next stage of life.
I will find hope in their future as they move on and make a difference in this world.