This is the first time that Penny and her family have come to visit us in over two years (see, Curmudgeon's parenting skills in evident decline).
As I mentioned then, Penny and her husband Carl have four adopted children. The girls are 19 and 15 now. The twins, Tim and Tom, just turned five.
The twins came to Penny and Carl as critically ill preemies. Penny was trained as a nurse, and she needed every skill she ever learned to take care of those babies. Their breathing problems are largely behind them now; she's not getting up every night to clear out their lungs. Most of their still-frequent ER visits are for more traditional bumps and bruises. But there are still developmental deficits. Tom was more mobile and more verbal than Tim when they visited in 2009; he's talking now and will attend a 'mainstream' kindergarten in the fall. He probably could teach the class: He reads well, spells, and does basic math problems quickly. I quizzed him; I can testify that he's not 100% accurate on larger numbers, but he really knows the smaller numbers. It's not just memory.
Tim still isn't talking, and he's a clumsy walker, but he communicates with a kind of sign language and an iPod Touch that vocalizes for him. Of course, Tim has to know what button to push to express his actual concerns. In other words, even if he can't yet talk, he clearly can read. I watched him yesterday pull video boxes off the shelf, pull out the paper inserts and study each closely. He went straight for the Pixar movies -- he's a discriminating film viewer.
I had to frequently discourage Tim from trying to remove the DVDs from the boxes. But I was not vigilant the entire time: When I was out of the room for only a minute, Tim had trouble trying to pull Toy Story from its case -- and snapped off a good quarter of the disk.
Tim will not be attending a mainstream kindergarten this year -- but Penny and Carl are sure he will be mainstreamed soon and I can't help but believe them.
These are truly bright, inquisitive kids. Tim has to touch everything. Tom can be a little fearful; he likes to watch movies standing behind someone and peeking around. And, of course, if you fail to keep a close watch on them at all times, they will venture into places where they can really get into trouble. Youngest Son came back from running and weightlifting and went upstairs to take a quick shower before joining us all for lunch. He was rather surprised when Tom began banging on the bathroom door.
And neither of these little guys would be alive without the sacrifices made on their behalf by Penny, Carl and their older daughters. Long Suffering Spouse and I can't imagine having to cope with five-year olds on a daily basis at this stage of our lives; that realization only deepens the respect that my wife and I have for Penny and Carl's accomplishments.
It was an impressive, and exhausting, visit. Long Suffering Spouse really wanted them all to stay for dinner, too, but Penny said the boys were just about to go critical. Sure enough, within five minutes, they were screaming and crying their eyes out. Penny explained that part of the twins' problem was they didn't want to leave -- but she had already figured out that they were getting overtired. Their sisters each held on to one as Penny and Carl made their goodbyes. "They'll nap in the car," Penny told Long Suffering Spouse -- but there was no chance, she said, that they'd ever nod off at our house, not with all sorts of stuff that remained unexplored. (I don't know if the twins napped -- but I passed out minutes after they left.)
I know some folks get a little weird about adoption; they don't quite understand how an adopted child can ever be the same as a "real" one. For my part, I've never understood that view. I like what Jack Benny's daughter, Joan, wrote about her adoption. She said that her parents told her that, in a way, she was more loved than a biological child. After all, parents who have a child the old-fashioned way have to take what God gives them -- but adoptive parents choose to bring home a particular child.
Penny and Carl's children couldn't be more truly theirs; the girls actually look like Penny and Carl these days. I don't know if Tim and Tom will ever actually look like Penny and Carl -- they're Korean, while Penny and Carl and German and Lithuanian respectively -- but I wouldn't bet against it.
Thus, because Older Daughter hasn't yet become pregnant and so many of her friends have, she's already thinking that she might never be able to have children.
For my money, such talk is premature. But if Older Daughter and Hank do wind up adopting, the children they adopt would be their children. And they would also be my grandchildren, without question.