For the Future vs. for Now
I always believed that every child deserves the greatest chance to reach his or
her full potential. After our daughter was born, we began taking foster children. My hus-
band and I made each little person a full part of our family. At bedtime each evening I sang each child two songs of their choice. When we had a war injured Vietnamese child, she wanted all four verses of American the Beautiful every night. We camped, hiked, swam,
celebrated holidays, and read stories together. One of our boys came for his summer
vacations for years.
Our second foster child had been brain damaged by a medication he was given
to control a lung disease. Even though he was smart, he couldn’t symbolize letters. That
was my first experience with learning disabilities. I went back to school and got a cre-
dential in special ed. For twenty two years I taught, working my heart out to prepare my
kids to make it out in the world. I got to know parents and let them know how special
their kids were.
One year we teachers could apply for a grant to help kids avoid drug abuse. I
earned the grant by planning a super picnic and game day in the park. We talked about
how much fun we could have with each other, how beautiful it was out in nature, that we
didn’t need drugs when we had each other and lived in such a wonderful world. The
kids thought it was a great lark. From then on I applied for every grant and every oppor-
tunity I could find to give my kids a good time.
Still the kids kept improving their reading and useful math. Even with the fun
we worked hard. My kids had to have their skills.
Now I’m retired. My kids are out in the world or in high school. Our birth children
are grown. Our last child at home is a senior in high school. Daily I walk Lucky, our dog.
She’s my exercise machine. While Lucky and I are out, we always drop in on our neigh-
bor who’s 107 years old. In the last ten years she’s gone from totally alert to so forgetful
that she can’t always remember who I am. She always remembers Lucky though. Still
she’s a lively inspiration to me. It’s she who’s crystalized the idea that the moment may
be as important as the future. We laugh and joke, and those times are valuable even if
she forgets them as soon as Lucky and I leave.
In the last few years our first two foster children died. You never expect your child
to die before you do, even if they have a disease. They had both grown up and become
functional adults. One had two children. When I think about them, I think about playing
cards in the tent at night. I think about our teenager trying to explain to an exchange student why the driver of the car beside us was hot or was not. I think happy moments
together are as important as any other gift in life.