May 25, 2010. Today is Lindy’s birthday and tomorrow my father would have celebrated his 83rd birthday. Celebrating family, new and old, “adopted” and blood-related, is and always should be one of my life’s primary goals. Lindy, Peter’s home teacher, has been grafted into our family as surely, and at times just as delicately, as the navel orange tree I propagated in my parents’ backyard two decades ago. As a newly minted lawyer, I had learned the process while defending the state’s actions to eradicate orange seedlings in the 1980’s due to what turned out to be a false canker scare. Canker is a bacterial disease that can destroy entire groves in a matter of days. To a citrus grower, as well as every politician in the state, its the most dreaded word in the vernacular. Though the work was no fun – I had more than a few shotguns pointed my way by angry growers, I nonetheless marveled at the science of propagation as I struggled to understand both the state’s and the farmers’ position regarding the decision to eradicate an entire fleet of rising fruit-producing trees in hopes of salvaging the industry. Removing a fledgling bud from one tree, in my case a navel, and surgically implanting it into a hardy rootstock, taking care to wrap the wound afterwards to both protect and create the union, is a true miracle, not of nature but of man. We have certainly grafted Lindy into our family. Like Sophie and Peter, she struggles with her past. But she also knows she’s loved here, that we are a second family upon which, without revocation, she can rely. She is a true gift in our life and I love her. Instrumental in teaching Peter to self-regulate, and in teaching and reminding us to parent always with a view toward self-regulation and independence, her presence in our lives has both strengthened and enhanced our union. Our graft with Sophie and Peter, though not yet complete, also is coming along nicely, despite the external threats we seem to combat from all directions these days. But as with my newly grafted navel tree, which now, 20 years later, still stands strong and vigorous in the backyard of my childhood home, I must at all costs protect the amalgam. We’re doing so well with Peter in terms of gaining his lasting trust, and though I’ve no doubt Sophie loves us to the best of her present ability, we have work to do still. Her capacity to love and trust, unconditionally, is compromised, more than Pat and I ever allowed ourselves to believe. But we are tackling it. Our goal is to transform her absolute need to control, and her at times compulsive drive to dominate, into strengths rather than detriments. Likewise, we have to help our daughter turn her reluctance to trust, her fear of recurring loss, into a foundation of resilience upon which she can draw rather than a source of constant anxiety. In short, we need to continue to heal her, to help her attach more securely. Only then will we be able to unwrap and discard the protective bandage that stands as a constant reminder of her past, only then will she be able to grow with aplomb but not arrogance, with the kind of quiet self-esteem that will allow her to share the grove, so to speak, and to take her place in this world, and our family, without rancor. And she’s getting back on track. I can feel it. On Sunday I intended to spend an hour or two gathering items for a single mother who recently lost everything she owned to a fire. When Sophie asked what I was doing, she jumped right in to help. Recently, empathy and compassion have taken a back seat so I was quietly overjoyed that she was taking an interest. A short project turned into an all afternoon effort, with Sophie making piles of books, puzzles and toys she insisted on contributing, folding outgrown clothes, both hers and Peter’s, and lugging large bagfuls of items, one after another, to our soon overstuffed cars. By 7:30 we were finished. At bedtime I lingered over my precious child, tucked tightly into bed, because she allowed me to peer into her content and peaceful eyes without turning away, a pleasure not always available these days. My heart sang for the first time in weeks. Yesterday the woman who’s organizing the relief effort emailed to tell me how overjoyed the mother was about our modest donations. Part of what we gave was Peter’s old bike, which Sophie rode often as it fit her just right, even better than her own. Apparently this mother’s son, until now, has not had the opportunity to own one. When I told Sophie this news, she beamed. I’m happy we could make a devastating experience even a tiny bit easier for others in need, of course, but I’m also grateful that our graft, though slow at times to knit, continues to work its magic. There may always be a scar, but our darling girl will grow tall and straight, with the courage and humble confidence to hold her head high. I have to believe this and so I do. Happy Birthday, Lindy Lou. We love you!