The kids are exhausted after their day of presents and cupcakes so Andrew and I put them to bed early. Just as we’re sitting down to relax in front of the television, the phone rings.
“Hello?” Andrew answers as I look at the time; it’s nine o’clock.
“I’m putting you on speakerphone so Lynn can hear too.” Andrew points to the phone and mouths “Ruth.”
I nod and my stomach constricts as her voice comes out the speaker.
“I overslept this morning. That’s why I didn’t drop off the present.” The connection is horrible and Ruth’s crying makes it worse.
“We didn’t say anything to Payton so she didn’t miss it,” Andrew reassures her.
“Oh, good.” A pause and then in one gasping breath she continues. “I’m going to call the social worker tomorrow and tell her I’m giving Payton up and I want you guys to have her.” Andrew and I are silent.
“I don’t think she understands how this works,” I whisper, knowing it’s useless to point out she doesn’t have control over her daughter’s life any longer.
Ruth’s sobs get louder, more intense, like a baby who wants to be picked up but isn’t. “Can I see her and watch her grow up?” Ruth burbles.
“If you stay sober and out of jail,” Andrew tells her, giving the same requirements as those to see Paige.
Palpable, ominous silence fills the air. “If I can’t be part of Payton’s life, then I don’t want you to adopt her. I don’t want to know anything – where she is or who she’s with. It’d be too hard if I couldn’t see her.”
“Ruth, we know this is a difficult time for you,” I speak up. “We want you to be part of our lives, but you have to pull it together! We know you can do it.”
Ruth is quiet a moment, then whispers hoarsely. “I know you guys adopting Payton is the best thing. I’m just upset right now and being irrational. I do want her with you.”
I realize in that moment Ruth’s unconditional love for Payton and complete trust in us, and I’m in awe of her ability to push her pain aside and do what’s best.
The poor connection gets worse and the only thing we can hear is Ruth gasping as she tries to speak. After a few minutes of this, we nod at each other, agreeing that the phone call is over.
“We need to get going now, Ruth.”
“Oh, okay,” she wavers. “I’ll keep in touch, I promise.”
I shake my head, tears pricking behind my lids. No, no you won’t.