We walked into the apartment and the air was thick and stood still. Everyone sat frozen, avoiding our eyes. His sister stared at the television, his step-dad worked vigorously at a spot on the table. His mom was the only one… eyes locked.
“Ven, siéntate, necesitamos hablar,” she managed. He grabbed a banana off the microwave cart and sat in the stool directly in front of her at the pub-height table. He sat down a bit annoyed at the amount of drama that surrounded the inevitable situation. I sat behind him staring into a loving mother’s eyes. Her lip quivered as she searched his face. “Tengo mala noticia hijo. Recibimos una llamada de Mexico,” he slumped, knowing that his life was about to be changed somehow by whatever news came in the call they had received. “Mataron a tu papa.” There. Life would never be the same. They had killed the one person he wanted to make proud. The one person who was still a hero in his eyes had suddenly become mortal and his time had come prematurely. His body heaved. He choked on the air that suddenly tasted different. The shaking that would last all night began. Her heart broke even more as she watched him.
“Que quieres saber hijo? Tu puedes saber de todo. Tu hermano me platicó de todo. Dime que quieres saber.” He could ask her anything. His older brother who was living the reality of violence on the border had told her the whole story and he could ask anything. “How did it happen?” was the question racing through my mind ignorantly. I was an outsider. It was not necessary to ask how. Everyone else in the room had lived in fear that this would happen to someone on the other side that they loved.
“Quien?” His body folded as sounds from deep inside his soul escaped. These were sounds I had never heard from the boy I had loved for the last 8 years and had finally been able to call son through adoption. “Who?” That was the only word he could manage. The only thought on his mind was, “Who?” Who had robbed him of just one more opportunity to see this man he hadn’t seen in 5 years. Who had reduced this hero to a mere mortal? Every soccer game, every birthday, every holiday, this man had been distant but always in his mind and now it was over.
For the first time I understood the far reach of the violence on our southern border. I understood why my son’s mother brought him here when he was 8 years old. I understood why anyone would make that journey. It was finally real for me. This faceless, distant issue of immigration suddenly had a face. It was a face I loved very much, my son’s. I never set out to be an advocate for immigration reform but God gave me a legally adopted son whose only legal pathway to citizenship is through marriage.
Before we left his mother’s apartment that night she begged, “Te lo encargo mucho Jace.” This was a phrase I had heard so many times uttered casually as I picked up children from the neighborhood for activities but never quite this way and I had never really understood it until now. She was trusting me to take care of her baby. It was a very deep level of trust and respect- one I shared for her.
I am walking in El Camino del Inmigrante in Oklahoma City for my son. Every parent wants the best for their children and right now I feel as though I am not keeping my promise to his mother that I will take care of him. There are so many opportunities my son will not have unless something changes. I am walking for change.