Chapter Thirty-Nine

The Phantom Child  

“I play out my role why I’ve even been out walking

They tell me that it helps but I know when I’m beaten…

I want to run but I can’t hide …

I once stood proud now I feel so small

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry

The long hot summer just passed me by”

-The Style Council


“The heart is a bloom, shoots up through the stony ground.

There's no room, no space to rent in this town.

You're out of luck, and the reason that you had to care.

The traffic is stuck, and you're not moving anywhere.

You thought you’d found a friend to take you out of this place.

Someone you could lend a hand in return for grace ...“



    This was the summer of our discontent.  Here we’d tossed our money at an “adoption” agency to make our wishes come true for becoming parents.  

    That’s all we wanted. But why did it all have to be so hard and nasty? 

    There were other factors weighing on us this summer but this website is not the place to go into those.  These two things, combined with the wait for Anguel nearly brought us to the brink.

    It was, appropriately enough, the summer of Survivor, which we didn’t follow. It was also the summer of Napster, which was one of our few comforts during this time. Every few days we would download MP3s of hard-to-find old favorites. 

    Daniel also found some of the songs that had been on the radio in Russia, songs that brought back memories of Cyril’s death, painful though that was. It was some way to connect to the last moments before it happened, to try to find our way back to the people we had been then.

    But mostly we felt a lack of direction in our lives. The energies that were to have been put in to caring for Cyril had no place to go, and a gradual torpor set in.

    At nights we would rent movies on video, things like The Ice Storm (great) and American Beauty (good performances but flawed), and one night we actually went down to New York to see Time Regained, a French adaptation of Proust that actually managed to be exactly like the book. Perhaps we should have done more things like that.

     They were only brief respites from the reality we had had to live with, a regressive behavior like so many others we had adopted, as if to deny the realities of adult life.

     In June the gym where I worked out shut down unexpectedly, after the owner’s debts caught up with him. Many people believed that he had been skimming money from the business. 

    The day before he shut down, he was selling memberships, in cash, to people coming through the door. He must have gone to the same business school as Denise Hubbard.

    Another gym later bought the unexpired memberships but it was a lot further than I felt like going to work out. So, one thing that I could have channeled my energies into was gone.

    Without it, our days fell into familiar patterns of waking up, eating breakfast and then sitting on the couch for a few hours or so while I bemoaned our situation.

    Daniel, if he was home and not out hiking, did his best to help me look on the bright side of things; while he did more than anyone to keep my dwindling hopes alive it really took a lot out of him.

    We had no idea if Anguel was well; we had received no updates since March.  We had no idea if somebody was taking care of him in Burgas, if he was getting the proper nutrition or love that a child so desperately needs.  

    This haunted us.  We knew that he was in a better-run institution than Cyril, but that was little comfort when we had no way of knowing his condition. Nor was BBAS willing or seemingly able to provide us with this vital information.

    Our conversations would wind down in the early afternoon when it was time for me to go to work (I had the second shift most of the time).

    That took care of me for most of the rest of the day, but not Daniel. At home, if again he wasn’t hiking, he would mostly sit at the computer playing video games or surf the Internet, afraid to go out much some days, even when errands needed to be run. 

    It was how he dealt with the stress. He recalls doing an absurd amount of weeding some days.

    He had gone from full-time to part-time work. But in midsummer, there was little of that to keep him busy.

    Anguel slowly moved into what I call “phantom child” status. Sure, we had a son – over there.  Sure, we were adopting a child, but just don’t ask us when he was coming home.  

    As time moved on, even the positive thoughts I had about his homecoming began to disappear.  I restrained myself from even purchasing anything for him, from even painting up his room and purchasing bedroom furniture.  

    He wasn’t here, and since he wasn’t with us, how were we to know him?  And since there wasn’t even a clear date given as to our travel date, why bother?

    Doubts about his adoption entered my mind.  Was this pain really going to be “worth it in the end”?  

    Would I forget, like so many others, what the international adoption process had put us through?  Would Anguel even be a viable person, able to live a full life after being shut in an orphanage for 2.5 years?

    As I type this out, I remember exactly how I felt the summer of 2000.  I will never forget that. 

    I began to distance myself from many things and soon enough there came the time when I seriously doubted my motives continuing Anguel’s adoption. 

    It was then over a year since I had “identified” him on BBAS web site.  Life just had to go on.

    I couldn’t spend my life waiting and waiting and waiting for a child whose image was beginning to fade. At the same time, my aspirations for him began to shrivel in the summer sun, sort of like the raisin in Lorraine Hansberry’s famous poem.

    This issue also began to weigh on our marriage as well. Was adopting this boy worth this strain on our emotions and finances?   

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