April 7, 2010

Tony's Adoption Story

A lot of people don't know that Tony is adopted. But he is. It's a CRAZY story. Amazing crazy. In a good way, I guess. It just shows the hand of God on his life. He used to not like me telling people, so I didn't for a long time, but now he's okay with it, and he freely tells people himself that he is adopted.

Tony was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the seventh out of eight children. His mother and father had moved from the country to the city, both looking for work and a better life. His dad "rescued" his mom, who was barely 19 or 20 at the time, from an abusive marriage, and took her to live with him. She already had two daughters. One day the girls went for a visit with their father and never returned. The father had disappeared with them. She never saw her daughters again. 

Tony's biological mom

She went on to have eight more children with Tony's dad. Tony's oldest sister tells of how she remembers when their mom started getting "sick". One day she found her mom standing in the kitchen talking to someone that wasn't there. No one knows what she had, but it sounds a lot like post-partum depression turned psychosis, or schizophrenia. Some say it was because she never recovered from losing her first two children. No one knows because no one payed attention to those things back then. With each baby she got worse and worse. By the time Tony was born, she was completely unable to care for her children or for herself. The oldest daughter, Carmen, was taking care of her mother and all 7 children by the time she was 8 or 10 years old.

One day their 18 year-old cousin, Vilma, came to visit and was appalled at the conditions in which they were living. She told Tony's father to just give her the 8-month-old baby, she would take of him. So he did. Just like that.

Vilma says that she had to shave Tony's head because he had fleas.

His adoptive family was actually his uncle on his dad's side. They already had six children of their own. They didn't have much to offer by way of material things, but they did have love, and they welcomed Tony as one of their own.

They didn't tell him that he was adopted until he was 12. I'm sure that, at the time, they thought they were doing the right thing by keeping the whole truth from him. But Tony says that when he learned the truth, it just completely blew his whole world apart. He had often wondered, when they had gone to visit his "cousins", why he looked more like them than his own "brothers" and "sisters". After his adoptive mom told him the truth, she asked him not to tell his younger brother, who they had also rescued three years after they rescued Tony. He kept that secret from his brother for three long years, until someone else slipped up and spilled the beans. To this day they think that part of his brother's problems (of which he has many) is due to his inability to deal with it all.

Several years ago we were all able to go back to Argentina for a visit. We sat at Carmen's table for hours as she related some really amazing, cover-you-in-goose-bumps kind of stories she remembers from that time.

She said that when their mom got sick, their dad just went downhill. He went from hard-working, happy, and in love with his wife, to drinking, playing cards, and barely working. He just couldn't handle what was happenning to his beautiful wife. The money he did make he squandered on alcohol and gambling. Sometimes the kids only had flour mixed with water to eat. His mom was eventually institutionalized. The neighbor lady, who could see what was going on, would bring them food. Some nights their father wouldn't come home at all. He would just disappear for days, leaving them all alone in their one room, dirt-floor house with no food. Carmen recalls how scared she was. She said every night a white dog would appear at sundown and sit down across the street from their little house. He would just sit there and stare at the house. All night. The dog scared her, so she would throw rocks at it and yell at it to go away. It wouldn't, and would just continue to sit there calmy looking at the house until dawn. When Tony's dad would eventually come home, it would disappear.

Another time their grandmother, who had nothing of her own with which to help them, was trying to care for the children. Carmen tells of one day when Grandma was standing at the well scrubbing clothes between her hands praying out loud because she had nothing to feed them, "Oh, Lord, what am I going to do with all these children? What am I going to give them to eat?". Now, Grandma had 10 or 12 of her own children, all grown. One of her sons was a big drinker, gambler, and just all around not a kind or generous type of guy. They owned a small store. At about the same time Grandma was praying, her son, who was not exactly known for his generosity, suddenly stopped what he was doing bagging groceries, looked at his wife, and said, very uncharacteristically, "Go take these groceries to El Nene's house (Tony's dad's nickname)." He had never before done anything like that, nor did he ever do anthing like that again.

Looking at Tony today you would never know he comes from this. Physically he amazes me. He suffers no apparent signs of malnutrition or poor health. He has the most beautiful teeth I have ever seen. His immune system is amazing. He almost never gets sick.

Emotionally and spiritually the wounds were there, but the only one that seemed to see them was me. After I got saved, I used to tell him that he needed to forgive his dad and not hold onto any anger he had towards him for what he did or didn't do. At the time, Tony did not yet know the Lord and was unable to extend that kind of forgiveness to his father. Afterall, his father had never repented, never apologized, and never seemed to show any remorse or bad feelings whatsoever. Then his dad died. A year later Tony came to the Lord. To this day he regrets not forgiving his father while he was yet alive. Since then, Jesus has healed his heart, enabled him to forgive his father even in death, and show him how He works all things for good to those that love Him.

Sometimes we wonder why the Lord rescued him (besides the obvious: that He loves him), and for what earthly purpose. Really. What are the "good works that God hath foreordained that we should walk in"? (Eph. 2:10). "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works...". What are those good works for him, for Tony? I often think of a question someone posed once, "So, if God saved you to be with him, why do you think he left you here?". Tony often talks about and prays for all the children in the world that don't have a mother or father, or food to eat, or shoes to wear, or toys to play with. For many years he has talked about working with street kids and orphans. Wouldn't that be great? A life redeemed in order to redeems others from the pit.

"God setteth the solitary in families..." ~Psalm 68:6

*When I find the box the pictures of Tony are in, I'll post them. Hopefully this century. :)

UPDATE 4/16/10: Found ONE picture so far :)

Some of Tony's biological siblings: Carmen (the oldest), Rosana,
and Pichi (the look-alike "cousin")
{notice the clock says 1:40... that's AM, folks, Argentinians live at night, it's crazy;
 this b-day party probably lasted til 3 or 4am}


Christy said...

Love this story. Thanks for sharing! It's so amazing what God has done.

Katie said...

What an amazing story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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