Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My daughter hasn’t spoken to me in eight years, and may never speak to me again, but I believe nonetheless that I’ve done better at parenting than any other job I’ve had. So at the beginning of March, as I observed the first anniversary of my most recent banishment from actual employment, I began to look into adoption.

Naturally, I’d have preferred a white child, preferably one with blue eyes, but the only blue-eyed white kids a single man can adopt nowadays are Romanians, and I remembered too well the nightmare my former semi-sister-in-law’s (hereinafter, my fossil) adoption of Romanian twin boys turned into. They seemed quite sweet at the airport, but she’d hardly gotten them home before they started trying to burn her house down and behead her in her sleep. The child psychologist to whom she took them didn’t speak Romanian, but speculated they might have anger issues owing to having been abandoned by their birth mother and raised by sadists.

The medications that were prescribed for them calmed them down considerably, but then the elder, Virgillu, reached adolescence, and the first thing he did was seduce my fossil’s female mail carrier. They eloped to Mexico together, my fossil’s mail wasn’t delivered for weeks, she fell behind on her mortgage payments, the bank foreclosed, and she and the twin left behind wound up living in her Honda Accord, for which she was unable to afford gas because the only place Alexandreu would eat was Red Lobster, which may seem cheap if you go there once in a blue moon for a special occasion, but which takes a real bite out of a high school teacher’s paycheck if she has to go there every night.

Heartened by the realization that some of our most noted entertainers — Madonna, Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga — had all adopted children of African origin — and yes, yes, I know that if you go back far enough, we’re all of African origin — I was all set to fly over to see what Maui, from which Maddie had gotten hers, could offer in the way of orphans when Haiti, in the USA’s own watery back yard, was devastated by the January 12 earthquake, and my broker texted to urge me to get down to Port-au-Prince sharpish.

At first, I regretted my decision, as all the decent hotels left standing were full of journalists. But then I realized that for the money I’d been planning to spend adopting a Mauian kid, I could get five or six little Haitians. I went for it with hardly a moment’s hesitation, getting five boys. Fearing they might be ridiculed at school by children whose parents had voted against John Kerry because he speaks French, I gave them new American names — Jamaal, Rashid, Jamir, Rayshawn, and Kayshawn — on the plane home. Waiting for the airport bus at JFK, I realized that Rayshawn and Kayshawn sounded nearly identical enough to cause confusion and resentment, and decided that the former could retain his original name of Antoine, though now spelled Antawn.

Back home in Beacon, my friends and family greeted us with naked skepticism. How on earth, as an unemployable old person, did I suppose I was going to feed, clothe, and educate five young men, the youngest of whom wouldn’t reach 18 for 11 more years? I explained that I viewed the adoption as an investment. I would to enroll the boys in a basketball academy as soon as I got them squared away in elementary school; the chances of at least one of them making it either to the NBA, in which the minimum salary is now $25 million per season, or one of the better-paying European leagues struck me as pretty good. Failing that, I felt that the odds favored at least one of them becoming a major league middle infielder, as Haitians share a genetic gene pool with Dominicans, and can you name a single MBL team lacking a Dominican shortstop in 2010? Well, all right: Derek Jeter, but that’s only because of his endorsement deal with Ford, which I understand spends a great, great deal of money keeping him in the Yankees’ starting lineup.

As I write this, everything’s going much as I’d hoped. Jamaal, the second eldest of the boys, can already dunk at 13, and Jamir, who I’m not supposed to know encourages his little classmates to call him Jimmy, has been shown to have the highest IQ in the history of the Beacon School District. When we play Scrabble, the boys try implacably to sneak Kreyol words past me, and sometimes I let them, having found out the hard way how important it is to try to meet your kids halfway.

[Many of my books are now available for download from Amazon. They include The Total Babe & Other Wine Country Yarns, Lentils on the Moon (aka A Message From Jesus in Braille, aka A History of the Jews in the Hudson Valley, Self-Loathing: An Owner's Manual, Third World USA, The Mona Lisa's Brother, and, for baseball nuts, Foul Balls and Alpha Males. You need neither a Kindle nor an iPad to enjoy 'em; simply download (free) Kindle software for either Mac or Windows, and enjoy them on your laptop or other computer!]

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