In November of 2005, the school psychologist came to me and asked if I would take a student into my second-grade class. His name was Andrew and his current teacher was unable to handle him. She told me that he was intelligent, but dying on the vine. It turned out that Andrew had multiple issues. He couldn't remain seated for any length of time, didn't read, fought often, and God help the kid next to him if he had a pencil or any other sharp object!
Andrew did, however, prove to be very intelligent. He caught on quickly and responded to structure. In mid-March of 2006, Andrew was called from class to receive the news that his mother had died. Andrew's father had disappeared before he was born. Andrew was now an orphan.
Andrew had four uncles, but none of them were able to take on the responsibility of a child. At last, the oldest uncle took him in. Uncle Angel was in his mid-sixties, had multiple health issues, illegal, and did not speak English. Although his heart was in the right place, his abilities failed and the state was getting ready to take Andrew into the foster system.
Again, the psychologist came to tell me the bad news. Our friendship had deepened and she wondered out loud if I would ever consider adopting Andrew. Not only had I considered it, I felt deeply that I was supposed to be Andrew's father. Unfortunately, there were many obstacles in my way that prohibited me from stepping in. Namely, I was in a relationship with someone who wanted nothing to do with a child, living in a house that was under major reconstruction, and in the midst of getting a master's degree. I was so upset that I wasn't able to take Andrew that I even looked to my friends to take him in. One of those friends came close and even met Andrew. As he got closer to making a decision, I was deeply disturbed by the pounding in my heart that it was I who should be Andrew's father. That evening, I got on my knees and prayed.
"Dear God, I hear you loud and clear. I know that I'm supposed to be Andrew's father. There are so many obstacles in the way, not the least of which is my relationship. But if you open the door, I will walk through it."
That prayer was on a Thursday night. On Sunday morning, I woke up single. It was unforeseen, unprovoked, and a complete surprise. I walked into the school on Monday morning and announced to the psychologist that I would be taking Andrew.
By Friday, Andrew was living with me. Within two weeks I had temporary custody. Within another month, I was Andrew's legal guardian and father.
When I got Andrew he was addicted to fast food, exhibited signs of ADHD, and possible spectrum disorder. He didn't know how to use a fork or a knife, barely read, and couldn't be left alone. Most importantly, he had been through hell. Within a year's time he had lost his mother, been physically abused by one uncle, and taken in by another only to lose him soon after. He had been living in a studio apartment with no kitchen and a bathroom that they shared with other tenants. And he still hadn't cried since his mother's death.
If I had understood the responsibility I had taken on, it may not have happened. I suppose it's like that for every new parent. And like all the parents before me, I did what came most naturally to me: I fed him.
Food and the table quickly became the heart of our home and the soul of our relationship. Through our nightly meals, I showed Andrew that he was loved and he showed me (through a voracious appetite) that my efforts were appreciated.
Our meals often started days or weeks before we would enjoy them at the table. We foraged local snails in the early morning light and cracked pounds of olives late into the evening. We preserved meats, made vinegar, and grew our own vegetables. Slowly, these experiences turned a former teacher into a father and an orphaned and abandoned child into a beloved son.
I started taking pictures, recording recipes, and writing down anecdotes about raising Andrew soon after he moved into the house. My original plan was to put everything together in a book for him to take to college when he didn't have me to cook for him anymore. In the last few years, the idea of the blog came to life and Feeding Andrew was born.
My blog is an ongoing love letter to my son, a record of the best years of my life, and the story of how one meal led to another and how many meals led to great healing... for Andrew and for me.
I invite you to share in our journey at www.feedingandrew.com.