The winter was just breaking enough for the children to run about and play outside on the weekends. There were new children joining in with the ones I had come to recognize from last summer. I asked the name of one of the new children and over the weeks we would exchange words as I worked in my yard, or sat outside on those particularly warm March and April days.
Whenever Raul would see me, he found time to fill me in on the latest news about his day. He was in the first grade and he shared that he was living with a foster care mother who had other foster children. Raul, however, was going to return to his original state once the school year ended. It was quite a distance away.
I was always amused when he would greet me because he started each sentence with “Guess what?” Sometimes, I would tease him letting him know he was on his third, “guess what”. Near spring recess he eagerly shouted, “Guess what?” to get my attention. I replied, “What?” He beamed that he had gotten A’s on his report card and the teacher thought he was doing well.
Praising his accomplishment, I told him that if he kept it up and got all A’s on his report card in June, I would buy him an ice cream cone to celebrate. He took me on. From time to time I would ask him how he was coming along in school and he appeared to be confident that he was continuing to do well.
School was out on Thursday and I looked for Raul to hear about his report card – hoping to see him that late afternoon before I left for a speaking engagement. I did not see him. Friday afternoon was busy and as I pulled in the back of the house, Raul was walking in my direction. I motioned for him to come to the car and I asked about the report card. He said, “ All A’s!” with a smile. He added that he had some 4’s and 3’s. I was not sure about what that meant and he assured me that they were good grades for his reading skills.
I praised his accomplishment and asked him what he wanted to be in Life. He said, “a Vet.”
I reassured him how wonderful that was and how possible for him. Upon asking him for his last name, he told me, and I gave him his full name with the “Dr.” added before it, telling him that would be his name once he achieved his goal.
“Guess this means that I owe you an ice cream”, I said, to which he replied, “You sure do!”
Inquiring about his schedule, he was unavailable on Saturday and he indicated that he was leaving for his new home on Sunday and would not be coming back. I looked at my watch and knew that I had to stop and keep my promise because he kept his. He told me the kind of ice cream and sprinkles he wanted, so off I went to get it, returning within 5 minutes.
This would be a farewell to Raul. I told him to promise me that he would always do his very, very best in school and that even if it might be difficult over the years living in different situations, that he would never let anyone take away his education from him, and to remember that he can be Dr. Raul _________. He promised.
Standing by my driver’s door with his ice cream, he looked at me with serious 7- year old eyes and said, “I will never ever forget you.”
It pierced me like an arrow in my gut and my eyes welled up with water.
© Dr. Drayton-Craig, 2010