Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stranger Than Fiction

Today, in a major breach of routine, I left the house at 11:20 for about 40 minutes. A few weeks ago, I went to the Driver’s License division to renew my license. Last week I received a form letter that my examiner had failed to get my signature on a form, so I had to return to the office. So today I drove across town. I took my form into the office. I stood in a short line. I waited while the attendant located another form in a huge metal file cabinet. I signed where indicated. I drove home.

And as I drove home, I thought about how this was one of those storybook random events—like when the apple rolls into the street in Stranger Than Fiction or the woman answers the phone in Benjamin Button. How if that examiner hadn’t been distracted by a passing butterfly, or if I hadn’t received the letter, or if I had missed a green light, or if Roscoe hadn’t been home from school to watch the little kids, then I wouldn’t be driving down this road at this moment. And who knows what chain of events would be begun or avoided because—due to butterflies or traffic lights or sticky file drawers—I was here in this moment.

When I got home, I noticed that Roscoe had jotted “Susan” on the chalkboard. A phone message. From who? The Susan in our ward? Some other Susan? And of course in the back of my mind was the question I have about all phone calls these days. Was it someone from DCFS wanting to bring me my new daughter?

Roscoe was unclear on the details, but reported that “Susan” had said she would call my cell phone. But my cell showed no calls. Later, I discover a missed call on my cell. Investigation revealed it to be a DCFS number. But no Susan could be located at that number. Even later, I discovered a voice message. How had I missed it? So I returned the call to Susannah—a DCFS worker I know—and, yes, she had been calling to bring us a little girl.

But for reasons unexplained, the placement was “emergency” and when she couldn’t reach me, she took the girl to someone else.

If I hadn’t been driving down that gray road at that moment, I would be holding a new daughter right now.

I’m in disbelief. I’m always home! I always answer (or at least screen) calls! I can’t believe I missed it! I can’t believe I didn’t see the cell call! I can’t believe I spent two hours bathing Jesse and making quesadillas and reading emails as the minutes ticked by and my daughter was taken to someone else. I can't believe that today was the day, and now it isn't.

Maybe that girl wasn’t the right fit for our family. Maybe it’s all better for her to have ended up where she is. Maybe that absent-minded examiner and twitchy cell phone were tender mercies of the Lord answering my prayers to direct our family to the daughter we can love and care for best.

Or maybe it’s just one of those cruel twists of fate so common to mortal life—where a beat of a butterfly’s wing creates a tsunami half a world away.


  1. Oh. my. heck.

    That is absolutely the craziest thing I've heard in awhile. I can't wait until you can look back and say, "wow, just look how things worked out instead."

  2. And I'm sorry for you, I hate that aching feeling of wanting to phone to ring over again.

  3. Oh, Ang. So sad. I hope, along with you, that it all turned out the way it was supposed to. Trust in the Lord with all thy heart.

  4. So sorry to hear that. I know how it is to wait for that call. I guess you just have to believe that it IS for the better good.

  5. You have my every sympathy. You will triumph in the end, however.

  6. So sorry Angela! That does really bite. Have I told you how much I love your writing? :) Thank you for taking my kids for tonight, I really appreciate it. I will get you back when this little project is over.

  7. Oh so sad! It's always so hard to know how much our actions (or the actions of others) influence our eternal destinies. I'm sure there is another wonderful girl out there that is going to be a perfect fit.