With the first step through the doors the familiar smell of the institution assaults my nose, the heavy odor of cooking smells overwhelming me. Five of us squeeze into the tiny elevator as I try to suppress the urge to point out it was only built for two, maybe three people. It is a finicky elevator, and although it is new sometimes you have to jump a little bit to make it go. We arrive on the second floor and the social worker pushes open the manual door, all of us spilling out into the hallway as the wails of a child are heard from far off in the building.
The head psychologist leads us down the hallway where three toddlers are sitting at a tiny table eating their lunch. She points to the child who's back is to me, his shaved head and tiny shoulders hunched over the plate of mush in front of him.
"This is Lazar" she says as she touches his shoulder.
The boy freezes, his spoonful of food halfway to his mouth. After a second he grunts, putting the spoon in his mouth. He continues to eat.
Quietly I move to his side, kneeling beside the table next to him I put my hand on his shoulder. "Hello Lazo." I say in a quiet voice. His eyes never leave his plate as he pulls it closer to him, protecting it in case I should try taking it away. I feel a tear run down my cheek as I realize this tiny toddler, who appears to be two or three years old is really my seven year old son.
A minute later he is done eating. I gently use his towel-bib to wipe his face then offer my hand for him to hold. He willingly wraps his tiny fingers around my index finger, toddling alongside me down the hallway to the playroom. It is here I can finally get a good look at him. He releases my finger and moves into the room, quickly grabbing a toy to dangle. He looks at me warily, hiding behind his arm, his face expressionless and his eyes glassy. He stares off into the distance. At nothing.
When the psychologist says something to him his only response is to freeze and make a tiny grunting sound.
Blank. I have never seen a child so void of expression.
"Yes." I say. "Yes this is my son."
And we called him Asher.
Over the next 10 days I learn all I can about him. He has only recently started to walk. He is extremely underweight. He is so very hard to reach.
Ever so slowly…
he comes to life.
Three years ago today I laid eyes upon my son for the very first time. This child who was lost within the walls of a Serbian institution found his way into our lives and hearts. This child who was so painfully afraid of the world,
now wanting to see,
Papa is the favorite around here, but Asher is Mama's boy. So affectionate and loving. Eager to see the world and all the wonders it holds for him. Every day, as I watch my son so full of joy and wonder, I thank God for allowing us this precious gift.
Genesis 30:13 And Leah said, "Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called him Asher.
Deuteronomy 33:24 About Asher he said: "Most blessed of sons is Asher; let him be favored by his brothers, and let him bathe his feet in oil."