He was a quiet boy, when he first came to live with us. He’d already been in the foster care system for three years. He was five now, and had a big appetite for one so small and thin. At first, I thought that he’d break if anyone hugged him too tight. His response to a hug was a giggle. It was the only time I heard him laugh, until he got settled and learned that he was accepted for himself.
I asked Annie, age eight, to be his guide for the first couple of days, until he got used to moving about our house. I stressed to the other children how important it was that things be kept tidy and in their place, so that little Eric would be able to navigate on his own.
His blindness was something that the other children accepted without comment. All of them had one or another disability so they understood.
The first morning, I went to call Eric to breakfast. I found him sitting on the window seat, with sunlight pouring a golden glow around him and lighting his blonde hair.
“Eric, it’s time to come for breakfast,” I told him. He didn’t move, but kept his face towards the sun.
“Come, Eric,” I said.
“But — the warm,” he said, and he flung out his arms wide. “Can’t I please stay in the warm for a bit more?”
I smiled then. Perhaps no one had ever told him about the sun. To him it was a feeling — warm.
“Alright, Eric. Suppose I sit here in the sunshine with you for just a few minutes.”
“Okay. Do you like the warm, too?”
“Yes, Eric,” I said, giving him a hug. “I like the warm too.”
He was with us for several years. He grew and flourished under our care. He went away to college. We were proud of him when he became a lawyer. We were his family when he married, and grandparents to his three children.
When my husband died, Eric and his little family came to the funeral service, as did several of our other foster children who had lived with us.
Eric and his wife stood close by me, the three children quiet and well behaved on this sad day. I felt the warmth of the sunshine on this late October day.
I leaned on my white cane, and Eric gave me his arm. I became blind from macular degeneration the year before. It was Eric who inspired and consoled me. I could face this new development because he had gone before me.
“Thank you, Eric,” I said, as he handed me into the limousine. We would have to get through the next few hours, as we ate and drank and reminisced about my dear husband’s life. I was glad that Eric and his family were there.