Nelson Ernesto Bravo Snyder, born January 6, 1985, in Managua, Nicaragua, is 26 years old today. Our Sandinista baby. He’s here because of a chance conversation in the old Wales Wool Store on Downer Avenue when a friend mentioned she was going to a baptism of a child just adopted from Nicaragua which was followed by a crazy meeting with Sallie Pettit where we met her daughter Yami and other newly adopted kids, Moises Price-Neuman and his traveling buddy Mila Holcombe. And we learned that although the new Nicaraguan constitution banned adoptions of Nica kids to families in other countries, the Health and Social Services Ministry was looking for a few homes for kids with serious medical needs — needs that could be met with First World medicine but would doom them in Nicaragua. Sure – we said. We’re interested.
Then there was the phone call a few weeks later. We had just come up from Ottawa Park – sandy, wet. The old yellow wall phone in the kitchen rang. It was Sallie. “There’s an 18-month old boy with a hole in his heart. Will you take him?” Stunned, we told her we would have to talk about it. Ninety seconds later we called back. “Yes.”
What the hell is a hole in the heart? I asked a friend, Fred Tavill, a doctor who had practiced medicine in several third world countries in the 70’s….his response and the words that gave us the confidence to go forward: “If his heart problem was really bad, he’d be dead already in Nicaragua.”
So three months later, Howard went to Nicaragua to fetch our little brave baby. (The story is described in an earlier blog called Orphan Shoe.) He was very sick when he came here – thin, weak, very pale, almost gray. He had surgery 3 months after that and went on to have a healthy, active childhood, lettered in practically every sport, graduated from high school, and is now a weatherization specialist.
This is what he looks like now.
Raising Nelson has not been easy. If there was a Chronicles of Nelson, it would be several volumes, the reading of which would deter from parenthood all but the most determined person. A whole degree program could be developed using Nelson as the case study. Really. No joke.
But I will tell you this. There’s not a time when I’m not glad to see him walk through the door. He’s handsome and funny and loyal. He forgets bad arguments and knows how to crack a joke. He’s fearless and tough. He can put a dress on a Barbie doll for his daughter while talking on the phone and texting. Very skilled guy. And he loves us – which, I guess, is the real miracle here.
At the end of the day (and this isn’t the end of the story because I think the Chronicles of Nelson have a lot more chapters), we’re all lucky. The hole in his heart got fixed and so did ours. That’s pretty good.