The third meeting with Roman was on the afternoon of the second day in Kandalaksha. After we held him while he slept that morning, he was taken so he could eat some lunch and we were dismissed so we could eat our lunch. We spent the next few hours walking around the town trying to get a feel for the place that would always be Roman's first home.
Kandalaksha is an old town and it didn't take much imagination to know that communism had once reigned there. Tatiana told us that several towns that size had been affected significantly when communism fell as there was very little reason to travel to these areas once companies had some choice in where to obtain their resources. She told us of large hotels that were once full now sat empty which made it difficult to find funds for repairs and updates. We were told that we were extremely fortunate to have running water in our room and not have to share a communal bathroom on each floor of the hotel. The hotel we stayed in was, in fact quite dated, but it was clean and had a fridge-a welcome amenity! It was not the most luxurious place we have ever stayed in, but it had a lot of charm and felt safe.
We took a few walks while we were there. We walked down the hill from our hotel to the White Sea only to realize that we couldn't access any part of the beach courtesy of the razor wire fences of the military. Still, it felt good to get outside and stretch our legs. We passed women on the sidewalk with heads covered , thick stockings with sensible shoes. We also saw many military trucks manned by gunned men. It was a little unnerving, but overall we felt very safe. Later that night at 1:30 AM, Brock would take a walk in bright daylight up the hill from our hotel to capture some photos of the tank in the park and a statue of Lenin. I watched him from the window of the hotel trying to decide what I would do if I saw anything happen to him. Thankfully, I never had to reach a decision. There were several men drinking in the park across the street, although they didn't seem rowdy. As I would have been the only woman on the streets, I was glad I opted to stay inside.
After our walk to the Sea-or rather, as close to the Sea as we could get-we had some lunch and then went back to the baby home. We were led up past the big sunny room and into a small office that we later learned was the doctor's office. The doctor was a petite woman with big glasses circa 1970. She had a large file on Roman and, as anxious as we were about that meeting, it actually served more than anything to calm our fears. We discovered that he had consistent check-ups and was in overall very good health. That meeting lasted about 45 minutes and we were told that we would get a copy of all his medical records once we adopted him.
After the doctor, we were taken back into the big sunny room and Roman was brought back into us. I think I saw that he recognized us right away this time and came to us very quickly. Since it had finally stopped raining, we bundled him up in even more layers and took him outside. We had a stroller with us, but decided to let him walk. He was not happy about that. Holding onto Brock's finger with one hand, he whimpered and reached for the stroller with the other. We put him in it and he seemed content, although he had a white knuckled grip on the tray. He giggled and kicked his feet and seemed very happy until we reached the merry-go-round.
I sat on the merry-go-round and pulled him out of his stroller. He hollered in protest and within seconds had big crocodile tears running down his fat cheeks. He had had several mosquito bites on his forehead when we first saw them, so we jokingly said that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from the bites. Once we got him back in the stroller, he was fine again so we continued our walk until we all decided the mosquitoes were too much and we back inside to play.
Once inside and his little shoes were off and his toes flexed and stretched, he was quite happy to play with the ball, train and big green tractor (Grandpa Rudy is going to love the tractor-even if it is green!) He kept tripping over the hem of his too big cargo pants, so Tatiana pulled them off and he spent the rest of the time running around in his tights. They are very big on tights in Russia. I think they are scared to death to get cold, so while Brock and I are sweating and sticky, Roman was bundled up in two shirts, a fleece jacket, tights and pants. At our first visit, we asked if we could remove his tights to look at his toes and you would have thought that we asked for them to uncover a government secret. They did pull them off though for a moment, long enough to get a little video and count his toes before the stockings went right back on.
During this visit, his one of his caretakesr came in to meet with us. We were told Olga was his favorite as Roman was hers and when we had asked to talk to her, we were told that she was on vacation. Since she was in the area, she came in and for that we are extremely grateful. She gave us a little more insight into his personality and told us, with tears in her eyes, that she was so glad that he would have a family. What a selfless love she had for our son!
We were, in fact, impressed about everything we learned about the baby home. There were 50 children there, not all of them available for adoption. Roman had no siblings available at this time and our agency is very strict on making sure that sibling groups means actual, biological sibling groups. On one hand, we were a little disappointed because we were emotionally prepared for two, on another, grateful that our agency had a commitment to integrity and honesty. We had read books and gotten other information that prepared us for the worst and yet both of us felt like we couldn't have asked for a better experience. It reminded me of a time when I was engaged to Brock. I had moved to Missouri and in with my soon-to-be in-laws. Brock and I had prayed about our decision to get married and I really felt peace about the decisions we were making. Yet, in the back of my mind, I always had an "escape route". If this didn't work out, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I remember sitting at Pam and Rudy's dining room table working on reception invitations and being delighted by how well they had turned out and it hit me like a ton of bricks. By concentrating so much on my "escape route", I was missing so many of the blessings of that season. That was the same feeling that I got when we were with Roman. I think it was important for us to be aware of the potential issues we could face, but if our focus stayed too much on that, we would miss the blessings of this season. It's a hard season, wanting so badly for our son to be home, but it's a necessary season. My sister told me it was like getting an ultrasound. We got to measure him, check him out and, since we haven't felt him kicking and tumbling in me, we got to feel him-nine months worth concentrated into nine hours. We cherish those nine hours and know that God has His hands on him. He's no safer there than he would be here. And even though it feels like the six weeks or so until we get to travel again will never get here, we know that we are doing what we are supposed to do and, with God on our side, we will bring him home.