Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Godone-Maresca Story: A Story that Needs to be Told

The Godone-Maresca Story: A Story that Needs to be Told

The Godone-Maresca adoption story as of Christmas 2012

I was really impacted, and touched, by this family's "faith and togetherness", as Lillian herself phrases it as she shares her family's amazing story in her blog. Particularly I was impressed by the enormous sacrifices made by LIllian's mother and by her three biological children in a society where regrettably grandparents and older siblings tend to have  less significant roles in the lives of the younger siblings as each day goes by. This is an inspirational story that needs to be told. Also I'd like to invite any readers to please share her FSP with Reece's Rainbow just ni case someone may feel led to help a little towards the final fee and expenses in their rush against time before the pick-up trip, which is scheduled for January 5, 2013.

And this is their story:

For the last few years everything for the Godone-Maresca family has been revolving around the international adoption of children with special needs. Despite being widowed, and therefore a single applicant, when talking about adoption Lillian always uses the plural due to the total, absolute, unconditional support of her mother and her three biological children in each and all of the processes.

The above pictures were taken in their backyard on 03/11/12, only five days before E. Nydia Soracco-Godone would be taken to hospital and diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

Lillian's mom and children on Mother's Day 2011


The degree to which the grandmother and the three older siblings gave of themselves for the sake of the adoptions is completely unusual, if not unique.

A totally happy grandma

Christmas 2011

Five days after she'd be rushed to hospital in an ambulance. She was feeling unwell already. She was starting having shortness of breath. Yet, she always had a smile for all her grandkids. All she wanted was to hug and kiss them, and to be hugged and kissed in return.

When people praise Lillian for what she is doing, she always makes sure to give credit to the enormous sacrifices her mother and her older children made. In a five-year period Lillian went from being a mother of three to becoming a mother of eight. Lillian’s mother, E. Nydia Soracco-Godone, was called by the Lord on September 1, 2012, leaving behind a legacy of unlimited love, unconditional generosity, and unparalleled selflessness. She was a retired professor of literature, but as she had never worked in U.S., instead of paying the monthly premium that Medicare would have charged her, she spontaneously preferred not to have knee replacement and cataracts surgeries and contribute those monies to the international adoption expenses of her younger grandkids instead, first from Haiti and then from Bulgaria, with two failed adoptions from Russia and Uzbekistan in between.  She could also have paid out of pocket for those surgeries also—but selected not to do it either. Even after finding herself almost blind and in a wheelchair, she never had any regrets. By the time when she could have had Medicare at no cost, her heart was too weak for any kind of surgical intervention.

Lillian’s biological children are Catherine, now 26, and Gerard and Warren, 16-year-old twins. Catherine has a master’s and almost a Psy.D., and works as a lead therapist with children with special needs—and does have a very special place in her heart for special kids. She spends lots of time looking for the perfect educational toys to target each specific skill for each one of her younger brothers.

Together with Gerard (front) and Warren (back), Catherine was taking care of the family's Thanksgiving dinner, 2011--that year and always.

A very happy sister with younger brothers Nicholas and Stephen.

Catherine sledding in the snow with Stephen, Jan. 2012, in their front yard. The sled had been one out of the many Christmas presents she had bought for Christmas for her younger brothers.

Catherine with Nicholas and Thomas.

Catherine with Stephen.

Catherine's enthusiasm over Nicholas' birthday cake says it all!

In July 2008 when Thomas and Nicholas arrived home from Haiti, Gerard and Warren were only 11. Since then they have been acting more like fathers than older brothers to their younger siblings, also adding Stephen, who would join the family from Bulgaria in December 2010 right before Christmas and his ninth birthday. The same as their older sister, Gerard and Warren have been helping with absolutely everything, including hygiene and personal needs.

From left to right: Gerard, Catherine, Nicholas, and Warren

Gerard with Stephen, summer 2011

Warren with Thomas, Christmas 2011.

Gerard with Stephen, Christmas 2011.

Catherine's present for the twins on the day of their Confirmation, March 2012

From left to right: Gerard, Catherine, Warren, and Nicholas, fall 2011

Letting him do it--but being there just in case. Warren keeping behind Thomas in order to eventually cushion a fall. Spring 2012

Warren helping Stephen with the monkey bars.

Gerard helping Thomas with the monkey bars.

Warren holding Thomas on Mr. Potato Head's arm, Roger Williams Park, Providence, spring 2012

Warren is making Stephen climb up Mr. Potato Head now.

Gerard looking after Nicholas and Thomas on the rolling slide.

Big brother-younger brother moment (one moment out of countless similar ones). They both cherish sporting similar t-shirts.

When Stephen got his new wheelchair, Gerard accompanied their mom--and he would be the one to learn how to do everything.
Thomas and Nicholas, now 11, were 7 years old at the time of their homecoming. They are three months apart. They both have mild cerebral palsy, and both of them are loving, caring, adorable children who are liked by anyone who interacts with them. 

Mom with Thomas and Nicholas at their school, fall 2011

Catherine with Nicholas.

Mom with Thomas. 

Stephen still has some unresolved anger issues, but is also a very affectionate child who seeks human contact. He has spina bifida, but his sparking, larger-than-life personality prevents people from even noticing his wheelchair.

A brother-to-brother hug: Warren and Stephen

Always smiling and always brave--even before his corrective surgery for esotropia, Nov. 2011

Stephen's enthusiasm with the snow is evident. Also in the picture: Catherine and Warren.

Despite some minor instances of misbehavior, Thomas, Nicholas, and Stephen have a solid sense of family, loyalty, truthfulness, and reaching out to anyone in distress.  They have assimilated some core values that are paramount in the Godone-Maresca family, where the most cherished principles derive from the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church.  Lillian shares her “recipe” for a successful adoption outcome by saying that when it is the whole family that is unconditionally involved as opposed to being just the parent or parents, children end up responding accordingly.  Actually, Lillian even confesses that her younger children behave much better with their older siblings than they do with her.

Maximilian, 10, and Philip, 7, will be picked up in Bulgaria by Lillian on January 7, and the three of them will be flying back home on January 12, 2013. Their adoptions meant a long process fraught with delays and tears that finally is now arriving to a happy ending. Maximilian and Philip have mild c.p. as well. Maximilian uses a wheelchair. Philip has club feet which do not prevent him from being in constant movement and from running all over the place. Philip also has articulation problems, which impair his expressive but not his receptive communication skills. Both are very affectionate children who cannot wait to be home. Needless to say, their family cannot wait to have them home. Sometimes Lillian, Catherine, and the twins feel they cannot even say how much those two children need their new family because they very well know how very much their new family needs them as well.

Mom with Maximilian

Mom with Philip

Pictures from the day of Lillian's last visit with Maximilian and Philip, May 2012

Rather than waiting the inexorable, inflexible six-month period imposed by their local homestudy agency in Southern California before approving Lillian for the adoption of two more kids, in early 2011 the whole family took a huge leap of faith and moved all the way from San Diego County, CA, to RI. For Gerard and Warren, having Maximilian and Philip home sooner was more important than what would have been an easier pathway in their studies through the UC system from junior college to a four-year college without ACT or SAT, and then priority for grad school admission.  Catherine didn’t mind saying good-bye to her parochial Young Adults group where she had been a leader since her youth ministry days and putting a coast-to-coast distance between her and the grad school where she had completed her master’s and doctoral coursework but where her dissertation is still due.  They all faked enthusiasm over the move—because having their younger brothers home as early as possible was more important.

Nevertheless, the leap of faith was a huge one, and some other delays were unavoidable. Lillian was used to a very privileged upbringing in her childhood days—but things are not the same in her adulthood. Catherine and the twins were happy to make many sacrifices that typical older siblings wouldn’t even consider making in this self-centered society in which we live.  Catherine voluntarily contributed grad student loan monies meant for her living expenses, and for which she is now obligated in her own name. Gerard and Warren decided to skip lunch in college. Every day, upon arriving back home in the evening, the twins would be really hungry—but also happy that they were silently helping towards a sooner homecoming for Maximilian and Philip to be once and for all, and forever, where they already belong.