Please go here to read Kevin's Part 6 before you come back here and read my perspective, and maybe let him know you were there.
Kevin's sentence was deferred, which meant that if he did everything he was charged to do, he would not serve any time in jail. We naively also thought that meant the charges would not appear on his record, but that is most definitely not the case. I don't remember the exact amounts of time or money, but we spent a great deal of time taking him to therapists and group meetings, most of which did not have a great deal of impact on him. We chauffered him because his car had been stolen.
It seemed to me that most of Kev's paychecks were going to pay restitution and paying the county "therapy" sessions. In my opinion, most of these agencies are there to collect their money and don't do a great deal of good. He also spent a lot of time doing community service. It became his desire to do something that would benefit somebody and would make him feel like he was accomplishing something positive. He volunteered for an agency which drove people to the store, to doctor's appointments, and other necessities and did not have transportation of their own. He had quite the stories to tell from that experience! He also spent many hours transcribing notes for an agency which monitors visits between non-custodial parents in a dangerous divorce situation, where the parents are unable to get along enough to exchange their children for court-ordered visitation. That was a very sad, but satisfying way to fulfill his obligation for community service.
As Kev writes, he went back to Africa to see Sema, the love of his life. I can't remember exact dates or how often he made that trek to Africa, but it is hard to believe he was so privileged to do all of that in the midst of all of the other "stuff" he was taking care of. It seems that he really was focused at this time. I alluded to the challenge of getting Sema through the INS hoops in my last chapter.
The phone calls, faxes, letters to our senator, our attorney, the embassy seemed endless. They had to provide reams of proof that their relationship was legitimate and not just an attempt to bring someone to the "Land of Opportunity" and golden streets of America. Fortunately, they had e-mailed copiously and he had saved all of that correspondence. It was very personal, but necessary to share it with the attorney and the INS.
I was in Indianapolis for our denomination's quadrennial international conference (same reason I was there during Kristen's initial crisis with anorexia, which is also chronicled on my sidebar) when they finally headed for America. I spent a lot of time on the phone assuring myself that all was going well. Before they left, they had a traditional ceremony of her tribe, the Giriama, in her family's home village. It was quite an occasion, and I wish we could have been there. All of the elder members of her family were there, offering wise advice. They had an abundance of food, including a goat roasted in a hole in the ground. If they had not had to leave for America the next day, they would have had a traditional ceremony in her church. But they had to get back to Nairobi and board a plane for the grueling adventure to his home. Prior to this, we had negotiated by phone with her father for the bride price. The tradition of giving cattle wasn't part of the deal, since they were city dwellers, but we had to come to an agreement on the amount of money we paid the bride's family. The tradition is for the bride's and groom's fathers and uncles to sit down and come up with a settlement, but obviously this did not work in our situation, so we had to do it by phone from a very long distance.
Kevin and Sema arrived in Colorado a few hours before I did. It was her first time out of Kenya. They had quite an ordeal in Amsterdam, finding the airport personnel and the city's residents very unfriendly and not willing to offer any sort of assistance. But they endured and survived and arrived safely, but exhausted.
I hope Sema will write her thoughts on this time at some point, because it was a difficult time for her. Everything was different. Her digestive system rebelled and there was nothing "normal" for her. We began to try to help her find the greens she was used to eating, and she began to fix some of her favorite foods when she could find the spices that she loved.
We had 90 days to have the wedding, based on the terms of the fiancee visa. We set the wedding date for September 1 and I took on the role of mother of the bride AND the groom. I felt so bad that her mom wasn't in on the excitement. I wanted her to have things as she wanted them as much as possible. We couldn't duplicate their cake tradition, but we did something totally different from our cake tradition, and it was gorgeous:
I got all of the gifts for the people who helped in the wedding from an African trading company. Kev's two grandfathers were both retired ministers, and each had a part in the ceremony. My brother officiated and he learned to read enough Swahili to pronounce them husband and wife. Kev and Sema did their vows in Swahili. The two grandpas received these beautiful carved walking sticks:
As Kev mentioned, there were some serious adjustment issues. I often wondered if she wished she'd never come over. But she persevere; she is a very strong, very talented, very bright young woman. They moved into student housing, she got her first job, in retail, (after surviving another grueling INS process to obtain a work visa), and began her life as a working wife, putting her husband through school, riding the bus, and enduring her first cold winter.
There were some really dicey times, and Kev could have, and probably should have, lost his deferrment. I really don't know why he didn't, during that year, and in years to come, except that God had His hand on Kevin, and it was almost as if that deferrment was hidden and never was discovered when he got into scrapes with the law. There are some very painful memories of that year of school and adjustment to marriage and to a totally new culture for Sema. I never knew about the OxyCΘntin. I just knew all was not well.
Kevin had a dream in the midst of all of this, though, and applied for a great small Christian school in the LA area, which had the degree he wanted, and which would hopefully get him back to Africa someday. I'll never forget the day he stood before the judge, with the tough transplanted New York attorney who didn't think he'd ever make it, and was free to go to California and go to school. He had a date assigned, two years hence, to appear before the judge to turn everything in to the court and prove he had completed all that he was supposed to do, and when he would be free of this burden. He looked so sharp that day and he had proved to the lawyer that he could do it.
We packed their belongings, which had greatly multiplied in that first year of marriage, and headed west with two cars and a trailer. What an adventure, and what a great memory. She experienced heat in the desert even more than she was used to in Africa! It was with great anticipation. joy, and excitement that we helped get them set up in their cute little apartment in a beautiful part of the LA area. We were certain that this time all would go forward.
TO BE CONTINUED.