The flight had been delayed, so the large group of us waited, buzzing in anticipation, at the arrivals section of Denver International Airport. We took frequent trips to the various airport food options, turning it more into a habit of boredom than actual hunger. Finally, all our phones lit up simultaneously with the same text: Just landed.
Shortly after, we all met Oleg Betz. Ryan held the terrified three year old as he stared wide-eyed and suspicious at all the smiling faces looking at him. We waved. He shook his fist back at us. We laughed. Then, for the first time in his new home country, he smiled.
Tabitha and Ryan are as much of my parents to me as my biological ones. Tabitha was my brother and I’s nanny for 10 solid years, as it was just my father, brother and I in the immediate family, and we needed at least some sort of supervisions at the ages of 6 and 8. Tabitha and her husband Ryan were days away from joining the peace corps before my dad set out an ad to find us someone to look after us. Tabitha accepted the interview, and within hours of meeting us, she and Ryan cancelled their future plans and the rest of my life began.
Tabitha, who at the time was a mid-twenties aged woman from Colorado, was already full of tattoos, long dirty blonde hair, bright pink framed glasses and tiny size 5 shoed feet. The first time we met we transformed our living room into a poorly built fort while kicking out my brother as for a moment I had deemed it “girls only”. Over the years she taught me how to make crepes, do laundry, cook anything other than basic pasta, and write short stories together. Today, we have matching tattoos, talk every day, and her two children call me their sister.
Tabitha and Ryan were always large advocators for adoption. I remember hearing them talk about wanting kids, and how they didn’t feel right having children of their own until they were able to adopt one. Oleg was just a distant thought by the time that Tabitha came into my life. But when he did, he became such an immense part of my life very quickly. After 5 years of application processes, interviews and more, Oleg came to the United States. He was born in Ukraine, and brought back to us at three years old. And today, as I consider him my brother and a part of my family.
However, I don’t have to raise Oleg. I didn’t have to go through the direct application process, nor the fees. I see him in some of his bad parts, but I also see him in his fun parts, as a sibling and not a parent would. Tabitha and Ryan have, though, started a fund for my brother and I to be used if we decide to adopt one day. If we do not, we won’t get the money. But they very much want us to have the option to raise a child like they’re raising Oleg.