A mother and child reunion

Eight years after the state took away their children, an Albanian Muslim couple take their first, bitter steps toward rebuilding their broken hearts and family

Kathy seems to understand. "I'm not trying to hurt those kids. If he's happy where he is, I don't want to take him from them. I swear to God that I will be that family's best friend. I appreciate what they did for those kids. Those kids have suffered."

The day before the scheduled meeting, Tim's adoptive mother calls to cancel once again. Another relative has gotten involved, and he doesn't think a meeting is a good idea.

An exasperated Prospere phones the uncle and foster father. They don't understand what has gone wrong. They still are very much in support of the meeting, of opening the lines of communication between the children and the Krasniqis.

Over the next few days, Prospere will do everything he can to try to get the meeting back on track. No one can explain what has derailed it. He asks both the foster father and the uncle, several times, if it is something the Krasniqis did to these children, if it is that they were abused.

"If that's it, I want to tell it to Kathy straight," says Prospere. "But that's not what they tell me, and I gave them every opportunity to do so."

Finally, the uncle resets the meeting for Monday afternoon, in a McDonald's in Palestine, another neutral--if impersonal--location between their hometown and Dallas.

Prospere only tells Kathy that she needs to be in his office by 2 p.m., because they're driving somewhere to meet Tim's uncle. He doesn't tell her about Tim, because he's afraid he might not show and doesn't want to disappoint her again. Kathy doesn't understand. She wants everyone to come to her house. She says she'll barbecue.

"That's the way to make friendship," she says.
At 4 p.m., Kathy Krasniqi walks into a McDonald's in the quaint East Texas town and sees her son for the first time in four years. A smile of disbelief and utter joy spreads across her face. She walks over to the booth where Tim is sitting and extends her hand.

He does not take it, nor does he offer her his hand. She sits down in the booth next to this strapping, handsome stranger, who shares her penetrating, olive-green eyes. But Tim's eyes are cold and angry. He stares straight ahead, never once turning his head to look at her.

"Why do you keep looking for us?" he asks, but doesn't wait for a reply. "Leave us alone. We want to get on with our lives. Because of you we had to keep moving from place to place."

"Why did you have to move because of us, Tim?" Kathy asks, bewildered. "Did we ever hurt you?"

"No," he says. "People told us we were in danger."
"I am not here to kidnap you. I am here just to see you," Kathy says.
"I don't care about myself, only my sister," Tim says. "I have my future to think about. I have to raise my sisters. Someday maybe Lima and I will come looking for you. But now, we want to get on with our lives."

As Kathy and Tim talk, two men from the uncle's church sit at a nearby booth and absently flip through a newspaper. Prospere and the uncle chat a few feet away, but they are close enough to hear that things are not going well. The uncle tells Prospere that he is shocked by how Tim is acting.

Mother and son sit side by side for 20 minutes. Kathy tries to ask some questions, but every one is met with belligerence. She tells him that she does not want to hurt him or disrupt his life, but just be in touch with him and his sister. She tries to tell him how much she's missed him, how much she loves him. But nothing she says can chip through his stony coldness.

Defeated, she stands up and heads toward the door of the restaurant. She stops to thank the uncle. He tells her to give the boy time, and she starts to cry.

"What they did to that man in Jasper is better than this," she says. "This I cannot believe or understand. This I did not deserve."

Kathy is quiet during much of the car ride home. She occasionally breaks into sobs, "What do I have to go on living for?" she says. But through her pain, she thanks Prospere and tells him he's going to go to heaven for everything he's done for her and Sam.

She is uncertain what to tell her husband, who recently underwent emergency back surgery, about the day's events. She's afraid he'll have a heart attack when he hears. "If he was with me today, he would have thrown himself under a car," she says.

When Kathy returns home, she decides to tell Sam the truth. He is crushed.
"I can't say nothing," Sam says in a whisper. "These kids been scared like that, I don't believe it. I never did nothing wrong in my life. I never hurt nobody in my life. Why do my children think this? Why do they believe I am danger?"

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