Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Adoption Awareness Month: Grandmom's Advice Kept a Family Together

by Paulette Cooper (Noble)

When I was adopted at the age of 6 from Belgium, my parents had a very very difficult time with me. No one told them that I would only speak French and my parents only spoke English so we couldn't communicate. My sister had been adopted by another family and remained in Belgium and I cried constantly for her.

The plump adorable child from the photo was an emaciated semi-starved 36-pounder at the age of 6 who was extremely sickly. I refused to bond to my adopted parents, sit still (or shut up) in school which had just started, and since I didn't understand the language, wasn't learning.

There was a clause in my adoption that if it didn't work out, they could return me. So one day, in total frustration, my mother went to my grandmother (who lived in our building) and said she was going to return me.

"You can't," said my grandmother. "If you gave birth to a child and things didn't work out, you couldn't return her. Well, you gave birth to this child so make it work."

So my mother realized she had to, and she did. And when I felt wanted and not on trial, I improved. That was 63 years ago and my mother and I were close until she died 4 years ago at 95. For the past four years I have been taking care of my father, who is now 99.

Recently, my father thanked me for all that I've been doing for him.

"You and Mom took care of me all my life; now it's my turn to take care of you," I explained.

"It was a pleasure for me and Mom to take care of you," he said, tears in his eyes.

Yes, the impossible adopted child had gone on to make both parents happy and proud of me, graduating with honors from college and getting a masters degree, writing 16 books and over 1,000 articles, winning 6 writing awards and even appearing on such shows for my books as 60 Minutes and the Today show, which they proudly watched.

And oh yes, 15 years ago, after my (separated) sister became a widow, I brought her over and set her up in America. She now works as a sales woman at Saks Fifth Avenue and we're together again.