In 1994, after an exhaustive process, my wife Mary and I adopted two Russian sisters, ages 5 and 1, from an orphanage in Central Russia. The Russian government had taken the children from their mother due to abuse and neglect. When we met the girls for the first time, the 1-year-old was in a hospital and near death, suffering from a variety of ailments. At 16 months she only weighed 12 pounds. Today, this girl, Emily, is 23 and is a tennis teaching professional. The 5-year-old had a severe limp because she had not received any medical attention while in Russia. This condition required major surgery to rebuild her hip upon her arrival to the US and three months in a full body cast. While at the orphanage, we discovered that the girls had an older brother, aged 9. We arranged for Mary's sister to adopt him, though it took another nine months due to complex paperwork and legal process. (During this trip, I was mugged at machine gun point by two Moscow policemen. This was at a time when they were not being paid regularly).
About two years later, we received a call from Moscow, informing us that the mother had just given birth to a baby boy and had placed him into the orphanage. We immediately began the process of adopting him too. I took this little boy home to the USA myself—a trip that entailed an 18-hour train ride from central Russia to Moscow; a very long plane ride to Germany and layover there; and finally, a plane to his new home in America. When the two of us landed in the US, he thought I was his mother. This trip was the start of an incredible relationship the two of us continue to enjoy.
I have two older children from a prior marriage and five grandchildren. However, raising the younger children has led me into places and experiences I could never have imagined. Each child has numerous issues to confront that my older children never did. Although the children are now in their 20s, I continue to be their teacher and mentor and am very lucky to have a wonderful relationship with each one. My wife and I have been truly blessed in this wonderful experience.