Deal W. Hudson
February 1, 2001
My family of three—my wife, Theresa, my twelve-year-old daughter, Hannah, and I—will fly to Eastern Europe next month and become four. Waiting for us is a four-year-old boy named Cyprian who needs a permanent family. From his pictures he looks like a young Omar Shariff, with dark hair and eyes and gleaming cheekbones: just the right seasoning to flavor our fair-skinned WASP genetic mix.
We began two years ago to think about finding a child from overseas. William Pierce, president of the National Council for Adoption, recommended working with James Savley, executive director of the Small World Ministries adoption program in Nashville, Tennessee.
Savley had connections to several orphanages in Russia. We filled out the papers, submitted to the required home study, and wrote the checks. After everything was completed, we waited seven months to hear something. But Russia had recently elected a new president, Vladimir Putin, who decided to require all adoption agencies to undergo new accreditation procedures. At this point, we didn’t know how long it would be before we received a “referral” for a Russian child. Then Savley’s son called. He had just returned from a trip to Romania, where his nondenominational Christian agency donates gifts, “capfuls of love,” to children every Christmas. A contact there told him that she knew of a little boy available for adoption.
It was an unusual situation: Cyprian had been living with foster families since being given up by his mother when he was six months old. Savley said, “I thought of you first because I thought you would be open to an older child.” My wife’s wry comment was, “Yes, Deal would like to play baseball with him and not be in a wheelchair.”
Since I’m now on the shady side of 50, I have been asked why I’m doing this. I’ve already survived to raise a toddler—so why put myself through it again? My answer is, “If Bob Reilly can do it, so can I.” Bob, Crisis music critic and a dear friend, is also advanced in age and raising three small children. Indeed, he is one of several older fathers and mothers to whom I have looked for inspiration since Theresa and Hannah first proposed to me that we make our family a little bigger.
Still, I mentally resisted the idea of adoption for a long time—until I happened upon Hannah praying a rosary for her as-yet-unseen brother. Evidently, this had been going on for weeks without her father’s knowledge about it.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I groan at the thought of going through one more time all those stages of childhood that so tax a parent’s knees and back. There is a reason why nature guides us to have children early when our muscles and sinews comport with the challenges of chasing young ones through the yard and out of the street. I take comfort in the fact that golf is my sport, not football or baseball, and that a golf swing survives longer than a downfield pass or a slide into third base. As a Romanian, Cyprian will probably have the foot genes for soccer, a game that was unknown to my generation growing up in Texas—and at my age, I’ll have to settle for watching his brilliant play, not joining in.
In the final analysis, neither Bob nor anyone else made me want to take a small stranger into our home. I realized that Theresa and I hadn’t yet given all we have to give. We—I—haven’t fully made the “gift of self” that Pope John Paul II talks about. There is more time, more money, more energy, more of myself to be given away. And of course, there will be plenty in return for all of us. As I watched Hannah play with her young friends one day a while ago, I saw a deep joy stream forth, something I had never seen in her when she was around only grown-ups. I wanted her to feel that joy at home with a brother or sister.
There is a passage in C.S. Lewis’s Four Loves that I cannot get out of my head when I think about adopting Cyprian. He explains that when we are in a group of friends, only specific individuals can bring out specific aspects of ourselves. It is as if we need a group—a larger family, as it were—to realize our full selves.
So in a few weeks, we’ll be off to Bucharest on what feels like the biggest adventure of my life. As I think about Cyprian, I can’t help but connect him to that other Eastern European, John Paul, who made us so aware of the “gift of self.” I hope the Hudson family is up to the task. As we all know, the presence of a child makes love often seem effortless, so much more like the gift that it is.