By Trudy Stewart, Journal Staff
The Stevens Point Journal
Stevens Point, Wisconsin, USA
Wednesday, Dec 25, 2002
Gene Clark's Christmas wish list is short this year.
"I'm very fortunate and blessed," said Clark, 1724 Franklin St., and he
smiles and looks at his son, Christopher, as he says it. "I am one of the
luckiest persons in the world to be able to adopt him."
Clark brought Christopher home last December from an orphanage in Odessa,
Ukraine. This is the first true American Christmas that father and son will
celebrate together. Last year, American Christmas traditions were unfamiliar
to Christopher, who spoke Russian and Ukrainian fluently, but almost no
English. Things are considerably different this year. Christopher not only
speaks English, but also reads it proficiently.
"I can understand rap music," said Christopher, who is "seven and
seven-twelfths years old" and a first-grader at Jefferson Elementary School.
He can't speak rap - yet, he said.
Clark is among a growing number of single parents adopting children. Though
he's in his 60s, his age was no barrier in the Ukraine, he said.
"Studies indicate the most successful adoptions are single-parent, and for a
person up in age, it's even more so," he said. "I think it's becoming more
He had given adoption quite a bit of thought, he said. He eventually decided
to apply to adopt a child from the Ukraine because his paternal grandparents
were from there.
"I wanted to do something for someone," said Clark, a professor since 1968
in the department of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
"I think that was an important factor."
He felt he was prepared to care for a young person. His mother became ill
and moved here from New Jersey. He took care of her for several years before
her death a couple of years ago. It was a sort of reversal of roles in which
the child became the caretaker, he said.
So he began filling out paperwork in February 2001. He underwent police,
employment and U.S. State Department record checks. On the other side of the
world, he found a liaison and filed more paperwork.
Finally, he traveled to Odessa in December 2001. Several children at the
orphanage there were available for adoption. Christopher just seemed the
natural choice for him, Clark said.
"I could not understand why he was still there," Clark said. "He's very
intelligent and very healthy, and very good-looking."
Before he left, Clark had gone to the store and bought a boy's bicycle. One
of the things Christopher really enjoyed in his first months here was
learning to ride the bicycle. It was a big day when they removed the
training wheels, Clark said.
Clark acknowledges his life has changed a lot since Christopher's adoption.
But most are changes he planned for and looked forward to, he said. He
talked with friends who have children and studied all the information he
received about the experiences and expectations in adoptions.
"Cooking was a challenge," he said, "not in terms of meals but in the kinds
of meals children are interested in."
Christopher was used to food that was somewhat cold, because the orphanage
had so many children to serve. The food was also somewhat bland.
"I've had to orient him into richer foods," Clark said. "The nice thing is,
he's interested in fruits and vegetables."
Christopher is also interested in computers, helicopters and space stations,
like most boys his age.
They will travel to New Jersey over the university's winter break so
Christopher can get to know some of his relatives there. He met some cousins
and an aunt on a trip to Florida in the spring.
"I took him to DisneyWorld," Clark said. "He loved it. In fact, we are going
back this year. I just made reservations last week. He wanted to go back,
and I want to go, too."
Christopher also understands American holidays now.
"I'm interested in electrical trains for Christmas," said Christopher, "I
actually want a reindeer that can fly and will be a toy."
The Stevens Point Journal, Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Trudy Stewart: email@example.com.
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