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I know how tough it is being adopted... I spent eight years searching for my real mother; BROOKSIDE'S PIZZA MAN MICK TELLS HOW SOAP PLOT MIRRORS HIS REAL- LIFE AGONY.

THEIR parents were arguing again, so the children huddled together on the stairs till it blew over, just as it always did.

But this row was different. One word, shouted in the heat of the moment, stabbed like a dagger to the heart of a 13-year-old boy listening outside, and changed his life forever. The little boy was Louis Emerick Grant, and the word was "adopted."

Louis, now 42, recalls: "At first I didn't really know what the word meant, and when I did I still couldn't understand it. Everyone said I looked like my brother Jimmy. It was very hard.

"I was a teenager, I was at that age when your hormones are racing and you can be a brat no matter what your circumstances. I started to feel a sense of not belonging, nothing to do with what the family was doing."

His adoptive sister, former model Leonora Grant (inset picture below right), was just as upset as Louis. Leonora, now 47, recalls: "He always loved my parents, Leah and Louis, and only knows them as mum and dad.

"But when you are told you are adopted, how are you going to react? Louis was confused and mixed up. He hated himself, he hated everybody and he took it out on my mum.

"He didn't mean to, it was just what he went through and how it came out. My mum used to say, `Where did I go wrong?' and I'd say mum, you didn't tell him.

"I know it's difficult and you have to be in that predicament yourself to really know how it must feel and what you will do, but to me you should tell the truth as soon as the child is old enough to understand."

Louis's adoptive father Louis Grant had desperately wanted a son to continue his father's name, but was devastated when his wife Leah suffered a miscarriage.

The couple decided to adopt a six-month-old boy from a local children's home. Dad Louis says now: "I adopted a son for my father's name to carry on from Africa. In a great country like Britain, for my father's name to be carried on makes me proud."

Nearly 30 years after he found out he was adopted, Louis has removed the Grant from his stage name. Millions of viewers know him as Mick Johnson the pizza and chippie man in the Channel 4 soap Brookside (inset picture far right). He earns pounds 70,000 a year and lives in a luxury apartment overlooking the sea at New Brighton on Merseyside.

But when he was 16, he couldn't begin to think about his future until he had banished the ghosts of his past. He started to ask questions about his natural mother.

"I asked Leah to tell me the circumstances which led up to it and how they made their decision," Louis says.

"She told me my natural mother's name and how my dad, who was desperate to have a baby son, had gone to the home where I was as a baby, had looked at me and said `Yes, that's the one we want'."

ARMED with his real mother's name and her old address he began his quest to find her. He managed to obtain his real birth certificate and wrote to where his mother once lived. Unsurprisingly, the letter was returned a week later with the message that there was no longer anyone with that name there.

"I was upset but it only made me more determined. I turned detective and even asked the Salvation Army for help. It was a very unsettling time for me and there was a lot of frustration. It was like trying to find the missing pieces of a jigsaw. You need to find the whole story.

"It was very tough and I got depressed. It was probably tougher for the people around me but this was my quest. I fantasised about her, I imagined what she might look like, I even imagined that we would bump into each other walking down the street."

Louis married his childhood sweetheart Mo, and when he was just 17 they had their first child. The birth added to his determination to find his baby's real grandparents.

Mo placed an advert in the local paper saying she was trying to find a woman she used to know and would like to meet up with. But the couple moved home shortly afterwards and it was only when Louis went back to his old flat to collect the post that he discovered two hand-written letters addressed to Mo lying on the doormat.

"I took the letters back home without thinking much of them but when Mo opened them up she shouted `It's your mother! This is it - it's her.'"

Mo rang the woman and arranged to meet her, without telling her what it was about.

Louis recalls: "It was September 10, 1979, a date I will never forget. We arranged to meet at Lime Street Station in Liverpool. I think she probably knew what the meeting was about but Mo didn't tell her.

"Mo and I got off the train, and me being into those detective movies I said I would walk about 20 yards behind her in case my mum saw me and turned tail.

"As it happened she was as blind as a bat - she was short-sighted and had glasses.

"I watched Mo go across to the lady and there was a pub opposite which they went into, the Lord Nelson I think it was called. They went into one bar and I went into the other.

"Mo said, You know why I am here. She replied, Yes, I think so. Mo asked if she would like to meet me and she said yes. So I came into the pub and met her face to face for the first time."

LOUIS was 24. His eight-year quest was over. He recalls: "I remember her glasses steamed up and she got a bit emotional.

"She struck me as a very tall lady with natural blonde hair and blue eyes. She was attractive and wore a long coat. She was probably very emotional because she had carried me for nine months, but I was quite calm and composed. It was only later I got excited and couldn't sleep. I think I must have been in shock.

"We sat down and Mo bought us some drinks. Half a lager and a fruit juice, I think. Mo had brought some photographs and my natural mother told me she had two daughters and another son, a third son had died when he was young.

"We didn't talk about why she had given me up for adoption then, that didn't happen till months down the line.

"We just talked. She was nothing like how I had imagined her. To be honest, we never talked about my real father. My quest was to find her."

The next few years, however, were hard for both of them, as Louis tried to catch up on the life he had never known.

He recalls: "Things were not happening as fast as I wanted them to. It was like going from a baby to an adolescent to a young man in a few weeks.

"It was unfair for me to expect her to get her life in line with me, but I was impatient. Things became difficult because of my impatience and lack of understanding. It was very difficult for her to cope with.

"I was very grateful that at least she wanted to know me but I wanted more."

There was a rocky patch for a couple of years when neither spoke to the other and only the occasional letter kept them together.

Louis was also having difficulties with his relationship with his adoptive mother.

IT took Leah's slow death from cancer in 1985 for the rift to finally heal. Adoptive sister Leonora says: "When she was dying of cancer Louis was different again. He was the one who cared then, and he was with her when she died.

"He has always said his only real regret in life was not telling her how much he really, really did love her. He has always loved Leah, and when he found his real mum he didn't just forget her."

When Leah died, the actor realised life was too short to argue with his real mother too.

He says: "We began calling each other and now things are great between us. I have taken her kids out with mine and we all get on really well.

"We are friends now and there are many things I have discussed with her that I could never have discussed with my adoptive parents, because parents can sometimes be too close. We have been able to talk about things and have confided in each other to quite a depth.

"And after I found my natural mother my relationship with Leah was much better. We grew closer together.

"My big regret in life is that by the time we became close she was taken away from us. But she would have been very proud of us all."

His natural mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she now had "a wonderful relationship" with Louis, and she was very happy about it.

Louis is now divorced from Mo and living with girlfriend Lisa Crawford, 25, and their seven-month-old son Reece.

When Louis was a baby in the 50s adoption was at its peak in Britain, with around 25,000 children a year handed over by their parents. Today that figure has fallen to about 1,000 adoptions a year.

HIS quest to find his natural mother is one that thousands of people face every year, and adoption agencies want Government funding to help adopted people do what he did.

After a BBC documentary last year Barnardo's was flooded with 4,000 inquiries from former residents - and thousands are still facing heartache and misery because of the lack of money to deal with their cases.

Ironically, Louis's personal trauma is mirrored in a current Brookside storyline involving lawyer Eleanor Kitson, the natural mother of adopted teenager Louise Hope.

Louis says: "When I read the script it was OK because at least I have found my natural mother. If I had never found her it would have been very difficult. But mine's a happy ending."
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Author:Vincent, Nigel; Schaverien, Tracy
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 11, 1998
Words:1733
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