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REAL OR ADOPTED, GRANDPARENTS A GIFT.

Byline: DENNIS McCARTHY

WEST HILLS - ``Big Ed'' Rasky was getting nowhere fast with this idea of his to adopt some grandkids.

With three grown children of his own, the West Hills special education teacher - dubbed Big Ed because he's a big man with a big heart - figured it was only a matter of time before one of them would present him and his wife, Sunny, with a precious grandchild.

Big Ed figured wrong.

He and Sunny were inching their way into their 70s, and they couldn't afford to wait around much longer, keeping their fingers crossed.

That was six years ago, and they worried time was running out for them to spoil their grandkids rotten, tell them stories, play with them, and then give them back to their mamas at the end of the day.

``It really looked hopeless. Then it came to me, why not adopt grandchildren?'' Ed said Monday, helping Sunny push their two adopted grandkids on the swings at Shadow Ranch Park in West Hills.

``We adopt children all the time, why not grandchildren?''

When no one could give him a good answer six years ago, Big Ed got busy looking. He took out an ad in the Jewish Journal but didn't get one response.

Then, he wrote letters to the rabbis of five large congregations in the West Valley, but that didn't get much of a response, either.

He finally talked to the preschool principal at his synagogue - Shomrei Torah in West Hills - who knew all the families in the school personally.

``She said she would send out a letter to all of them to see if anyone was interested,'' Ed said. ``Five weeks later, one family said they were.

``I bent down and kissed the floor. My prayers had finally been answered.''

Jill and Ken Meyer looked at the letter from the principal at their son's religious preschool and thought it was pretty interesting. An older couple was looking to adopt some grandchildren.

``My husband and I both grew up in homes where grandparents were an important part of our lives and helped shape them,'' Jill said.

``My children's grandparents live far away in other states and see the kids maybe once a year. It's not the same. I felt bad that my children were not having the wonderful experiences we had with our grandparents.

``So, we thought, why not try this? What have we got to lose? If it doesn't work out, we say goodbye.''

A meeting was set up at the synagogue to meet the Raskys, and pretty soon, the Meyers and Raskys were getting together with the kids at the park.

``We started out slowly to see if our kids would take to them, and they did, in a big way,'' Jill said. ``Sunny would pick up Marissa and Ross one day a week from school and take them to lunch and the park.''

Pretty soon, the Raskys were baby-sitting on weekends to give Jill and Ken a night out, and whenever Sunny and Ed went away on vacation, they always brought home gifts for their adopted grandkids.

``Sunny and Ed were giving our children their total unconditional love, even calling them sometimes at bedtime to say goodnight before they went to sleep,'' Jill said.

``They became the grandparents we wanted for our children, and their real grandparents have come to appreciate that because they know how important Sunny and Ed have become to our family.

``We were afraid we'd hurt their feelings, but my mom sends Sunny cards every holiday, thanking her for taking care of the kids.

``In a time when so many people have moved away from their roots and don't have families nearby, an idea like this is definitely something more families should be looking at.

``It's been wonderful for us, for our children, and for the Raskys.''

She never knew her grandmother or grandfather, Sunny says. She missed a lot by not knowing them. She knows that.

She says she doesn't want the same thing to happen to Ross and Marissa.

The kids understand that. They know the Raskys are not their real grandparents, but it doesn't make any difference. These are the grandparents they see week in and week out.

``I like to play cards with them and like it when they pick me up from school and we go out to the park,'' says 7-year-old Marissa. ``I'm glad they adopted us. I love them a lot.''

Her 10-year-old brother, Ross, feels the same way. ``It's nice to have adopted grandparents when your real ones live so far away,'' he said.

``I like having them close by and having them to look up to, besides your mom and dad.''

The kids are lucky, Sunny says. They have some very sharp, perceptive parents.

``Jill and Ken both understand how important it is to have grandparents around and for the kids to be close to them,'' Sunny said.

``Ed and I love those kids very much, and I know they love us back,'' she added.

All the proof she needs is right there on a chair in the den of the Raskys' West Hills home - the one Big Ed sits in when his adopted grandkids come over, and he reads them a book or tells them an adventure story.

Jill bought that unfinished chair at the store and let her kids paint it any color they wanted for Big Ed's 75th birthday present last year.

The kids painted it blue and drew two little teddy bears on it, one pink, one blue.

On the back, they wrote, ``Tell us another story, Big Ed. We love you, Ross and Marissa.''

Being a grandparent doesn't get much better than that - real or adopted.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

From left, the Meyer family - Ken; Marissa, 7; Jill; and Ross, 10, front right - shares a walk in the park with their adopted grandparents Sunny and Ed Rasky, right, at Shadow Ranch Park in West Hills.

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 22, 2001
Words:997
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