A year ago today, my wife, our daughter and I boarded a China Southern airliner to begin an adventure that would change our lives forever and bring a wonderful new member to our family. Within three days after we began our journey to the other side of the world, we were reunited with Lun Lun, the little boy who had come to the United States just a year before as part of a fostering program sponsored by Cradle of Hope, an international adoption organization in Silver Spring, Maryland.

When Lun Lun met our daughter Stacey in late June 2016, it truly was love at first hug and it felt so right for both of them.. By the time he returned to China just three weeks later, leaving a sea of tears behind, Stacey knew that Lun Lun would become her son and she quickly began the adoption process.

As the process dragged along, the adoption agency reassured Stacey that the paperwork and approvals might seem overwhelming, but in the end she would have her little boy. During that time, the only contact we could have with Lun Lun was through pictures, gifts and letters that were delivered by members of the agency. None of our correspondence was to even allude to adoption in case Stacey’s efforts fell through. Thankfully they didn’t.

While this adoption journey seemed like an eternity of waiting, after nearly seven months we received the great news from Stacey that she had been approved and we should begin making plans for our pilgrimage to China to bring Lun Lun home to Connecticut. Everything about this trip revolved around a “gotcha date” ---the actual day when the Chinese authorities would give the little guy to Stacey. We learned that if we missed that day for any reason, the entire trip would have to be rescheduled.

In retrospect, our efforts to get ready for this trip were like being in an emotional pressure cooker. Buying the air tickets was the easiest part, but securing the Chinese visas, paying the final fees to the agency for the adoption and swallowing the expensive hotel and transfer fees was a real culture shock.

But net net, it was all worth it and on Sunday, June 18th, 2017, little Lun Lun ran into his mother’s arms as if he always belonged there and we all melted in ears of joy. It was definitely my best father’s day since becoming a dad for the first and second time.

Our only reality check after Stacey's official adoption of Lun Lun on the day after our tearful reunion, was realizing that the threesome of adults who had arrived in China just days earlier was now a foursome that included a very special addition, our new grandson. Our responsibilities had suddenly mushroomed. Lun Lun also received a new American name, Lucas, and would need to get used to hearing that name.

For the next 12 days, while we were in China, Stacey found as many child-related activities as possible to keep Lucas occupied. We all discovered Lucas' food likes and dislikes. Then came the long, 15-hour trip home and the challenges of getting through customs with an extra little person.

By by the time we arrived back on American soil, our names had also changed to Lo Lo (maternal grandmother ) and Lowyeh (maternal grandfather), which we learned were close enough to Mandarin. We loved our new names.

Within a few weeks, Little Lucas went from world traveler to domestic traveler as we boarded a plane again to attend the funeral of his great grandfather, my dad, who passed away suddenly in Chicago before ever meeting his great grandson. Earlier than any of us had planned, Lucas met the rest of my family who, of course, made him feel at home. I tried to put myself in his little shoes at the funeral as relatives and friends reached out with loving arms, overwhelming him with love and affection. But the little guy just took it all in stride everyone fell in love with him.

From the week after we returned from Chicago, the rest of summer and this past year have been a complete blur of activities, kindergarten, birthdays and new holiday celebrations and meeting my wife’s family in Virginia over Thanksgiving.. And Lucas has taken responsibility for his new “go go” (dog), Cookie, and our dogs also.

In one short year, our lives have been enriched and changed forever by this special young man and his beautiful smile and infectious laugh. It feels like Lucas has always been part of our lives and we feel so blessed.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at stevengaynes44@gmail.com.