When Bernice Dyck of Fresno, Calif., welcomed a new daughter in September, her friends showered her with "baby food" in the form of Red Lobster gift cards. It was just right for the 96-year-old and her adopted daughter, 30. Dyck's son, Rick, first met Chenda Kaub Chumb during a visit to Cambodia in 2003 and casually suggested she should attend school in the US. A visit to the Fresno City College's website soon "began a process which changed all of our lives," he tells the Fresno Bee. He agreed to finance Chenda's education from his home in Tokyo and his parents agreed to host her. Over the next decade, she "grew to love and appreciate both of my parents," says Dyck's son, Skip, who lives in Michigan. "We fell in love with her," adds Bernice. But with every visit home came the possibility that Chenda's visa would be denied. Adoption eventually came to mind.
Chenda officially joined the family in September—with the approval of her birth mom—making Bernice the world's oldest adoptive parent, per Guinness World Records. "I have always been grateful for her presence, since I am so far away," says Skip. "I have called her 'sis' regularly. I guess this sort of makes it legal now." Chenda and Bernice, now a widow, refer to their situation as the "immaculate conception." But "the full life she helps me live, as my child, is the miracle," Bernice says. "I was scared that I would be all alone, that I would have to give up my home." Now, "we travel when she isn't studying to complete a master's degree at Fresno State." Chenda, meanwhile, says she has "finally experienced true love." The Dyck family "brought out the best in me, and knew there was and is good in me. My hard work exists because of their love and encouragement."