A woman brought her unsuspecting stepdad to tears by turning her birthday celebrations into a surprise for him – by asking him to adopt her after 25 years of fatherhood.
Rickie Cotney, 47, could not hold back his tears when Lea Atchinson, 30, made the gesture at his Lineville, Alabama, home on April 22.
According to Lea, Rickie came into her life when she was just four years old, fast becoming a father figure to her before Rickie married Lea’s mom in 1998.
Over the years that followed, Rickie introduced Lea to her love of rock ‘n’ roll; gave her away on her wedding day; and has become the best “Pawpaw” to her young twins, Lea said.
But for years, Lea also wanted to make Rickie officially her father, and when she found out about adult adoptions she began the process.
Then, two days before Lea’s 30th birthday, the family gathered at Lea’s parents’ home, where they enjoyed a dinner.
When the family then moved outside, Rickie was asked to sit down because Lea had a video she wanted to show him.
Lea – who said she was nervous but knew her stepdad would say yes – then showed Rickie the video of photos, which ended with a message: “I thought it was time I gave YOU a present for MY birthday since I used to give myself presents for yours!”
Rickie then opened up a hand-written note for his stepdaughter, before the pair pulled out a banner that side, “Will you adopt me?”, and another that said, “Yes.”
Finally, Rickie, who had tears in his eyes from the video, was shown the adoption petition paperwork, and he and Lea headed in for a tearful hug.
Now that Rickie has signed the paperwork, the pair are waiting for a court date to make things official.
Lea, who shared a video of the surprise online, said: “He got teary during the video and while reading the note, but started crying when he pulled out the banner and we held it up for him to see.
“He nodded and very quietly, said, ‘Yes,’ and we both burst into tears.
“My stepdad is typically not a very emotional person, so to see him cry with tears of joy let me know I made the best decision in asking him to adopt me.
“My emotions were all over the place, but I’ve never been happier than I was in that moment when he nodded his head yes.”