As I sat in the salon one day, I overheard a woman talking happily about a little girl who was "so smart I can't believe it, so beautiful I can't believe it." I laughed and said aloud, "You must be a new grandmother."

"Oh no," came the response, "I'm the mother, and I'm talking about my daughter. But it's OK for me to say all these things because she is adopted."Those overheard words made me think about the many letters I've received in the past weeks, letters primarily from adopted children and their reasons for wanting or not wanting to seek their birth parents. How times have changed!

Earlier in this century adoptive parents went about the process secretly and spoke of adoption only in hushed tones and only to people close to the family. Today adoption is usually discussed openly, and the communication among nations means we all adopt and welcome children of every kind of parentage. Besides, the complexity of today's living arrangements means we also have a full assortment of parents who adopt: lesbian couples, gay men, single women, bachelors.

Nowadays we try to give the adopted child full information about birth parents, but still there are problems and doubts about the best age to disclose a child's history. This next letter is one of the best of the many I've received.

Dear Lois: When our girl was an infant, we started telling her she was chosen, adopted, etc., but it wasn't until she was 8 that I felt she was ready to absorb the full meaning. Shortly thereafter, her excellent grades fell - it happened after the teacher asked the children to tell about their families, and our daughter stood and said abruptly, "I don't know. I was adopted." I talked with her the only way I knew to speak to an 8-year-old, explaining our immense love and thankfulness. When our daughter was 16, I told her that if she ever wanted to trace her biological mother, we would help. She then said the most beautiful words ever to come to my ears: "No. If you pointed out a lady in a store and said she was my `real' mother, she would mean nothing to me. YOU are my mother who has loved me, and you and Daddy reared me."

There is no "best" time to discuss adoption because, no matter the age, that child must deal inwardly with the thought of rejection, and until he/she can adjust to the fact there will be a period of unhappiness.

We have had indescribable joy and love from our daughter. Now she has given birth to two boys, and she and her husband adopted a little girl. To us, this expresses her satisfaction with adoption.

- Evelyn Cerutti, Dunedin, Fla.

Dear Evelyn: I think this is the kind of scenario every adoptive parent seeks. Your reminder that there will be a period of unhappiness as a child deals with rejection doesn't begin and end only with adoption.

Rejection is a part of life we all experience in different ways. Thank you so much for opening your heart and life.

Dear Lois: In response to a reader you said, "Single men over 60 are a rare commodity." I've been hearing that kind of comment for decades, and for the past 10 years I've wondered why these single men cannot find one of these plentiful single women over 60. I checked out the census for more exclusive (that means expensive) areas supposed to be popular with seniors and found more women than men. So I figured the reason is we men can't afford to step up. The money just ain't there, folks. And yes, my last two close lady friends were much younger than I. That's all that is available. Comments?

- Phil

Dear Phil: Comments? You bet. If you think that money is the reason for companionship, friendship and love, chances are you'll never find a real companion, a real friend or real love.