Quick update: I raised my granddaughters for almost 7 years before they went back to live with their mother. Below is the story (some editing done) that was written before they returned to their mother. How am I doing? I miss the girls. How are the children doing? It has been an adjustment, but they are doing fine now. My heart is mending, and I love seeing them when I can. I thought I would have to wait until they were grown to continue our relationship. But I haven't. They are still in my life. A foundation of love was laid that can never be undone. And if it gets undone, then I guess I will just have to rebuild it when they are older. My marriage also ended, which was a very good thing.
Original story: My name is Karen. I were married in June 2002. I had one 16-year-old daughter still at home and grown children who lived in various parts of the country. I had been married for 22 years and divorced from my children's father for 9 years. The man I married had been married for 16 years and divorced for 12 years. He had two sons, ages 28 and 16 who lived across the country. For the sake of his privacy I will call the man that I was married to for a few years, "John." That is not his real name.
Life looked exciting and rather simple. "John" had worked for the same company for 24 years. I had gone back to college after my divorce and earned a B.S. degree in Community Health Education. I was self-employed and worked out of my home.
We had many common interests (Or so I thought). They varied from Victorian and Colonial dancing to riding his Harley-Davidson. Four months after getting married, I got a phone call. That phone call changed our lives tremendously. Within a few hours, we left and drove 24-hours straight through to Texas. We brought back with us 3 little girls, my granddaughters, ages 4, 2, and 2 months (The baby weighing less than 5 lbs. and on a heart monitor). After staying overnight at the hospital with the baby, to show I could take care of a premature infant, we packed up the children and within hours we were on our way home, having no idea how we were going to manage everything.
Before leaving Texas, my daughter (the children's mother) signed a notarized power of attorney authorizing us to make all needed decisions pertaining to medical and educational issues concerning the children. This was needed along with the children's birth certificates and social security cards to obtain many of the services they needed. The father was and still is incarcerated and is completely out of the picture.
The first day home, I went to social services and applied for Medicaid for the children. The baby needed to be followed by pediatric specialists as quickly as possible. I called the schools to start the process to have the four-year-old tested for special services, and immediately called the pediatrician to schedule physicals and immunizations. I also went to the county health department to apply for WIC for the children. This provided the special formula the baby needed, as well as help with milk, juice, cheese, and eggs for the other two little girls.
At first I was embarrassed to need help and use the WIC coupons, especially if the cashier didn't know how to process them properly and a line of people formed behind me. My mind was bombarded with thoughts such as, "This is so embarrassing. I should be able to feed my own grandkids." Yes, without the help they would still have been fed, but the assistance was definitely helpful.
It took me 5 months before I would even apply for assistance with daycare. I kept thinking I should be able to handle everything. I felt that I wasn't doing very well at anything. I had a hard time keeping up with the house and chores, my home-based business, creating time with my teenage daughter, and having any type of normal relationship with "John." When I started feeling overwhelmed and down on myself for not doing better, I would stop and think, "Is there anyone at all that I personally know that could do this better than I am? I could not think of anyone. I could think of people who were more organized, more patient, healthier, and people who just seemed to have it all together. But when I stopped to actually think about how they would do if they were trying to do everything I was doing, I realized that I didn't think they would even do as well as I was. I remind myself of that often when I look at all the things I want to do and haven't figured out yet how to do them.
When we brought the children home, we did not have any extra bedrooms and we were very crowded, so the 2 little girls slept in our bedroom and we slept on the hide-a-bed in the living room with the baby next to us in a basket. Within a few months, we started an addition to our home and eventually moved into a larger home with plenty of room. "John" sold his Harley, and we purchased a mini-van, which we are enjoying immensely.
I often think of my great-grandmother and great-grandfather, Josephine and Peter Best. In the early 1900's, they raised 5 young grandchildren, the youngest an infant, after the tragic death of their son and daughter-in-law. Our own personal circumstances were not caused by death but perhaps just as stressful. Josephine and Peter were older than "John"and I were when they raised their grandchildren. They were very poor living in central Florida; but I imagine they responded as we did without hesitation when the need arose.
When our own little granddaughters had been with us for eight months, my daughter finally recognized how manipulating and abusive her husband had been. She left the state of Texas and moved to a state closer to us. Finally after much frustration on all of our parts, hurt feelings, and too much money paid in legal fees, we came to an agreement. We finalized all the legal issues in court. We agreed that my husband, daughter, and I share joint legal custody, while "John" and I had sole physical custody.
Many things have changed over the past year. The children are now being raised by their mother and step-father. "John" and I went our separated ways, I returned to school to earn my master's degree, and my family is beginning to heal. I have much to be grateful for, even if at times I thought I would not survive. I am more than surviving. I am actually thriving. Was it hard raising grandchildren for all those years in a difficult relationship? You bet. Do I regret it? Never.