“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Collateral Parenting

 

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Stella, my nail tech and friend, apologized over and over. “I am so sorry I’m running this late. See that woman over there under the hair dryer? Well, she’s the spoiled brat who ran me late. First she demanded to eat the lunch she brought; then. . . .”

“I get it. No problem, Stella,” I said. “I have a baby sitter.”

In a nano-flash, she looked up from my nails into my face. Just as quickly, I caught her yet un-voiced reaction. I broke out laughing. “I am 65 years old. Did I just say I have a baby sitter? What the hell???”

She broke out laughing.

I hope it’s healthy to be able to laugh at a sad and scary situation, because I’m going to need all the health I can dream up.

I was born in late summer 1943 and my husband of nearly 40 years in early 1945; do the math. It says I’m on Social Security and Medicare.

Nope, this is no tabloid Enquirer front page about a wrinkled 65-year-old who’s miraculously had a baby; this kind of story is a tabloid’s worst nightmare – real but not sensational. My husband and I have custody of our deeply loved 20-month old granddaughter, Joanna Leigh. We’ve got a toddler to raise. A toddler.

We are among a growing number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, too often because of their own child’s drug and alcohol addictions. Our daughter has been an unrelenting, unremitting drug addict for more than 20 years. For all those years, a yawning abyss seemed to be one misstep away.

Now that we have Joanna Leigh, the abyss is no longer an option. For the past 14 of those 20-plus years, I have faithfully met with my psychiatrist to whom I give the credit for getting me through this morass of heartbreak, fear, anger, revelations, depression, loss of hope, and grief; he has kept me from disappearing into the abyss. 

A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to treat ourselves to a night out, dinner in Birmingham. We got a baby sitter. On the way up there, I turned to him and asked, “Do you think that when the baby starts realizing something critical is different between us and the parents of her friends that she will be mad with us for being so frigging OLD?” A man of few words, he said, “Yeh, probably.”

No Virtual Reality

Paul, my psychiatrist, said to me earlier, “I don’t believe in prophylactic worrying, but your concern here is justified.”

In another decade, I’ll be almost 76. This is not young any way you cut it. And Joanna Leigh will be. . . oh, my Gawd, 12 years old. Pre-adolescent and headed for her teens. When I look forward, all I see is a strange toy box, filled with frightening possibilities. Reality says I’ll do well to see her get her driver’s license.

According to an online piece from the Waco Herald Tribune, the U.S. Census Bureau says that “6.1 million grandparents were living with their grandchildren in 2008. That number is up from 5.7 million in 2007. Experts attribute everything from the poor economy to the 2006 spike in teen pregnancies — which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports is the first in 15 years. Updated data are not yet available.” (http://www.wacotrib.com/news/content/news/stories/2009/01/26/01262009wacgrandparents.html )

A spokesman for a support group for grandparents at the nearby Waco Methodist Children’s Home describes the various situations: “Some of their children had children too young. Others are incarcerated. Hooked on drugs. Deployed by the military. Financially unable to care for their children. Removed from their children by Child Protective Services. There really is no demographic of grandparents affected,” the spokesman said. “It has nothing to do with income.”

The local Focus on Senior Citizens (FOCUS) holds support group meetings for grandparents parenting their grandchildren. Right now, don’t take anything to the Bank, but believe it, I’ll be going next month.

I plan to post essays on Grandparents Parenting or Toddler Whisperings on Thursdays. I would like to hear from other parenting grandparents.

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