A New Kind of Grandparent
By Nancy Guilder
Four years ago my life changed drastically. I was told that I was to become a grandmother. As any new grandparent will agree to, I fell in love with that tiny new unborn baby. It didn’t matter if it was a boy or a girl. I didn’t care if the hair was brown, blond or red. I was in love! MY child was creating a perfect human being that I knew I would love forever. The role of a grandparent is a very special one in your life. Our only
job is to love that baby unconditionally. We do not have to yell, discipline or agree with the parent over the baby. We simply have to love this beautiful creation. The difference is between my life and most grandparents are that my daughter is an addict. She is not capable of raising this beautiful baby and so like many other parents of addicts, my husband and I had to step in. We lost the privilege of being grandparents but we are not parents either.
I never understood when people would say that having a grandchild was so different that being a parent. I never understood when I was told that the love between a grandparent and their grandchild was so special and different. How could it be possible to ever love a grandchild more than my own child? Then that beautiful child was born and her doctor handed him to me. I learned in that one second how different my love was for this baby. One second later my heart broke when I learned that this beautiful creation was born addicted. I learned to live with the pain of knowing that my daughter did this to him. I cried when he cried, I suffered when he suffered, and I thought I would die when I watched my child being escorted from the hospital to a county jail. No one should ever have to go through the range of emotions that are felt when this happens. No one should feel such joy only to end up in such despair and unhappiness. No one should have to cry at what should be a place of only happy tears. In that one second, I knew that my future wasn’t ever going to be the one I dreamed of. My life was that of the “Addict’s Mom.”
Last year the courts gave us this child and I lost my role as a grandma. I’m not his mom either. I am part of a wide network of grandparents who have no real role in life. I have been told that my life is no different than other grandparents who help raise their grandchildren, but that is not true. Other grandparents have the ability to complain to mom and dad. They can close their door at night knowing that the baby is safe and loved but no longer their responsibility. They can go out on the spur of the moment without having to find and pay for a babysitter. They can sit down before dinner with a glass of wine knowing Mom or Dad will take the little one to swimming or soccer. They can plan adult trips with friends and even dream of retirement. I traded all those dreams in for a new dream. I dream instead of my new life and a future that goes along with being a new parent.
Only someone that is involved with addiction can understand my life. I wonder sometimes how many other parents check to see if their child was arrested last night. I wonder how many other parents know how to check to see if a warrant was issued because your child was high last night and did something so stupid. It scares me that I know all this. Some nights I close my eyes only to be awakened at midnight by the doorbell ringing. I lie in the bed wondering if it is the police with bad news or my child. I’m not sure sometimes what is worse and that makes me feel so guilty. I know she is suffering from a disease but as I lie there with the doorbell ringing and her screaming I just want it all to end! Only the parent of an addict will ever understand why I don’t answer the door. I lie there listening to it ring for hours. I lie there hoping that my grandson is too tired to hear it and will continue to sleep, unaware of all the problems that are going around him. Most of all, I lie there and realize that I have to be up soon to take care of a three year old. I’m so tired and unhappy that I just want to hide in a closet covering my ears. I lie there and wonder how many other parents are living my life. I lie there and I cry, alone and in the dark. And as I cry, that damned doorbell keeps ringing. I lie there and wonder how much longer I can live like this because this is not living. Worse of all, after listening to this for an hour, I get up and go to the door. I’m sick, she screams through a closed door. I need medicine, to see a doctor, to change my life. How am I supposed to explain this to a child who asks for Mommy? How do I explain to him that I have to call the police on his mother? How do I get up tomorrow morning and pretend last night never happened??
Everyday I look at this beautiful child and worry about his future. My grandson was born addicted to opiates. I worry how this will affect his life. I worry that he will have learning issues and social issues. Most of all, I worry that he will follow in the path of his parents and turn to drugs. What will I do different this time to stop another path of destruction? I am thirty years older and wonder if I will have the energy, both physically and emotionally to deal with a difficult future. Life is so difficult to deal with on a day-to-day basis normally and now I have all these extra worries. So yes, I am overwhelmed. I sit on his bed waiting for him to fall asleep and I worry. I watch him interact with his friends and I worry. I hold him so tightly and I worry. I listen to his mother cry in front of him and I worry.
I have also discovered all the joys that follow along with being a new parent for that is what I have become. I am starting my life over again and bringing this beautiful being along for the ride. I am learning that life is so different being a grandma than being a mom. Grandparents never compare their grandchild to other children. We don’t care if they are potty trained at two for we have realized that they will be trained eventually. Thumb sucking to a grandparent is so cute. Again, we realize that once they meet that someone special, the thumb will be replaced by another body part. Schedules are thrown out the window for we discover that ten more minutes at the park are more important than a set dinnertime. Bedtime kisses seem to last forever, because we know that someday they will walk up to bed on their own. As grandparents, we learn from the past and know that the future is coming all too soon. We learn to grab every moment with this new life and try to extend it. As a parent of an addict, we learn to appreciate it even more, for unfortunately we know the bad side of life.. We know the ugliness and the despair of life. We know the uncertainty of an unknown future and the phone calls that wake us in the middle of the night. We know how to cry, all alone, in a closet and to wait for a knock on the door, from the police, asking if we know where our child is. So we learn to savor the moments of happiness and pure utter joy that this new child brings us. We learn to overcome our age and everything that comes along with aging for the simple joy we are receiving from this child.
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
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