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My story by Karen Best Wright
Quick update: I raised my granddaughters for 6 years and 8 months before they went to live with their mother. Below is the story that was written before they returned to their mother and before my husband and I divorced. How am I doing? The children leaving broke my heart, and I long for them everyday. However, a foundation of love was laid that can never be undone. I know from experiences of having raised my own eight children, that no matter how bad things may seem, things do get better, even when the truth seems elusive. In regards to my grandchildren, I think of the words by Alfred Lord Tennyson, "If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk through my garden forever."
Before things changed: I was married in June 2002. I had one 16-year-old daughter still at home and seven 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 divorced for 12 years after a 16 year marriage. Life looked exciting and rather simple.
I had gone back to college after my first divorce and earned a B.S. degree in Community Health Education. I was self-employed and worked out of my home.
In my new marriage, we had many common interests. They varied from Victorian and Colonial dancing to riding his Harley. Four months after getting married, I got a phone call. That phone call changed our lives forever. 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. WIC is a program for women, infant, and children that provides certain foods for pregnant women and children. The WIC coupons 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. I was embarrassed to 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. The WIC program is only available for children age 5 and under.
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 my husband. 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 little girls slept in our bedroom and we slept on the hide-a-bed in the living room. Within a few months, we started an addition to our home and eventually moved into a larger home with plenty of room. My husband 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 my husband and I when they raised their grandchildren (I think). 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 my husband and I had sole physical custody.
We gave the children love, stability, and security, while she remained an important part of their lives.
Even with as much love that we felt for and from these little girls, it was still very difficult at times. I still worked from my home and enjoyed the benefits and the many challenges that come with it.
The children have been with us for over 6 years now. The oldest child is now being raised by her mother, while we are continuing to raise and parent the two youngest grandchildren. Many things have changed over the years but many things are still the same.
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