In 2007 four family members died, my daughter (mother of my twin grandchildren), my father-in-law, my brother, and the twins’ father. The court appointed my husband and me as the twins’ guardians and caregivers. As time passed, and we celebrated their birthdays, I became acutely aware of the twins’ maturation.
They looked different, their conversation became more complex, and their goals changed.
I learned two kids and two grandparents can meld into a family. It was a miracle. Before their parents died, the twins and their mother came to dinner every Sunday. Though they didn’t know us well, they knew our personalities and were familiar with our house. When the twins moved in with us, they also discovered our strengths and weaknesses.
They learned that Grandma was an organized person and the house ran like clockwork. They learned that Grandpa loves ketchup and puts it on almost everything. In Grandpa’s mind, ketchup is a vegetable. They learned that we kept our promises. I think the most important thing they learned is that they were loved and safe.
Similarly, I learned that grandkids are kind, helpful people.
I’ve been a writer for 38 years and, while I can crank out thousands of words in record time, I’m a technical nerd. “Can you help me?” became a common question. Invariably, the twins would stop what they were doing and rush to my aid. When the twins left for college my technical support also left. Thankfully, they answered emergency emails and phone calls.
As the years passed, and birthdays were celebrated, I realized grief could be shared. Family members, friends and total strangers rallied to help me. I don’t know what I would have done without their support. In the early stages of grief, the twins didn’t want to talk about their grief. Now they are more open about it and we share stories about their parents.
One of my favorite stories involves my daughter and Peanut the hamster. The hamster cut his back on the bottom of the exercise wheel. My daughter called the vet and he told her it was safe to super glue the fur, pulling the cut closed. The wound healed and Peanut lived a long life.
For me, 2007 was the year of death and I didn’t think I could be happy again. But I am happy and have a new and meaningful life. I didn’t set out to create this life; it evolved slowly. Writing grief healing books and articles, doing my grief work, and watching the twins become adults contributed to this life.
Today, many grandparents live thousands of miles away from their grandchildren and rarely see them. Worse, gthese randparents and grandchildren don’t get to know each other. Our story was different. With love, caring, and persistence, the four of us became a grandfamily. Much of my happiness comes from my grandkids—two of the kindest, smartest, finest people I know.