There are plenty of kids who grow up in the world without knowing one or both of their biological parents—for whatever reason. I didn’t grow up in the system like most of these kids but I could have easily ended up like one of them. If it were not for my grandparents, I’m not sure where I would be. I’m not confident that I could say I would be the person I am today. There were a lot of times where I wanted to make bad decisions (to fit in really) but I didn’t because I was scared to death of what my Grandparents would think about it, what they would do, and how I would be punished.
When I was really young, I didn’t know anything else but my grandparents. I mean, I knew that it wasn’t “normal” to not live with your “real” mom and dad but I still didn’t see what was so special about living with my grandparents. I can remember so many times where I cried alone in my bedroom about not having my mom around. And many more times I cried for the father I could barely remember. The father I knew more through family anecdotes than through actual human interaction. Being a kid is hard enough and having to navigate my way through conversations proved more to be awkward and difficult. I was always having to explain that “my mom died when I was two” or that “I don’t know my real dad.” As the years went on it got to be too much the more I began to understand the process of death, grief, and loss. Eventually Mama and Pop Pop (my Grandparents) became Mom and Dad. I can’t remember exactly when I started calling them Mom and Dad. But I remember that it was seamless, natural. It didn’t feel like a lie. It made it easier to talk to people about them. No one ever asked about my “real” parents unless I slipped and said Grandma or Granddad. Those slips didn’t happen often. I was free.
My mother died at the young age of 26 due to breast cancer. My father walked out of my life leaving behind empty promises. On several occasions. So my Grandparents raised me. Fed me. Bathed me. Walked me to school. Whooped my behind when I needed it. Nursed me when I was sick. I won’t lie—there were times I took advantage of the fact that they thought of me as an extension of their deceased daughter. They spoiled me. My Granddad introduced me to people as his “Heart.” His eyes would do this sparkly thing and he would grin so hard his dentures would slide around in his mouth. My Grandmother—she clothed me with Grace and kissed my forehead. She cooked for me and braided my hair. She gave me advice. I was her baby.
I can’t imagine what it was like for my Grandparents to raise me. How it felt to look into the face of their youngest child every day long after she passed away. I can’t properly describe the abundance of mixed emotions they had to have felt. Perhaps they felt that I was their second chance. Maybe sometimes they thought I would never live up to the legacy my mother left. Maybe even sometimes—though they would never admit it—I was a burden. They were in their Golden Years still raising kids. I’m a coward and never got the chance to ask them.
Deep in my heart, I know the answers to my own questions, though. They loved me so fiercely that it didn’t matter if I wasn’t perfect. They loved my Mother so much that they promised her—on her deathbed—that they would raise me the same way they raised her. Their love for me was so inhumanly enormous that they didn’t get tired of chasing after me. Their bones hurt, and they were chronically ill; but their Love outshined any physical pain they felt in their bodies.
They were more than grandparents—they were my parents. Mom and Dad. My Heart and Soul. They did everything they could for me. And I know now—years later—how much it must have hurt them to not be able to give me world because my Mother was gone. Not many people can say that they have experienced unconditional love. I have. And I can honestly say that it is a lasting and solid flood of emotions.