March 06, 2012

My grandparents: a love story

Have you ever wondered how I ended up living with my grandparents when my parents are very much alive and in my life?  (Surely you sit around pondering how someone as fascinating and together as I am could have had anything but a Cosby-like family growing up, right?  Totally understandable.)

My bond with Meemaw and Poppy started really early.  When I was 5 weeks old, my mom hurt her back while trying to get in shape for boot camp.  Her doctor said no lifting, so she stayed at home and I moved in with her parents.  I lived with Meemaw and Poppy until I was 5 months old.  That's prime bonding time, y'all.  My grandpa still worked long hours at the railroad back then, so I had months of concentrated Meemaw time.

And this is the only time my naked butt will ever be online. Meemaw always said she was going to show this picture at my wedding reception. She didn't do it, but I will in her memory. (*Raises glass*) Two cheeks for Meemaw!

Soooo big!  And back with Mom.

I lived with my grandparents off and on for most of my childhood.  For as long as I can remember, home was always wherever they were.  Sometimes I'd visit for extended periods, and sometimes, when times were tough, my mom, my brother, and I would all move in for awhile.  When it was time to move out on our own, I never wanted to go.  My mom wanted me with her, but I resented her for taking me away from Meemaw and Poppy.  I moved 11 times in 11 years.

I was 2 years old when this photo was taken at my grandparents' farm. My grandma wrote this on the back of it: "I love this picture. Isn't it cute? One sock up & one down."

I was 12 and had been living with my mom and brother for 2 years when I called my grandma to say that I would run away if I couldn't move back in with her and my grandpa.  Things weren't going well at home.  (Did I mention I was 12?)  My mom was a young single mom, and she wasn't receiving child support or parenting help from our dads.  She had to work full-time, and I watched my brother after school and some evenings.  She liked to go out, but my brother and I were scared to be alone at night.  (Back then, the Po Po wouldn't come after you for leaving your kids home alone.)  All in all, it wasn't a hard life.  There were no beatings or neglect.  I believe that my mom did the best she could alone.  But one of the hard truths of life is that sometimes our best isn't enough.  And even if it had been enough, it just wasn't where I felt I belonged. 

Mom and me.  You know this was in the '70s! 
My head looks strangely Oompa Loompa-ish here.

My grandparents were in their 60s when they agreed to take me in permanently.  They became my guardians, and I lived with them until they dropped me off at college.  I was far from a perfect teenager, but I was better for being with them.

I know it was hard for my mom--this bond I shared with Meemaw. But I think she said it best when she told me, "You knew where you needed to be." I've said before that my grandparents saved me. And I mean that.  If mental health care for children had been a common thing in the 80s, I probably would have been diagnosed with a mild attachment disorder.     

Because I'd had a tumultuous childhood, my love for them was the desperate kind. It's why I was so terrified of losing them. There are many benefits to being raised by older and wiser (and more patient!) grandparents. The downside, though, is that these "antique parents" have an expiration date. And it's usually long before most of your peers lose their parents.  I was painfully aware of this, and as they were the constant, the stabilizing force in my life, the thought of living without them was unimaginable.  It still is to an extent. 

But I know how fortunate I am for having had them for as long as I did.  They both lived to 87 years old.  They got to know my son, and he got to know them.

Hard as it was at times, I was blessed to be able to care for them at the end of their lives.  They never made me feel that I owed them.  But I knew that I did.  How do you thank someone for saving your life?    


  1. Here's a weird compliment - you made me cry. I love my Gran so much and, for different, but similar reasons, have always thought she was "home." Thank you for this lovely post. I want to call my Gran - but even from her favorite granddaughter, a 6 am wake up call would not be appreciated (: Thank you xoxoxo And what a special gift you had.

    1. Aren't we lucky to have this kind of love in our lives? And well into adulthood! We're both so blessed.

      I'll take even weird compliments. Though that was actually a sweet one. <3

  2. from the comment above, you made me tear up as well. I love the last picture of them getting to know your son! Even with the great upbringing, I'm still really close to my Mema and love her so dearly. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Aw, you call your grandma what I called mine--just with a different spelling! **Sniff!**

      There's nothing like the love of a grandparent. Thank God for them. :)

      And thank you for stopping by!

  3. They sounds like amazing people! LOL @ two cheeks for meemaw!