Not Deferential Enough: A letter to a child whose child I am raising

Posted Friday, October 11, 2019 in Opinion

Not Deferential Enough: A letter to a child whose child I am raising

Dear Mark,

You became mine the summer of your fifteenth year. You could not hear me try to help you to a better path; it was too late, perhaps, even then. You were witty, funny, smart, and friendly to a fault; you loved passionately but superficially, even when the consequences were so life-altering.

I knew I was the only person in your life you truly trusted; I loved you unconditionally, even when it broke my heart to do so. Then, two years ago, you gave me a grandchild.

You couldn't hear me then. You must hear me now.

The mother of your child is young, and has distanced herself from her child. emotionally, in favor of another man. Your child's mother's mother is hurting, disabled, unable to be a full time parent.

You absented yourself more physically, and chemically, trusting to providence -- and me -- to care for your child. Providence was eerily silent. So I am raising your child.

I have help. Your father and brother are part of her life, too.

On the day she goes to college, I will be 74, Mark.

Eighteen years of toddler tumbles, potty training, preschool paintings on the refrigerator, first report cards, first sleepovers, first swim lessons, first lost teeth, summer camp birdhouses, parent-teacher conferences, after-school teas, sweet 16 parties, repainted bedrooms and new comforters, first boyfriends, college applications, first driver's licenses. Sad goodbyes to old pets, sadder farewells to older relatives, the joy of welcoming new nephews and nieces and new kittens and new baby chicks, learning about the nature of life by not shying away from it but being willing to live with the sorrow and the happiness.

Eighteen birthday cakes,  summer vacation destinations, back-to-school uniforms, Halloween costumes, Thanksgiving dinners, and popovers with Irish butter and homemade jam under Christmas morning trees that you won't enjoy with her. A prom dress you'll never see, and flowers you'll never smell. Gifts she'll never see from you because you'll never send them or ; instead she'll see the ones I'll tell her came from you, until she's too old and too wise to believe that anymore. A college graduation cap and gown that, even if I live long enough to see it, you won't know.

Maybe she'll wed from our home. We'll dress her in her white gown and toast her with champagne, send her china and silver and linens to start her new home. You won't know, even, that she's changed her name; you won't know her children or her husband.

She's your child, Mark. How can she not be more important to you than the endlessly deep hole in your arm?

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