This forum post is hidden because you have chosen to ignore Lynne107. Show Details
This forum post is hidden because you have submitted an abuse report against it. Show Details
We can fool ourselves into thinking that we have our lives well planned out. It was that way for me, being a product of the 1950’s: I’d go to college, meet my prince, get married, have children and live happily ever after. As much as I thought I knew what to expect, my life was riddled with surprises. But the last surprise was the most unexpected. My world turned upside down, compelling me to write Fifth Child, a non-fiction book about the anguish of a drug-addicted child, whose death made me a sudden parent to her young boy, in my sixties!
These eventualities cast my husband and me into a shockingly large demographic. Grandparents raising grandchildren are a growing phenomenon in our country, because of our shifting economy, unmarried teen mothers, alcohol abuse and illegal drug use. Close to 10 million grandparents comprise the club; 1 in 10 children is being raised by a grandparent. The numbers have drastically increased during the recession. In addition, methamphetamine – which precipitated our tragedy – is the largest drug threat in our country. There are 1.5 million regular users and many millions more impacted by loving them. The United States stands out among other countries with the highest level of drug use. These heartbreaking statistics make my book not only timely and relevant, but also critically needed.
My husband and I had already raised four children. Jaime was our third child, and Brady is her son, now eight years old. We have three other darling grandchildren too. This book is an homage to these dear people and to other grandmother-mothers like me. I wrote it as a compendium, a kind of shared diary of my journey with Jaime and Brady, through the pain of addiction, death and child molestation, up to the joy of our new family. It reflects a child’s drug addiction from her mother’s point of view and from Jaime’s authentic diary inserts. Brady’s profound thoughts are woven throughout the story, as are B/W photographs, adding to the project’s uniqueness. Readers may be amazed to find calamity overcoming so seemingly traditional a family. But as events and family history unfold in my book, disturbingly pitfalls and unfortunate genetic vulnerability reveal fault lines that can sabotage people from any walk of life.
During her ten-year addiction, Jaime went through a nine-month outpatient rehab and several stints in sober living homes, never getting sober until her pregnancy. She gave birth to a healthy, happy little boy in 2004, but Jaime’s fragility gave Brady three parents right from the very beginning. As methamphetamine reclaimed his mom, my husband and I shouldered sole responsibility for Brady when he was two years old. Years of drug use had ravaged Jaime. Being incarcerated forced her to get sober, but while she completed her sentence in a court-ordered rehab, a clot formed in the vein of her leg and traveled to her lung. Jaime died at the age of thirty-two.
Jaime’s death ransacked our hearts, but parenting her little boy gave us a sense of immediacy. It set our day-to-day lives back to where we were forty years ago, though with added challenges. “Mommy and Daddy” again, we traded European cruises for Disney cruises and date nights for play dates. Fulltime responsibility for a grandchild gives us a new perspective on parenting in these times, which are so different than when we raised our kids. Perhaps wiser but definitely confused, overwhelmed and with fewer energy reserves, we try to rise to the occasion with candor and enthusiasm.
Brady remains our touchstone. For example, a few days after entering first grade in a new school, he confronted me out of the blue, hands on his hips: “So what are you, my step mom or what?” Taken aback, I responded, “No, Brady, because a step mom wouldn’t be related to you. You have my blood running through your veins.” He looked a bit confused. “Brady,” I continued, “I’m your grandmother and because I take care of you; I’m also your mom. You have two in one!” He said, “How about Dad?” I said, “Same thing.” Then he got a very serious look on his face and said, “So, let me get this straight. In real life, if Jaime were still my mom, you’d be my grandmother. But because she couldn’t do it, you’re my mom?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “God made a good decision.”
Fifth Child reveals how Brady’s depth and resilience serve as guideposts, as my husband and I improvise to accommodate his needs, our children’s, other grandchildren’s and our own. We aren’t sixty-something empty nesters. And we’re not thirty-something with kids. We’re part of a growing number of mature Americans who are stepping into the breach to help during very difficult times and circumstances.
There have been similar stories in past years, but none yet addresses addiction as the unexpected catalyst for raising a grandchild. Every parent and/or grandparent whose life has spun out of control might benefit from my experience and learn how to deal with similar situations that may be already affecting their families. Even those lucky enough to have achieved relative stability will appreciate my journey and that of my loved ones. With the steep and sudden increase of grandparents raising grandchildren, there is more demand for stories of like mine.