Not all heroes wear capes. These grandfathers have seen their retirement leisure time transform in the wake of the opioid epidemic that claimed their kids. Faced with grandkids without parents, these granddads stepped in to support the next generation. They are redefining what family looks like, redefining what it means to be a dad, a grandad — and a hero.
PHOTO BY: Benjamin Rasmussen
"I never thought one of my kids would become an opioid addict.”
Realtor Jason Allred, 53, was on the verge of an empty nest. Then his grandchildren needed a home. Jason was unfamiliar with addiction until his daughter started using opioids. An added complexity: His grandkids are biracial and now part of the Mormon community in Utah. When they asked about their skin tone and hair texture, Jason addressed it head-on, embracing their diversity and beauty. As for previous retirement plans, “For the next 13 years, I’m a dad again.”
PHOTO BY: Nick Oxford
"Raising our kids, I couldn’t understand why my wife was always tired.”
Terry Roberson, 66, was an alcoholic, absentee dad. Today he's sober and the caretaker of his granddaughter, Briley. Terry's son was prescribed opioids for back pain. When he started misusing his meds, Terry became Briley's guardian. “We have a reversal of roles here, me and my wife. She works all day and I stay home." Is he worried about making the same mistakes twice? No way. "I’m much more aware.”
PHOTO BY: Brent Humphreys
“As long as I'm alive, I will work hard and support them.”
Albert Picaso became a dad at 16. He's now 50 and raising three grandchildren. Albert's daughter was introduced to drugs by her ex, and she now struggles with opioid addiction. He knows that his grandkids don't want to see their mom when she's using. So he shields them and improves as a dad every day. "The things I didn’t do with my kids, I’m doing with my grandkids.”
PHOTO BY: Matt Eich
"I never got out of the cycle of raising kids."
A veteran dad and Vietnam veteran, Roosevelt Manns, 68, is raising two granddaughters, since both girls’ moms are opioid addicts, and his son, the father, is disabled. He’s also highly involved with his teenage grandsons, one of whom plays football at the University of Minnesota. All the kids are thriving and achieving honors: straight-A students, elite athletes and active at church. The secret to his parental success? “My grandmother raised me. So this is all natural to me.”
PHOTO BY: Brad DeCecco
"We were extremely surprised to find how many other grandparents are in the same situation."
Retired bus driver Dennis Nugent, 62, is now driving policy change. His son was abusing opioids when Dennis and his wife got custody of their grandson, and he soon became determined to help others in a similar position. His wife led the charge to help create a new state law granting grandparents the right to grandchildren before foster care. It’s not the retirement that he and his wife envisioned — it’s a lot more rewarding.