‘Starting over’: Grandparents take on the tasks, joys of rearing grandchildren

Opinion-column-letter-to-edStarting over.

I guess that’s one way to look at it.

And, at my age, looking at it that way is a little, well, let’s say daunting.

I mean, if you’re in the middle of a movie and your spouse suddenly joins you, and she wants you to start it over, you’re looking at maybe an hour or so of your life.

No big deal, right? And I’ll have to admit there have been times in the last year and a half or so when I wished it were that simple.

I imagine there will be many more times.

Rick Jacobs
Rick Jacobs

In April 2016, my wife and I asked a judge to grant us custody of two of our grandchildren. There were very specific reasons. Izzy, who is four now, and Caleb, who turned 3 a couple of months ago, were not their parent’s number one priority.

Unfortunately, drugs were far more important. Some of you reading this may recall the series of columns I wrote earlier this year on heroin and addiction. In these columns I freely admitted that my daughter was the inspiration that led me to pen the series. At the time there was hope that she would seek treatment, beat her addiction and rejoin her children as the primary caregiver.

Alas, this would not be the case. I should have known. My own research proved that heroin addiction is nearly impossible to overcome. I clearly recall a conversation I had one afternoon with my grandchildren’s attorney very early on in my custody proceedings.

“Mr. Jacobs,” she said, “are you prepared for the long haul?”

“What do you mean?” I asked her.

“It’s been my experience that very few heroin addicts ever regain custody of their children,” she explained. “They can’t take care of themselves, much less their kids.”

At the time I had faith that my daughter would beat the odds. Caleb, and especially Izzy, seemed to keep her focused on what was truly important. While she did relapse several times, she kept trying. And trying. And trying.

Finally, inevitably, things got so bad that I gave her an ultimatum. Get, and stay, clean. If you want to see your kids, give me, and them, 90 days of sobriety.

She made it about two weeks. She and another patient walked away from a long-term treatment center and we haven’t seen her since. That was two months ago. I finally got a few texts on a Friday night a couple of weeks ago.

She was alive. She misses her kids. She hates herself and her life. She wants to get clean. She’s going to try.

I told her the ultimatum hadn’t changed.

There’s been no contact since.

The reality of this situation suddenly became crystal clear. The attorney was exactly right. My wife and I were in it for the long haul.

We were starting over.

Sit down. Take a deep breath. Take several deep breaths.

Your whole life just changed.

But, I realized, so has Izzy’s and Caleb’s. Profoundly so.

Their clothes will be clean every day. They will eat right. They’ll brush their teeth every night and take baths every …

Well, almost every night.

They’ll go to bed on clean sheets and wear clean pajamas. They’ll have a regular bedtime and have stories read to them. They’ll be able to play in their rooms because the floor won’t be covered with garbage, dirty clothes and God only knows what else.

They’ll have a backyard to play in, with a swing set complete with monkey bars and a slide. They’ll sit down to a hot meal every night with Nana and Papa, at a table in a home that is safe and filled with love, in a neighborhood where drugs and crime aren’t right outside the front door.

Their needs will be met. They will be taught right from wrong. They will be spoiled, disciplined and taken care of by people who will make sure they understand they are the most important two kids on the planet. At least to us.

They’ll be part of a real family.

All of this for the first time in their lives.

So we’re all starting over.

It won’t be easy.

But nothing truly worthwhile ever is.

RICK JACOBS is an author, columnist, process server and family man who lives in Bartlett with his wife and grandchildren. Contact him at rick45@aol.com.