My Grandson

20 Sep

In July 2009, Grant was born.  His mother was a beautiful, radiant girl of 19 with long brown hair and his father was a nervous boy with pale skin, a blond afro and searching eyes.  Grant was pink and perfect when he made a very quiet and uneventful entrance into the world.  He was my grandson at that moment he was born.

The next day, the lawyer arrived at the hospital and undid all that was done.  Grant became the son of a wonderful couple who were beginning their lives as parents.  They stepped in. My son and his first love stepped out.  These teens went back to being carefree college students; Grant went home to the suburbs; and I left my heart in the hospital where it all happened.

That day’s tears came in floods while the moans of a broken heart nearly choked me. The emotion was visceral and guttural and unimaginable. I can only compare it in a small degree to grieving the death of a child. – to which it does not compare. No one died.

I waited a year before I could make contact with Grant’s mother again. I am not referring to my son’s girlfriend but to Grant’s adopted mother. Wait, using the word “adopted mother” has too many dated and negative stereotypes to fit the love and respect and hope I had and have for Grant’s family. I like to refer to them as Grant’s “life-parents.” We who have had children, know that the actual birth is often joyous, but the real stuff of parenting happens afterward: diapers, doctor’s visits, clothes, school, homework, healthy snacks, reasonable limits, loving guidance, swim lessons, soccer games – it seems endless. These are all the things every grandparent would want for their grandchild; all the things that his birth parents were not ready or able to provide. So, I waited because I could not let these kind and generous people see the struggle in my heart to reclaim my grandson. No matter the logic or illogic of it, I had a battle on my hands about what to do. In my head, it was clear – he would enjoy a stable and privileged life with parents who adore him and have the resources to provide for him.  They can give him a safe and happy home with little or no chaos.  In my heart, there was a cavernous hole that echoed with despair.  He is part of our family.  How could I walk away?

In both my heart and my mind, I believe that children come first.  I am certain that Grant is having a better life as an adopted child than I could provide him even as a step-in grandparent.  Much of my despair was rooted in fear – as most bad feelings usually are.The adoption was open.  Grant’s parents have a generous spirit about sharing Grant with us.  They have offered visits, pictures, updates.  I was terrified by their generosity and confidence.   The depth of my desire to have Grant for myself, to assert my rights as his genetic grandparent seemed overwhelming, totally engulfing.  Yet, I knew it was just plain wrong to try and change it.

The decision did not come easily.  When I first heard the news of my son’s predicament, I sought the comfort of my 77 year-old neighbor.  After telling her the tragic story of what they were planning to do, she told me her story of adopting her two oldest children.  “They were mine from the minute I touched them.”  She assured me that there was absolutely no difference in the way she felt about her “surprise” daughter who was born several years later.  She told me how deeply she loved all her children and that I should find comfort in knowing how much and how well that baby would be loved.  She was right.

It is true that time heals most things. Grant’s second birthday passed recently. When I opened the familiar email, I only cried a little as I gazed into his beautiful face on my computer screen. Mostly I smiled and thanked those brave souls who were willing to risk heart-break of their own in order to adopt my grandson.  I am thankful for their regular reassurance  to me…Grant is loved and cherished.   He is taking swimming lessons and going to museums.  His birthday party looked like one I would have thrown with a home-made cake and a few friends.  It was reasonable and loving.One day, I will be able to be a grandmother for real and out in the open – complete with my brag book of photos and bags of presents for every single visit.  One day, I  may even get to touch Grant and tell him that his story was written with a very real double dose of love and generosity.

14 Responses to “My Grandson”

  1. J. Eric Smith September 21, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    Welcome, Allison . . . it’s great to have you with us, especially as we celebrate our first birthday tomorrow . . . so I am viewing this extraordinary post as an early present to us all . . .

    • Allison Mahaley September 21, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

      Thanks for sticking with me through all the technical stuff. Wow!

  2. Greg Goth September 21, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    What a moving post, Allison. I know the pull of biology; when my boy was born, I held him and walked him around the hospital room the first night. I saw my Dad in his face. I saw ME. The tribal sense of continuity that surged through me was like a sledgehammer I had never felt. Today, I see my wife’s sister more than anybody else in his eyes and I still see my Dad in the lower part of his face. He has my grandmother’s pigeon-toed walk.

    It sounds like everybody in your story has acted on their best instincts to give Grant the best possible chance at a happy life. As Eric says, in retelling this you have given us a very wonderful present. Welcome.

  3. David September 21, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    Lovely post. Welcome to the Indie Albany family.

  4. Allison Mahaley September 21, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

    Thank you. This one took a long time to write…ironically about nine months. Yes, he looked exactly like my son as a new-born and it nearly killed me emotionally. Genetics are undeniable, but it ain’t everything.

    I am really happy to have a wider audience and look forward to sharing new pieces.

  5. schlcnslr05 September 21, 2011 at 7:43 pm #


    I cannot wait to read more… are an excellent writer and what a great story.

  6. Lisa September 21, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    Oh Allison, I remember the day you told me that your son and his girlfriend were going to have a baby. That seems like eons ago…. was it just 2 years? I applaud you for exploring this heart-wrenching chapter through writing and sharing it! You are a fabulous writer. Grant is a lucky little man to have so many strong, competent, big-hearted people pulling for him; he’s going to make you proud. And he’s going to love you and his grandpa!

    • Allison Mahaley September 24, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

      Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for this – it means a lot from a wondrous teacher of writing like you.

  7. kirsten September 22, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    Such a beautiful post, thank you for sharing your very personal story with us all at IndieAlbany. Welcome aboard!

    • Allison Mahaley September 24, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

      Thanks – really!

  8. gina September 22, 2011 at 8:16 pm #

    Great post – beautifully expressed, so heartfelt – thanks for sharing this.

  9. Allison Mahaley September 24, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

    Dear BC,
    I don’t even know your real name, but I can tell that you believe what you believe so heartily that you think I should believe it, too. Here’s the rub – I have searched my heart and if you can’t tell that from my post, then I am not as good a writer as people are saying. Had my son and his girl-friend decided to have a quiet abortion and keep it to themselves, I would have never had the slightest twinge of “grand-motherhood.” If they had decided to hide the adoption and keep that a secret: again, no twinge. It was in the knowing that the pain came. It was in the seeing my son’s face in that baby’s face, the pain came. It is a loss to not be part of this child’s daily life.

    I am pro-choice – not pro-abortion. I wrote this story because I think in sharing it, others may be able to more completely understand the infinitely complex issue of an unplanned pregnancy. I wish no one ever had to experience it, but they do. I know I was lucky enough to make it until I was nearly 50. Anyone in the heart-break and confusion of the experience deserves our compassion, our support, and no judgement.

  10. Jess Bachler September 27, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    “Love is what you’ve been through with somebody.” ~ James Thurber


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