Birthdays and Becoming a ‘Grand Family’

Yesterday was my grandchildren’s birthday. The twins (one boy, one girl) turned 20, a surprise to me and to them. When my grandchildren moved in with us, they were 15 ½ years old. Now they are college sophomores, young adults pursuing their education and their dreams.

Where did the time go? What did I learn in the last five years?

I learned that two kids and two grandparents can come together to form a grand family. It’s a miracle. Before their parents died, the twins used to come to dinner with their mother every Sunday. Though they didn’t know us that well, they knew our personalities and our house. When they moved in with us, they learned about our strengths and weaknesses.

They learned that Grandma (me) is an organized person and the house runs like clockwork. They learned that Grandpa loves ketchup. In fact, my grandson jokes about ketchup being Grandpa’s favorite “beverage.” They learned we are reliable people and when we promise to do something, we do it. But the most important thing they learned is that they are loved and safe here.

I learned that my grandchildren are kind, helpful people. Though I can crank out thousands of words on the computer, I am a technical nerd. “Can you help me?” is a common question. Invariably, one or both of the twins stop what they are doing and rush to my aid. When they left for college, my computer technicians also left. Thankfully, they answer emergency emails and phone calls.

During the passing years I learned grief can be shared. Family members, friends and total strangers have come to my aid. I don’t know what I would have done without their kindness. In the early stages of grief, the twins didn’t want to talk about their sorrow. Now they are more open and we share stories about their deceased parents.

One of my favorite stories involves my daughter and the family’s pet hamster. Somehow, the hamster lost part of his tail. My daughter saw the part, grabbed super glue, and re-attached it. Amazingly, the tail stayed on! Only my engineer daughter would repair a tail with super glue.

The most important thing I learned is that all of us have the power to create new lives. For me, 2007 was the year of death, the year I lost my daughter, father-in-law, brother, and former son-in-law. I didn’t think I would ever be happy again. But I am, and I’m living a new life. I didn’t set out to create this life, it evolved almost on its own, as I wrote about loss and grief, did my grief work, and watched the twins grow into adults.

My husband and I are blessed grandparents. Today, many grandparents live miles away from their grandchildren. They don’t get to see their grandchildren very often, and worse, they don’t get to know them. The grandchildren don’t get to know their grandparents either. But we are a grand family. Much of the happiness I feel today comes from the twins, two of the smartest, finest people I know.

Harriet Hodgson 2012

Harriet Hodgson

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Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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