Last winter, after being out of town for several months, we were surprised when one of our friends—a single man in his sixties—turned up with a six-week-old infant in tow, packing her around in a baby carrier. The child turned out to be his granddaughter. The mother, who had used drugs during her pregnancy, had abandoned her addicted newborn in the hospital.
Grandpa stepped up. Once the baby made it through withdrawal, he took her home. When we saw him, the baby was fine as frogs’ hair. Our friend? Not so much. He had dark circles under his eyes from lack of sleep. He was struggling to find child care so he could keep on working. Eventually, his former wife, who is not the child’s biological grandmother, also stepped into the breach. Between them, they have managed to care for this now sparkly-eyed, crawling little tyke. Despite her troubled entry into the world, that little girl is developing normally and growing up in a loving and stable if unconventional home.
This past week, Grandpa had a day to himself and took his three year-old car to the dealership where he originally bought it for servicing. The owner, someone with whom Grandpa had had other business dealings, came through the service room waiting room and inquired how Grandpa was doing. Sometimes the question, “How’s it going?” is a cursory inquiry at best with no need for a comprehensive response. This time, Grandpa was at a low ebb and said, “Do you really want to know?”
The dealer did want to know, and so Grandpa told him—the whole difficult story, complete with comprehensive iPhone photo documentation of the journey, up to and including a brand new crib. The dealer left the room at the end of the story. Some time later the service manager came to the waiting room and told Grandpa his car was ready. Except when he went outside, his car looked different. Same color; same model; different year and wearing a brand new temporary license tag.
It turned out, the dealer had just done a trade in. “The payments will stay the same as on your old contract,” the dealer told Grandpa. “When you finish paying off the old car, the new one will be paid for—with 97,000 fewer miles.”
I’m not naming names today because neither of those terrific men would want me to use them. As you can see, there are two heroes in this story—two unsung heroes who are doing the right thing for no other reason than because it’s the right thing to do. They’re not asking for media applause or attention. They’re not going around bragging about their good deeds; they’re just DOING them!
But be advised, the two unassuming heroes mentioned here aren’t alone by any means. All over the country, there are countless other grandparents who have put plans for their own golden years on hold in order to care for and raise the neglected children of their troubled offspring. And along the way, there are other members of communities who, once aware of what’s going on, have reached out to lend a helping hand, sometimes in small ways and sometimes in large ones.
All these selfless people—every single one of them–have my utmost gratitude and respect because, without the love and supreme effort of those caring grandparents, vast numbers of innocent little kids wouldn’t have a chance in hell.
Siri tells me that Grandparents Day will be celebrated on September 7. I maintain that’s dead wrong.
Grandparents like Grandpa should be celebrated every single day of the year.