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A new meaning to great-grandma

POSTED: May 22, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Every now and then, there is a sequel in this section of newspaper real estate I get to occupy.

This is a good one.

A few years ago, I wrote the story of an aging couple in a South Georgia town who were raising their great-granddaughter.

The couple had taken in their granddaughter, a single mother, and her newborn child. The mother, in her teens, was not prepared for the job and took a hike, leaving the couple with a baby girl to raise.

They went to the courthouse and made it official, adopting the child as their own.

They've done a really great job. The little girl is now in second grade and is beautiful. The couple takes money from their retirement income to send her to a private school, feeling the public schools just weren't good enough.

At 7, the little girl has learned how to whip up a dandy pound cake. I bought a slice at the town's 4-H club cake sale.

But while the little girl grew up, the older girl did, too.

The young mother who took a flight of fancy has settled down and has decided to be a mother.

It's in the test stages now; the child spends a week with the older couple and then a week with her mother. The arrangement seems to be working.

It has been a year with challenges for the great-grandparents. He had some health problems that left him tethered to an oxygen tank for months. She had to have shoulder surgery and has not regained use of her shoulder and arm.

The little girl, they tell me, is a real helper. Besides teaching her how to cook, they've taught her a lesson that has escaped a couple of generations. They've taught her the basics of compassionate love for one another.

She adores her great-grandparents. At the same 4-H event, she plunked down a quarter to buy her pop a tie at a rummage sale. A few coins more bought a vest for great-grandmother.

A few years ago, the little girl reached the age that she was trying to figure out this unusual arrangement.

One morning at the breakfast table, she asked her great-grandparents "Why doesn't my mama love me?"

The truth is, inside that young woman was the love of a mother. But she was so young that this overwhelming experience of bringing a child into the world by herself was just more than she could handle.

One can only hope that the arrangement will continue to work and the little girl will find her rightful place with her mom. Otherwise, the great-grandparents will be pushing 90 when she graduates from high school. While I sincerely hope they make it, the odds are not in their favor.

But if a lot of love and full measure of determination will see them through, then they'll be there on graduation day in 2018.

For the great-grandmother, this weekend marks her seventh Mother's Day serving the third generation. God bless her and that dear man she's married to for the unconditional love they have bestowed upon an innocent child.

For the young mother, this may very well be her first real Mother's Day. May there be many, many more.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays.



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