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My open letter to Dr. Phil

[subscribe2]Dear Dr. Phil,

I was looking forward to viewing the show about Grandparent Rights as I too have gone to court to try to gain some kind of visitation with my grandchildren.

I was, however, very disappointed to see that your show was more Jerry Springer than  Dr. Phil, complete with battling contestants in a struggle that had less to do with grand-parenting than it had to do with grandstanding.

I lost my son in a crop-dusting accident when he was forty. He was a good man and I saw that I wasn’t the only one who thought so when at his funeral hundreds of people crowded the sanctuary and out into the atrium. They told stories about what a good friend he was and his devotion to his daughters and family. He left behind mother, father, sister, aunts, cousins, and two young daughters stunned at their loss.

He also left behind a very bitter ex-wife.

The result was that I lost not only my forty-year old son but my only grandchildren, not through death, but a death all the same as their mother swept aside any and all objections in her single-minded determination to reinvent her life and wipe clean the genetic history that rightfully belongs to my grandaughters.

Dr. Phil, I was hoping that your program would be more about the rest of us, those of us who see ourselves as normal folk who’ve been dealt a double blow when we lose not only our adult children but our grandchildren.
As a parent and a counselor,  you know more than most, that our children are more than our own parental DNA, they
are part of an exasperating lineage incorporating all that makes us who we are: allergies and phobias, creative and artistic talents, athletic abilities, mathematical skills—or not.

It never fails to amaze me that this awesomely wonderful quirky soup I used to consider mine alone is actually a  reflection of my genetic makeup and the influence and advice of family, taken—or not—from grandparents, aunts and uncles—sometimes to the exasperation of my parents.

I had choices in my life with all my family and history; I could aspire to become a writer like my uncle Jim, or an artist like my
mother, or even a died-in-the-wool southern-belle like my aunt Aubyn.  These kinds of choices, Dr. Phil, are what is removed from our grandchildren when parents make the decision to leave us out. That these grandchildren, mine and so many others, are now bereft of that extended family  “soup”.   Yeah, grandparents can be annoying with our old-fashioned opinions, stalwart advice and life experiences, but kids need that!

Do we have to be the Norman Rockwell family to get along? No, and ask any grandparent if they’d be willing to temper their opinions in order to keep their relationship with a grandchild and you’ll see that most, if not all, will raise their hands!

Who will they learn to emulate when their world is limited to only one side? Who will nod sympathetically and tell them their allergy to cats comes from their uncle Bob,or that their penchant for writing surely should be nurtured and encouraged since
their nana has been banging away on that historical romance for twenty years and, God lover her,  she never gives up.

Since I lost my son and my grandchildren I’ve met many grandparents in the same boat.  Some sneak peeks from across a playground, some, like me, have only childhood photos to remember them by–I  doggedly file away cards… seven years of
birthdays, Christmases, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and my son’s favorite, St.Patrick’s Day.  I add letters to the cards, telling them funny stories about their daddy when he was little,enclosing a photo of him as a boy, then a teenage and finally a man. I may fold in some dollar bills as a gift or not, then  close with the message that I will always love them—no matter what.

I now tell anyone who has a relationship with their grandchildren:  Work very hard at keeping a warm and fuzzy relationship with your daughter/son-in-law, frequently repeating your concern that “If anything should happen to my son/daughter, promise me you’d never take them away so that I can’t be a part of their lives.”  Let it become your mantra, so that, God forbid, should your son/daughter die before the grandchildren are of age, maybe you won’t lose them entirely. Then, perhaps you’ll be one of the lucky ones doesn’t have to lose not only a child but your only grandchildren.

Readers: “Well behaved women rarely make history” has become my motto, and boy how I wish I’d had the nerve  to go through with my threat to chain myself to the courthouse steps in protest of the mediator’s decision not to allow me to see my grandchildren.

My tragedy is one of the reasons why I continue to write. My women protagonists are tough, tenacious and annoying. I write about a woman crop-duster and in A DEAD RED CADILLAC & then A DEAD RED HEART Lalla Bains gets to say everything I wish I could.  Amazon link to my books and bio: http://tinyurl.com/6hdg3bf

I’d love to hear your comments!