When I was a little girl, I had the best grandmother. I called her Mama, and she was amazing. She wore the prettiest dresses and always had a scarf somewhere on her person. She was never angry and was not capable of shouting. Time seemed to stand still around her. Mama had four daughters – my aunts – and they lived in four different countries. Living so far apart made it difficult to spend time with each child, so in order to be fair, Mama decided to simply spend all twelve months of every year visiting her children.
She would spend three months with each child, one at a time. If she wasn’t with us, she would write the most beautiful letters and mail them with stamps from faraway places. But whenever she came home, she always made time to listen to my mermaid investigation stories or to watch my brother’s new dance moves.
Even as a child, I knew I was lucky to have Mama as my grandmother. When she died, I pretended that she was away on another trip. Then, as I got older, I moved her memories further into my heart. Sometimes in my dreams, I can still smell her Anne Klein perfume. If this story sounds like love and loss, it is, but there is so much more to it than that. I loved my Mama, and I lost her before she could meet my son Sam.
Worse, Sam will never know the love of a grandparent, or so I thought until I had a conversation with a friend almost a year ago. While lamenting about how far we both lived from family and how we wished our kids could experience having active grandparents in their lives, I had an idea. I said that there should be a place to adopt a grandparent. Something like Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America. If such an organization did not exist, then I was going to start one. It seemed unfair to me that children who had lost their grandparents or lived far away would never experience having a grand in their life. Even if you didn’t have kids, you should be able to be a grandparent. I was fired up and, honest to goodness, ready to right this wrong.
My first step was to do a Google search for adoptive grandparents. I typed the words in and scrolled down to read the results. Well, whaddya know! There was a Facebook post for an organization called Surrogate Grandparents USA. I was totally excited at this point. I logged into my Facebook account and asked to be their friend. After a few days, I was accepted and began to look around. My best, most objective description of the site is that it is filled with people who have great lives but want to be a grandparent to a child. It’s a place where loving families write posts about wanting to find a grand for their child.
The people on the site were like me: they wanted their child to experience the love of a grandparent. There was openness, acceptance, and love overflowing on the website. It was like finding the most beautiful flower blooming in the desert. Right then and there, I felt Big Magic. If you have never heard of this, it’s a book by Elizabeth Gilbert, an American Journalist. She writes about Big Magic as an amazing idea or thought you get; it’s a eureka moment of clarity or creativity. For me, Big Magic is knowing that I am in the right place at the right time. That day, on that Facebook page, I knew I was right where I was supposed to be.
At this point in the story, l need to tell you about the history behind Surrogate Grandparents USA. The page was started in January 2015 by Donna Supitilov Skora. She saw a need to fill a void in the lives of people who wanted to share their love with others. According to Donna, families are separated by the three Ds: disconnection, distance, or death. I knew this to be true because distance and death had robbed Sam of all four grandparents. Donna wanted to create a space where people could find a lifetime of love by bonding with each other.
The site has grown so much in the last seven years that she now has co-administrators. They help her run the page that now has about 8,400 members and counting. This is a labor of love for her and her team. There is no money involved here. The only currency they use is honesty, openness, and love. If you spend a few minutes on the site, you will see this as clear as day. While there are other branches of the organization in Canada and the United Kingdom, I think the US branch is the best. I’m totally biased here, I know.
The page has been featured in O magazine and flourished even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Surrogate Grandparents USA does not discriminate against anyone who wants to be a member. They provide a safe place where like-minded people can find each other and connect. Their one goal is to keep growing the group and increasing the success stories.
The end of Part one.
Come back tomorrow to read Part Two: How My Surrogate Grandparents Found Me.
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