According to the website for the AARP, in Mississippi, 98,691 children live with grandparents who are householders.
In the 1960s, Lucedale resident, Jackie Byrd, combined households with her in-laws. Her fatherin-law was in poor health.
“It was easier for them to be with us,” Byrd explained.
She and her husband had three children. The relationship was financially beneficial and arranged so everyone contributed something, and in the process, everyone gained a lot. The in-laws paid the mortgage and the newspaper subscription. Byrd and her family were responsible for the utilities and the groceries.
Chores were divided. Byrd did the outside work and waxed the parquet floors when she wasn’t at her outside-the-home job. Her mother-in-law cooked, shopped for groceries, did the laundry, and learned to drive at age 50 so she could take her grandchildren to pee wee football practice and school.
The in-laws were easy to get along with. If there was a disadvantage, Byrd said it would have to relate to privacy issues.
“It was hard to have friends over, but luckily my friends didn’t mind,” she said.
Byrd eventually became a grandmother herself. Because her daughter had a child at a very young age, Byrd would end up assuming care of her daughter’s four-month-old child, who would come to live in her home permanently. Later, her second granddaughter also became a permanent member of the household at age seven. Byrd admitted this season of caring for grandkids was harder than when she had her own children.
Hollie Bradley Gillett — and hermother — began living with her maternal grandparents when she was four months old following her parents’ divorce.
“I loved living with my grandparents,” Gillet said. “It made me feel like my family was complete.”
Gillet’s advice for grandchildren who reside with their grandparents is to relish every moment, because someday, those memories will be the happiest of their lives.
Gail Bond’s grandchildren’s parents were never married. Her son got into trouble and was away for one year. While he was gone, the mother and her two sons lived with Bond and her husband, Tommy, in their home.
“They were financially dependent on my husband and me,” Bond said.
The mother of the two boys had a serious problem with drugs. Lies were told, and money issues arose. When the mother disappeared with the boys, Bond and her husband prayed.
Once their son returned, an attorney and private investigator were hired. The boys were found in Vasselborro, Maine. The mother returned to Mississippi. Eventually, a Guardian Ad Litem became involved, and the grandparents finally got custody of the two boys.
The couple now have peace of mind and are relieved of the fears they had for their grandsons. Bond reported the boys have adjusted well and are happy. When asked how she came to get custody of the boys, she said, “Those two little boys were placed in God’s hands, and he brought them home.”
The couple also had custody of another grandson when he was young. Now, he is grown with a family of his own. Bond said it is a tremendous reward to see her grandson own his own home and never miss a day of work. He has a little girl and strives to give her what he would never have had himself without his grandparents’ help: food on the table, and clothes, and the support of family.
Pinebelt Association for Families, which may be contacted at email@example.com, is located in Petal. It is a non-profit organization that works with grandparents and other relatives raising grandchildren in Forrest, Jones, Covington and Smith counties. Please contact them if you are a grandparent in a difficult situation and are in need of guidance.
Mary C. Fairley is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi. She is a retired Medical Technologist. Mary is a devoted wife and mother. Her favorite role is grandmother. Mary is an avid baseball, performance dance, and soccer fan.