By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Generation gap
Placeholder Image

 When Sally Jarrett received the call from her daughter three years ago, she was just settling into what she thought would be the golden years of her retirement.

 "I had sold my house, moved to Lake Oconee, doing as I wished, going places when I wanted to go," said the 66-year-old Porterdale native. "Within one phone call, my life totally changed."

 Her daughter was going into rehab for alcohol addiction and would Jarrett come back to help her husband raise their daughter, Sarah Grace?

 "You don't make a decision as to whether you say yes or no. You do it," Jarrett said. "That's what I did. But in doing that, I gave up my life, because (Sarah Grace) is my number one priority."

 Daisie Smith, a grandmother of four and great-grandmother of three, also didn't think she would be in the position of raising her 7-year-old granddaughter, Tiniya, who has cerebral palsy, and 2-year-old great-grandson, Nytravius, when she retired on disability in 1997 after working 25 years at Hercules.

 She had even renovated her home from a three-bedroom to a two-bedroom to make her own bedroom bigger.

 "I was just so sure everybody was going to be gone out of the house," Smith said. "But it didn't work out like that."

 Smith and Jarrett are just two of the millions of remarkable grandparents across the country and county quietly stepping up to the plate to raise their grandchildren, or in some cases, great-grandchildren, in their retirement years when the parents are unable to do so.

 For many grandparents, just finding the physical strength and endurance to keep up with their grandkids is a challenge.

 "You find energy that you didn't think you had," said Smith, laughing ruefully, as she explains her great-grandson is nicknamed "Nytro" because of his energy level and quick wit. "You have a few more aches and pains, but you just have to put them aside and don't think about them until later, when you're by yourself."

 Smith worries because her granddaughter seems to have no fear, especially of dangerous situations, she said.

 Discipline is another frustration as Sarah Grace, who was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, responds very inconsistently because of her developmental disability.

 Many grandparents raising their grandchildren also do so with limited means and a fixed income.

 When Jarrett came back to take custody of Sarah Grace, they remained in a shelter for about eight months before they were able to secure financial assistance.

 Even now, transportation is difficult because their car recently broke down leaving them dependant on the favors and kindness of their church members, friends and support group, she said.

 But Jarrett is thankful she at least has custody of Sarah Grace and has the authority take her to doctors and therapists at the Marcus Institute.

 Smith would like to pursue therapy and treatment for her granddaughter, Tinyia, who has cerebral palsy, but does not have the authority to make those decisions, although she takes full-time care of her.

 Both women are members of the Kinship/Caregivers Grandparents Support Group at the Washington Street Center, and expressed relief at being able to connect with others in their situation.

 "It makes you feel good to know you're not the only one out there," Smith said. Other grandparents who just see their grandchildren occasionally do not understand, said Jeannette Perry, one of the organizers of the support group.

 Perry, a former CASA (court appointed special advocate) coordinator, was involved in starting the group about a decade ago when she noticed many children were being raised by their grandparents.

 The number is much higher today than ever, she said. Though there are about 13 core members of the group that show up every week, there have been at least 200 people that have come through the group, said Perry.

 The support group meets once a week at the Washington Street Community Center on Tuesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

 Though they face many challenges, Smith and Jarrett also expressed joy and love they experienced from raising their grandchildren.

 Their eyes glowed and their faces lit up as they described funny and remarkable moments with their grandchildren.

 "The main thing is, for grandparents raising grandchildren," said Jarrett, "if they're doing it for the right reasons, it all boils down to love."