My husband, Norman, and I, (he's an American, I'm a New Zealander)were living in upstate New York when we got the call from a representativeof Child Youth and Family, a New Zealand Government Department,to attend a family group conference. Our youngest granddaughter Lucy,had swallowed a small camera battery. and. It was clear that she needed tobe placed into care while her mother, my daughter, got the help that shedesperately needed. We travelled back to New Zealand for the conferenceand agreed to care of her for what we believed would be a period of sixmonths. Unfortunately, my daughter didn't want to go to counselling, andnow Lucy will be in our care until she is old enough to make her own wayin the world.
My Daughter—Mother of My Granddaughter
She was so beautiful as a young child. Everyone that met her just lovedher. Her smile would light up a room. She was warm, loving, and woulddo anything to please. Along came puberty, and with that, things startedto turn sour for us. I didn't see it happening. I was too close to her andalso in an abusive relationship; it just passed me by as I struggled to protectmyself and my children. One morning, my sixteen-year-old daughter camedownstairs, suitcase in her hand, and announced that she was leaving home.The shock of it all was unbearable; the grief that invaded me was beyondanything that I could have ever imagined. The terror that perhaps I wouldnever see my beautiful daughter again just wrecked me.
I searched the city for her and, one day, spied her on the street smoking acigar in front of a building. She looked at me and she went back inside. Atleast I knew that she was alive. Out of the blue, she phoned me, begging tome to come and get her. She had become involved with a gang. I contactedthe police and they advised me to wait for them outside the house thatshe was living in. It was a well-known gang and very dangerous. I clearlyremember the stairs being covered in dog faeces. The stench was dreadfuland the smell clung to my clothes. The police got her out and I took herhome. After three baths, she was actually clean and smelt sweet again. Atlast, my daughter was home. The thrill of having her back was lovely, andwe got her a job. That lasted for a whole two weeks, and then she left again,this time never to return.
Eventually, she became pregnant with her first son. Whilst pregnant, shecried rape and she phoned me from the hospital and asked me to come,which of course, I immediately did. What was going through my mindas I drove across town? How could anyone do this to my daughter? Howwas she? I thought she must be absolutely beside herself. But no. Instead, Ifound a happy girl full of smiles. She had got the police involved, somethingthat she would carry on doing in her life. When they found out she hadfalsely cried rape, she was given community service and was placed in ahostel in the city. Unfortunately, her probation officer took pity on herand let her off her community service.
When her son was about one, it became clear to everyone that she justcouldn't cope with a baby, and he was sent down to Christchurch to livewith his aunt for a while. About eighteen months later, she had anotherbaby. She eventually abandoned both them and their father and movedup-country, where she very quickly produced five other beautiful children.She left them with their father in a small country town in the middle ofthe North Island. She then had another child, the granddaughter that weare now raising.
My daughter has lived a very transient lifestyle, having multiple partnersalong the way, telling outrageous stories about where she's from and thethings that she has done. The stories are so far-fetched that I often wonderhow people could possible believe her, yet they do, and they take pity onher. To this day, it still amazes me that my daughter hasn't come downwith Aids. Perhaps it is just good fortune.
She did get married when her youngest daughter was about eighteenmonths old, but unfortunately, that didn't last. Norman and I were sittingin our house in Hudson, New York, when we got a call from her husbandwishing me condolences on the loss of my father. Thank goodness it wasNorman who answered the phone. Apparently, she had left her husband anote telling him that her grandfather had died and that I was flying her upto Wellington for the funeral. In fact, my father was very much alive andin reasonably good health.
Knowing that she was somewhere in Christchurch, I hired a privatedetective to try and find her. Unfortunately, he couldn't locate her, soI had to fly out to New Zealand to try to find her myself. Only throughgoing to the police did we manage to locate her living in a small town incentral North Island. Child Youth and Family were called in and decidedthat everything was fine and that their services were not needed. It wasn'tuntil Lucy swallowed the camera battery that they did take it seriously andaccepted that she was in need of care and protection.
My daughter has been offered help through various organisations, butunfortunately, it is too hard for her to face the truth. I have had to acceptthat, for till now, her life has been one of a nomadic existence, taking upwith various men along the way.
Wherever my daughter is, I wish her the best. I wish for her a life of peaceand happiness, a life rich with blessings and love. One day, she may findwhat she is looking for, and I hope that happens before I leave this earth.Recently, I was going through some papers and found a letter below thatI wrote to Lucy in November 2006. At the time, she was only two, andliving with her, I was hoping that my daughter would read it and take upthe offer that Norman and I made to her in it.
My Darling Lucy
Has your mother told you that you have seven brothers and sisters?
Has your mother told you that she was once married?
Has your mother told you that you have a Great Grand Papa who
was 91 in November?
Has your mother told you that you were named after your Great
Grandma, my mother, who passed away before you were born?
Has your mother told you that your middle name is for the month
that your Great Grandma was born?
Has your mother told you that she loved Great Grandma so very much?
Has your mother told you that she loves your Great Grand Papa
Has your mother told you that your Great Grand Papa carries a
photo in his wallet of your mother when she was just a little baby?
Has your mother told you that you have an Uncle living in
Has your mother told you that Grandma Sally and Grandpa Norman
offered to bring you and her to the States?
Has your mother told you that by bringing you both to the States your
loving Grandparents will be giving her the chance to get better?
Has your mother told you that by coming to the States she will be
doing something positive about turning her life around?
Has your mother told you that she should think about you first
and by coming to the States to get help then that will definitely be
putting you first?
Has your mother told you that we love you so very much?
My darling Lucy, persuade your mother that she should take this
opportunity and that she should not turn it down.
Love from your ever loving
When Lucy came to us, she was only two and a half. At the end of the firstday and for a few weeks afterwards, we were totally exhausted and were inbed by 8.30. Norman and I were not used to having a small child in thehouse. Fortunately, this did get better, and we are now going to bed at ourusual time.
As we were unsure about Lucy's general health, one of the first things thatwe did was take her to the doctor for a check-up. It was important for usto know that she was well. Furthermore, we didn't know if she was up todate with all her vaccinations, as no medical records had been given to us.Thank goodness she was in reasonable health, and the vaccinations werequickly administered.
The next thing that we did was take her to the dentist. Upon examination,he discovered that she needed fillings. We were advised that they only wayto repair the damage would be under general anaesthesia. I carried Lucydown to the operating theatre, doing my best not to show how nervousand apprehensive I was about the situation. I held her in my arms while shewas being anaesthetised. Lucy was struggling whilst I had tears streamingdown my face. I felt so guilty that this precious baby was having to gothrough such an ordeal, yet I knew that it wasn't my fault.
Back in her room, Norman and I waited for Lucy to return. It seemed likeshours, but in reality was no more than one hour. The poor wee soul hadfourteen holes in ten teeth; we were informed that was due to the fact thatshe had lived mostly on a diet of chocolate milk. The dentist advised usthat we should get some tooth mousse and apply it to her teeth every nightbefore going to bed. This product helps reduces cavities. I make sure thatshe uses it every night; the product is also helpful for adults.
When we brought Lucy home from the hospital, I went into town topurchase the mousse from my dentist. As I was in town, I went to a localdepartment store where I purchased her a very special elephant, whichwas promptly named Nellie after the song 'Nellie the Elephant.' The storythat I told Lucy was that I found Nellie lying in the street crying for her,and that is how Nellie came into our family and is also a very importantmember of Lucy's 'soft babies.'
I was on the committee of the Early Childhood Centre that Lucy attended.That meant that once a month, there was a committee meeting. At first, itwas very difficult to leave the house. Lucy would sit at the bottom of thestairs attempting to block my exit out of the building, and she would screamand yell, begging me not to go. The only way to overcome this was to explainto her that I was not leaving her. I promised that the first thing that I woulddo when returning to the house was to go upstairs and kiss her goodnight.True to my word, that is what I did even though she was sound asleep by thetime I returned home. Lucy seemed to understand but would often phoneduring the meeting just to make sure that I was indeed coming home.Norman and I are encouraging Lucy to have some independence. We havefound a way that works well for her. When we go out to a restaurant fora meal, we encourage Lucy to go and ask for a pen and piece of paper sothat she can either draw or play noughts and crosses with us. This has givenher a lot of confidence. It has also taught her not to be afraid of asking forsomething. I hope that the lesson will stand her in good stead when shebecomes an adult.
Lucy has started asking questions about her parents and why she isn'tliving with them. We have given her information that is age appropriate.Norman and I have told her that her mother and father are sick and thatis why she is living with us. Thankfully at the moment our explanation issatisifying her. We are unsure who her father is as he will not take a DNAtest. At the Family Group Conference he did promise, but like Lucy'smother he failed to follow through.
Thankfully at this stage, we have no issues regarding any psychologicalproblems. We do realise that as she gets older, these may appear. Hopefully,Norman and I will be able to handle them and get the help that she willrequire. I believe that in her heart, she does feel abandoned by her motherand father, as she makes up fantasy stories about them. It is hard to hear,but there is no alternative but to listen to what she says. We can't bursther bubble about her parents at such a tender age, as it may lead to direconsequences not only for her, but for us as well. Eventually, Lucy will betold the truth, but for now, it's best all round to let sleeping dogs lie.
Definition of a grandmother as told to me by seven-year-old Lucy:
'A grandma is a second mother.'
Norman and I have provided a safe and secure home for Lucy. She hasdeveloped into a beautiful, loving, and outgoing little girl, not like thesad little one that first came to us. Constantly telling her how much welove her, I feel sure, has helped her. Most importantly, she knows that weare not going to leave her. I clearly remember one morning when I was