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Why Be Married? For the Grandkids

I am looking at photos of my grandkids today. I adore them, and they live far away, so I treasure the photographs I receive and our time on Skype video.

The photos got me thinking of some of my male friends who fathered children with women they did not marry or women they divorced before the baby's second birthday. One woman friend, too. She left her child in his father's custody and moved on with her life, convinced she could not earn enough to offer her child the life her boyfriends' parents were offering. They have no relationship with their grandchildren.

The pictures got me thinking of one of my grandfathers, too. My grandparents were divorced. I saw my grandfather only twice that I can recall from the time I was born until he died. He was a stranger to me. He had no reason to think of me as an extension of him. His second batch of kids were my age.

The photos are interesting. My first husband and I looked quite a bit alike, and our son looks like both of us. He married into a very different gene pool. It is hard to see the individual contributions of the four grandparents in these photos. The grandkids look a bit like me but very different. Even so, I am magnetically drawn to them. I can't take my eyes off them. I cannot imagine any grandchildren I could want more than them. They are family, even when they are far away.

No matter what mistakes I have made in life, when I look in their eyes, I know the good I have done will go forward with them, that their lives will be more secure and creative and kind for what I have managed to get right.

Back when I thought of divorcing their grandfather, right before he died at the age of 35, my attention was only on the present and my stress, my dashed expectations, my unmet needs, not on what we were creating for these incredible human beings to come. Now I wish for every parent in that awful place where I was then an outstretched hand, a guide, so that they might know this feeling of peace and love and continuity as they grow old.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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