On September 29, 2015, my wonderful 30 year old son-in-law, Patrick, suddenly passed away from an unknown heart related condition. He left my only daughter, Brittany, who was 25, the Mother of 3 small boys. Peyton was one day from turning 3 years old, Evan was 1 and a half and Nathan only 3 months old.
My wife was out of state so it was just Brittany and I at the hospital crying together. My tears were not for Patrick because he knew the Lord and was in heaven , my tears were for my daughter and 3 young boys without a father. God immediately placed in my mind and heart that I must do my best to provide a father figure for those boys.
At nearly 58 years old and a busy house flipper and realtor, I was already spread thin, so I prayed for God to help me help them. They stayed in our home for around 6 weeks before they went back to their home and then stayed with us a lot of weekends and holidays. I also stop by to see them as they live only 25 minutes away.
It has now been about 22 months and these 3 boys are well balanced, good kids that I believe will do great in life despite not having a father in those early years. These are 3 of my 14 grandchildren, currently all are 5 or younger and 12 are boys! It is obvious that I spend more time with these 3 than the rest and my 3 sons and daughter-in-laws graciously understand that.
At times, I am their 3rd mom behind my daughter and wife but most of the time I am just “Pops” to them. I have been very intentional about everything I do with them and here is a sampling.
We have gone on vacation together otherwise it would not be a vacation for a widow with 3 small boys. This way there are 3 adults.
On some weeks I try to take 1 or more with me to run errands or to work on a flip house or show a client a house.
We live on several acres with a garden, flower beds, orchard, berry patch, playground, zipline, 4 wheelers, tractor, mowers, and all kinds of cool stuff that boys love! When I need to do some work I take them out with me and teach them what tools do while we are fixing or working and they love it!
My father never encouraged me verbally and only abused his authority so I make sure these boys get plenty of verbal praise and “I love you’s”. Young men crave their father’s approval and these boys get what I can give them.
They are my grandkids but I try not to spoil them in any bad way. I draw a firm line and don’t put up with bad attitudes and misbehavior. This helps my daughter to not be the only one keeping them in line. They are respectful and tender enough to not want to disappoint me most times so it has not been an issue. Withholding privileges, snacks, and special dates is usually enough to keep them in check.
When they are with us, I have bedtime routine. Like I did for my own 4 kids, we have a time of Bible story, prayer, and goodnight kisses. Sometimes I dance with them to the soft bedtime music or music playing in the house and they love it and so do I!
These boys are young and resilient and will be good God-fearing successful men with their own families someday soon enough. I’m glad that God somehow gave me the time, strength, energy, and wisdom to be there for them in this season of their lives.
I am not alone in the quest to help these boys, they are blessed to have their other grandfather, several uncles all living nearby, and other men who also been intentional to pour into them. They are loved and prayed for by many of us and that all combines to make for a great support system for them.
These past 22 months, I have changed many diapers, got up during the night more times than my tired body wanted to, fed, cleaned up, clothed, bathed, and did what a father would normally do with them and what their amazing father, Patrick, did for them. We also played, wrestled, rode the 4 wheelers and zip line, went fishing, do routine house chores like taking out the trash, repairing things, and have many other great memories.
We cannot control what God allow to happen to us but we can choose to make the best of it. I choose to embrace the task and enjoy the journey and that makes all the difference!