I’m going to call her Linda. Linda has health issues. She can’t walk very well. She has been using a pair of lightweight forearm crutches since her childhood.
In her lifetime, Linda has had more surgeries than you can shake a catheter at. Which is why Linda never got married because, in her own words: “I think I was just way too much to handle.”
The elderly woman doesn’t come out and say it because she doesn’t have to, living alone is not how anyone envisions their life.
Even so, don’t feel sorry for her. She hates it when people feel sorry for her. Besides she doesn’t live alone. More on that later.
Long ago, when she was stuck in a hospital bed as a kid, Linda decided that she wasn’t going to wallow in self-pity, but would make the best of her life.
When she got older, she got her own apartment, and a good job at junior college, working in the office. She was well-loved. Linda has always been well-loved.
She is a quirky woman. She dresses with her own unique fashion sense. Sometimes she wears different colored pieces of clothing that deliberately clash.
One former college kid remembers: “Linda was always her own person. We were all just drawn to her.”
Another former student said, “I would always visit Linda between classes and tell her about my problems with boys. She listened really well.”
One morning, Linda was 58 years old, she was on her way into the office when she saw a young female student in the parking lot. The 19-year-old girl—let’s call her Mary—was sitting in her car with the windows down, sleeping in the driver’s seat.
“Her belly was out to here,” said Linda, making the shape of a pregnant stomach. “I was like, ‘Whoa, this chick is prego.’”
She was very prego.
Almost nine months, to be exact. The girl said that she had been living in her car ever since her boyfriend’s family kicked her out. She had no parents, only an aunt and uncle who didn’t want a baby. She’d been living on handouts, begging for food at a local gas station.
“I could tell she was hungry,” said Linda. “And it’s not good to be hungry when you’re pregnant.”
They went to the cafeteria and Linda got the girl hooked up with free meals. Linda asked Mary if she had looked into shelters or halfway houses. But this was a teenage girl we’re talking about. Teenagers don’t “look in” to anything.
So Linda invited her home to her own two-bedroom apartment. It was a small place. And in a few weeks, the place was about to become a lot smaller because on one July evening, Mary went into labor.
Linda drove her to the hospital and stayed beside Mary the whole way. She even held her hand and reminded Mary to breathe. Soon, the delivery room was filled with the sound of high-pitched crying.
“They let me hold the baby before anyone else did,” said Linda. “I’d never held a baby before.”
They say she held the child for hours. She was making up for 58 years of baby-less living.
The weeks that followed were nothing but pure elation. Linda purchased baby supplies from the local big-box stores and stocked her apartment with the necessities. We’re talking rocking chairs, cribs, strollers, car seats, diaper tables. It’s not cheap to have a baby. Linda turned her apartment into a baby oasis.
“You hear young parents complain,” says Linda, “about how they never get any sleep. Not me. Staying up late with that little girl was my favorite. Just her and me, talking each other to sleep.”
But one morning, Mary confessed to Linda that she felt like she and her daughter were a burden on the woman. Furthermore, Mary didn’t feel capable of raising a baby on her own at this phase of life, Mary said she was considering putting the child up for adoption.
Miss Linda cried herself to sleep that night.
“I didn’t wanna let that child go,” said Linda. “You bond with a baby pretty quickly, you know? It’s just so easy to do.”
The next day, Linda had a proposal for Mary. She told the girl that she wanted them to live with her, no strings attached. She promised Mary that the girl could do whatever she wanted with her life, just as long as she made Linda the child’s honorary grandmother and lived there with her.
The girl initially said no. But Linda is not a pushover. This is a woman who spent her life in hospitals, fighting to recover. Linda is no weakling.
“I didn’t take no for an answer. I told her, “Mary, y’all are living with me and that’s that.’”
And that was that.
Within a few months, Linda had already bought a new house in a decent neighborhood. Three bedrooms. Good schools. It didn’t take long to fill one bedroom entirely with baby junk.
Over the years, the junk was soon replaced with toddler furniture and stuffed animals. Which was soon replaced with posters of teenage heartthrobs and cheerleading paraphernalia. Which was soon replaced with college pennants, a desktop computer, and a framed diploma.
Today the child is 24 years old, her mother is married, but the kid still lives with the same unofficial granny who helped raise her.
“It’s funny,” says Linda. “I never thought I’d turn out to be a mother, but well, I guess never say never.”
Happy Mother’s Day.