A desperate single mom returns to the home where she was fostered as a child, finding hope and strength again.
New Hampshire was where I had spent most of my life and where things had fallen apart—my marriage had dissolved, I’d lost my job, then my home.
I had come to Florida, thinking maybe I could start over. But here I was, camped out with my kids at a friend’s place. The only work I could find was part-time. I was 42 years old and had no way to support my family, no home, nowhere I really belonged.
I’d made a mess of pretty much every opportunity I’d ever been given. And maybe I didn’t deserve another chance. Maybe there really was no hope for me.
Then Meredith called from New Hampshire. “Elizabeth? I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your Gram’s in a bit of a fix.” I caught my breath. Meredith was the daughter-in-law of Minerva Beal, the woman who had taken me into her Manchester, New Hampshire, group home when I was an infant and basically raised me. She was the woman I called Gram. The one constant in my crazy life. Recently she’d had heart surgery, and I had visited her just before I left for Florida.
“Are you still looking for work?” Meredith asked. Before I could answer she said, “Because Gram’s caregiver is moving away and we could really use you up here. You and your kids could live in Gram’s house.”
I felt like I’d been whiplashed—anxious for Gram, stunned at this sudden lifeline. “I—I need to run it by the kids first,” I replied. But inside I knew.
My birth mom, unmarried when she had me, frankly admitted she couldn’t care for me or my two older sisters when she dropped us off at Gram’s group home, Boylston Home for Girls. Gram and her husband, Earl (“Grampy” to me), a minister, were my real parents, even after they retired from the group home seven years later and my sisters and I went to live with my father.
Whenever Dad’s depression got bad, he’d leave us at the Beals’ house in Londonderry. Gram still lived there. That house, with its simple antique furnishings and wall hangings stitched with Scripture verses, had always been a refuge for me. Two days after Meredith phoned, my kids and I were on a plane to New Hampshire.
“Oh, Elizabeth, it’s so wonderful to see you!” Gram exclaimed when I arrived. No tsk-ing at the mess I’d made of my life. No embarrassment at being taken care of. Just smiles, hugs and kisses, especially for my son and daughter, 15-year-old Michael and four-year-old Siobhan. The house had four bedrooms, so there was space for all of us.
“You should sleep in your old room,” Gram said to me. After settling the kids, I walked into the room. There was my twin bed with the wood headboard, the small bookshelf and dresser. I swallowed hard to keep from crying. The old peace still inhabited this room, but I couldn’t help wondering whether I’d somehow put myself beyond its reach. I’d taken so many wrong turns since those childhood days.
Memories flooded in. Grampy striding purposefully through the house, whistling some hymn. Gram playing checkers with my sisters and me, serving up vanilla ice cream after dinner made with real vanilla beans. I especially loved the way Scripture wove so effortlessly through Gram’s everyday conversation. Usually kids make fun of that kind of piety, but I never did. How could I when her faith so plainly infused her whole life?