posted: February 16, 2016, 9:00 am
By Jamie Lincow
When my mom was a child, her mother instructed her to never reveal what she knew about her grandfather — that he was not her biological relative. In fact, he was her grandmother’s second husband, but she loved him like she would any other blood relative. According to my mom, her Zeida was her real grandfather.
I always loved hearing my mom retell this story from her childhood, but I never imagined that my children would be in her same position many decades later.
My father passed away when I was 22 years old, and, at the time, I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the future moments and celebrations that he would miss: walking me down the wedding aisle, coming over to my home for family dinners, and ultimately the birth of my future children. I wanted to name my firstborn in honor of my father, and when that day arrived seven years later, I cried tears of joy when I held my son for the first time and tears of sorrow because I wished my dad could be there with me.
At the time of my first son’s birth, my mom was dating a wonderful man that we all loved, but I was not sure how to involve him in the baby’s life. We are Jewish, so on the eighth day after my son’s birth, we all gathered for his bris and I remember asking the mohel (the one who performs the ritual) if we should include my mom’s boyfriend in the ceremony. Should we refer to him as a grandfather even though he is not a biological relative?
The mohel gave me sage advice that I try to pass on to any of my friends that have lost a parent:
“If you want this person to feel like a grandparent, then you must treat him in that way right from the beginning. Include him in the ceremony, allow your kids to call him Poppie, and you will see that a bond will grow between him and the children.”
We took his advice, and eventually the boyfriend became the fiancé, and the name Poppie is lovingly called out by my three children on a regular basis. Do I still wish that my dad was here to teach my kids how to play golf or to read them a book? Of course. I miss him every day, but my heart finds solace in knowing that my children do have a caring, devoted grandfather who loves them and treats them like his own. Poppie is their real grandfather.
Unlike my mom, who had to hold onto a secret for her entire life, my children are aware that there is another grandfather up in the sky. We talk about him constantly and he lives on in my memory and in the stories that I tell my three boys. And every so often I see my father’s resemblance in them and it makes me smile.
Have you ever discovered a family secret? Do you have any happy step-parent or grandparent stories in your family?