Our Family Values the Power of Grandmas

Richard E. Poulin III avatar

by Richard E. Poulin III |

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Father’s Day has just passed in the United States, and I appreciate all the wishes and wonderful comments I receive each year. However, this year, I’ve been thinking about the power of grandmas — the family members who have the greatest experience of being a parent.

In my case, the power of grandma has improved my life in many ways, but more importantly, it has greatly supported my daughter. During the last four years, for instance, my Grandma Anna was there when life took us on a dark detour. Once we made it out of the darkness and back on the trail, she was there to congratulate us.

Unfortunately, she has passed away. She passed peacefully in her sleep, was not in pain, and had no fear. This graceful transition, I believe, was because she was able to complete her life’s mission and more.

This column is not her obituary. Rather, I want to share my privilege of being surrounded by three influential grandmothers and how, like mine, grandmas can play a significant role in enhancing your child’s life.

Grandma becomes great

Growing up, I had a grandmother who lived in New York. She never missed a chance to tell me “happy birthday” or “I love you.” When you’re young, you may take this kind act for granted, but as I got older, I saw how powerful it was. My daughter, Rylae-Ann, was born in Thailand, and we continued to work in Asia. This separation from my grandmother did not stop her from being a part of our lives. She continued to extend her shower of love to my daughter. Grandma Anna became a great-grandmother, whom my daughter called GG.

She had already lived a full life. Still, her final challenge as a grandmother came when we found out our daughter had a life-threatening condition known as aromatic l-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC) deficiency.

We isolated ourselves for the first three years and only told a few people. Rylae-Ann’s GG was one of them. Although she was on the other side of the world from us in Singapore, nearly as far away from us as she could be on Earth, her love came regularly through calls and video chats.

She continued her tradition of sending cards and presents. She would also make blankets and pottery. These objects were daily reminders that someone loved us dearly and we needed to push on.

Due to all the medical care our daughter required, and then because of the COVID-19 pandemic, her GG was never able to hold Rylae-Ann in her arms. They were never able to meet in person. Thinking of this makes me terribly sad. However, she did live to see Rylae-Ann make remarkable progress after receiving gene therapy and working hard during therapies.

Grandma Anna often spoke of her dreams where she saw Rylae-Ann running on the beach with a smile and laughing. Once Rylae-Ann accomplished this dream of walking, talking, and enjoying life, I believe her GG felt her life’s mission was complete. She’d overcome decades of hurdles before this. Because of them, she was a lighthouse during my storm.

She prayed constantly. She was there to pick up the phone if I needed someone to talk to. She would stay up late to join in Rylae-Ann’s breakfast digitally. Even though we inundated her with photos and videos, she always begged us to send more. This motivated us to continue to work hard.

grandmothers | AADC News | headshot of Grandma Anna — GG to Rylae-Ann

Rylae-Ann’s great-grandmother, whom she called GG, played a significant role in helping her parents and motivating her recovery before she passed away. (Photo by Richard E. Poulin III)

Reach out to Grandma while you can

My mom, one of Rylae-Ann’s grandmothers, continues the tradition of being a powerful force. Although she also lives in Florida, which is several plane rides away, it’s like she is there every day. She has made several trips to Thailand and Singapore each year to visit her.

When she’s not here, she regularly sends cards by mail. Our daughter may be one of the only children who still receives mail. The cards are decorated around the house and in her playroom and come packaged with toys, clothes, and books.

Through chat or video calls, she’s been at every appointment and hospital admission. Rylae-Ann even calls her. Often, I will hear my mom talking, and when I walk into Rylae-Ann’s room, I find my daughter holding an iPad with my mom on the screen. Online, her grandmother sings songs, plays games, and even teaches.

Obviously, it would be ideal if she were here in person, but the most important aspect is the connection. However it needs to happen, make sure grandmas are involved as they have an important role to play. Remotely, Rylae-Ann’s grandmother provides a great deal of support and happiness.

grandmothers | AADC News | Rylae-Ann, in pool, with her seated grandmother reaching out a leg to her, all on green grass with walls on either side

Rylae-Ann’s grandma, Richard’s mom, plays with her in the backyard during a visit to Thailand. (Photo by Richard E. Poulin III)

Mother’s mom

In Chinese culture, each grandmother gets her own title. The title for your mom’s mom would be “Po-Po,” which is what my daughter calls her Taiwanese grandma. Having a grandma nearby has been the source of many quick fixes.

Po-Po is a vital person in our support network. If the nanny was sick, she happily took Rylae-Ann early in the morning. When my wife and I want to go out for the evening for some adulting, she encourages us. More significantly, when we needed someone to stay with our daughter in Taiwan while we flew back to work in Singapore, she was the security that allowed us even to consider this difficult separation.

grandmothers | AADC News | photo of Taiwanese woman holding Rylae-Ann outdoors

Rylae-Ann’s Taiwanese grandma, whom she calls Po-Po, takes care of her in Taiwan while her parents work in Singapore. (Photo by Richard E. Poulin III)

A grandma is like a supermom. They’ve had the most years of experience as a parent, and we need to look to them for guidance and support. Grandmas spend only a brief amount of time with their grandchildren, and we must cherish it. However, my uncle reminded me that we do not lose a grandma. We gain an angel to watch over our family.

Note: AADC News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of AADC News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to aromatic l-amino acid decarboxylase deficiency.