Grandfamilies: Danville Man Shows Reality of Raising Grandchildren
Danville, VA - It's 6 a.m. in the Wilson home and little ones are stirring. Sixty-five year old Rubin Wilson is starting his morning routine with his four grandchildren.
"I fix the clothes up at night so it will be easier for me in the morning, " he said.
Four-year-old Kevin catches a 7:20 school bus each morning.
His three-year-old brother Quinton will be making that trip next year.
"Some mornings it can be a fuss, but we didn't have to fuss today, " said Wilson.
Around this time, one year old twins London and Paris usually wake up to be part of the action.
Then the whole brood heads down to the kitchen for a glass of juice before seeing Kevin off to school.
For Wilson, the whole scenario is something he would have never expected.
"It has been a challenge, and it has been a task, but somehow between me and God I guess we work it out, " he said.
A retiree with four daughters of his own, Wilson was planning to spend his days doing projects around the house, but his daughter went to jail for fraud eighteen months ago, leaving the children with no place to stay.
"Prior to this she was a very good girl, she just got caught up with the wrong people. The boys, they ask about her pretty much daily, " Wilson said.
He stepped up as caregiver to keep his other daughters from being burdened, but Wilson is just one of more than one hundred forty thousand grandparents in Virginia that are sole providers for their grandchildren.
"The number of grandparents that are actually finding themselves back in the role of childcare provider has actually been increasing, " said Clinical Psychologist David Rosenberg.
Dr. Rosenberg says studies show that many of these grandparents say their grandchildren are keeping them active and have given them new life after retirement, but the days are not always easy.
"It is a trend, it is occurring but there are challenges, " said Rosenberg.
Those challenges are especially hard for Wilson who's raising the children on his own after losing his wife.
"I dearly miss her so much and many days"
It's been nearly 20 years since her death, and having small children all over again only reminds him of how close they were.
"This would have been something I think that would have been a great joy for her and I to do together, " said Wilson.
Now he is providing for the children on his own without any public assistance, but the community has chipped in with everything from clothes to toys.
"People can say things about Danville all they want, but I want to say the people here are the greatest people I've seen yet, " Wilson said.
He hopes his daughter will be released from prison and will be able to come join her children in his home.
In the meantime, he draws strength from his faith in God.
"Sometimes I get discouraged and I do have to pray and ask God to give me more strength to do what's best for them, " said Wilson.
At the end of the day, the whole gang heads down to the bus stop to greet Kevin.
And as they wind down, Wilson offers this advice for other grandparents who may find themselves overwhelmed with parenting a second time around.
"Just keep looking up and sometimes I know it's difficult, but just continue looking up and I assure you God will bless you, " he said.
There are many ways for grandparents like Mr. Wilson to get support.
AARP offers local options for grandfamilies across the country. Go to giclocalsupport.org for more information.
In Danville, Trinity Methodist Church will be holding a "Grandparents as Parents Resource Workshop" March 9th at 10 AM. Childcare and lunch will be available to those who register by March 1st.
Contact the church at 434-793-4196 to register.