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Bitsy and Reggie Anderson’s lives have changed, as they help raise their great-granddaughter.
Bitsy and Reggie Anderson have custody of their 7-year-old great-granddaughter, Kylie.
Friday, May 17, 2013
A decade or so ago, when Bitsy and Reggie Anderson started planning their retirement years, they didn’t envision working on geography projects, driving to tae kwon do or packing school lunches .
They never expected the money that Bitsy, 64, made as a caretaker for the elderly, and Reggie, 60, earned selling real estate at Smith Mountain Lake would go for a private school education and cheerleading. Soliciting for fundraising projects and throwing a birthday party at a roller skating rink — they weren’t even on the radar.
They certainly never expected to be new parents again. But now that they are, Bitsy, who became a mother for the first time at 17, and Reggie have taken to it like first-time parents, full of enthusiasm and hopes and dreams for a child’s future. And they’re involved in every aspect of the life of Kylie, Bitsy’s 7-year-old great-granddaughter.
The Union Hall couple has full custody of Kylie. The little girl with the head full of golden curls came to live with them four years ago after a phone call from Anderson’s granddaughter — Kylie’s mom — who was living in Kentucky.
“She asked if I could watch Kylie for a little while until she got her life straightened out,” Bitsy Anderson recalled.
The couple didn’t hesitate. There was plenty of room, and Bitsy wanted to make good on a promise to her granddaughter that she would be there if needed.
“Soon we realized it wasn’t for a little while,” said Anderson. “It went on and on.”
After two years, the Andersons sought and were granted custody of Kylie. There is no provision for parental visitation unless the Andersons decide it is in Kylie’s best interest. Bitsy said Kylie’s mother and father have a history of drug use and poor decision-making. Other family members, including a great-grandmother on Kylie’s father’s side, are welcome and encouraged to have contact with Kylie. They’ve been a steady support to the Andersons during what has been an emotional roller coaster.
Kylie’s parents, especially her mother, have wandered in and out of her life.
At one point, they came to SML.
”It had been about 90 days, and they were clean,” Bitsy recalled. ”Kylie’s mother told her she would never leave her again. One day, she said, ‘I’ll pick you up at 3 at school,’ and she never came back .”
That was a turning point for the Andersons; 10 days later, Bitsy let her granddaughter know how it was going to be.
“I told her, ‘You will not come in and out and disrupt our lives. We will make a family for her if you’re not willing to do it.’ ”
And they have, but it has drastically changed their lives.
The couple, who both still work, stay busy driving Kylie to extra curricular activities and helping her with school projects.
When the couple socialize with old friends and neighbors in their Land ’s End neighborhood, they often take Kylie along.
Their circle of friends has expanded to include the parents of Kylie’s friends, who have offered support and advice and even included the multi-generational family in their camping trips.
“The younger parents — they get such a kick out of us,” Bitsy said.
The Andersons want to provide Kylie with the best life possible, said Bitsy. The tuition they pay for her to attend Smith Mountain Lake Christian Academy is worth it; the teachers treat her with care and understanding. Kids are more advanced now than her children were at the same age. Bitsy has learned a new way of helping with homework. It’s called the Internet.
Kylie gets counseling, and once a month, Bitsy and Reggie attend Parent s Again, a ministry at Trinity Ecumenical Parish in Moneta that provides support and information to those grandparenting (o r in the Andersons’ case, great-grandparenting) full time.
“It’s just been wonderful to sit and talk with families that didn’t expect to be parents at this point in their lives,” said Bitsy. “It’s wonderful to talk about how they handle certain situations.”
One of those situations is how to handle if and when Kylie’s parents re-enter the picture. That’s one of several uncertainties that weighs on the Andersons. Will Kylie be with them in a year or three?
Bitsy said she knows that as Kylie gets older, there will be more questions about her parents and her living arrangement. Will she, for some reason, blame Bitsy and Reggie and turn on them when she’s a teenager?
Bitsy said she doesn’t dwell on what-ifs, but on giving Kylie the best life possible.
“I want her to know we did everything we could to give her a good foundation, and to know she is loved,” said Bitsy. “I just want her to know we gave her all we could. We’ve emptied our hearts for her.”
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