I’m a woman working as a cook. I got married this year and I’m thoroughly enjoying my newlywed life. I don’t usually talk about my past to the people around me. I don’t have many friends, but unless it’s someone very close, I just say that I grew up in a very ordinary way. However, my childhood was not that smooth. It wasn’t that I was unhappy because I had someone who loved me very dearly – that person was my grandpa. He was my only family. As far as I can remember, I was always with my grandpa. He protected me with his love. I didn’t have my parents, so I was an orphan, you could say.
My grandpa worked as a laborer at the construction site to raise me. When he got old, he picked out waste paper to sell or he would get fruits and vegetables to load in his truck to sell them too. So, I have no baby pictures. My grandpa said that I should have my childhood saved, and after I was six, he took me to the photography studio to have my picture taken on each birthday. It was as if to record my growth. Thus, I have a few photos spaced a year each.
I didn’t attend kindergarten, but I was able to learn the alphabet and numbers. My grandpa was poor, but he had a good reputation in the neighborhood. Neighbors volunteered to take care of me, saying that my grandpa was working hard to raise me. Therefore, I was able to eat hot meals and play with neighbors’ older children, from whom I learned many things. When my grandpa came back from work, he would pick me up.
The house where my grandpa and I lived was shabby and small, with a bathroom, kitchen, and one bedroom. It was cold in the winter and hot in the summer, but it wasn’t that uncomfortable for the two of us. In the summer, my grandfather fixed the fan he had picked up from the junkyard and turned it on. In the winter, he picked up used blankets and warm sheets and washed them well to cover me up. He did his best to provide for me, even though he didn’t have much.
Everyone was in a similar situation in the neighborhood where my grandfather and I lived. Among them, we had much less, so we got a lot of help from our neighbors. People helped each other with whatever skills they had. It was a friendly neighborhood where people got along well, but gossip still went around behind people’s backs. Talking about my grandpa and me was a frequent topic of their gossip. They were probably curious why my grandpa was raising me in such difficult circumstances.
My grandpa had never told me about my parents as I was growing up. I had asked where my parents were, but whenever I asked, he simply said they went to heaven right after I was born. So, I assumed that was it. When I was in lower grades of elementary school, I thought my parents had some disease that was difficult to treat, like cancer, so I thought they passed away from the disease. However, when I was in upper grades in elementary school, I heard many different stories. The source was mainly from female neighbors.
I’m not sure, but I don’t think the old man ever got married. He’s an old local here, but no one has ever heard about his wife. Could it be that we haven’t heard because there was none? It was odd. Grandpa clearly told me that my mom and dad became ill and passed away, but the neighbors knew nothing about my parents. Moreover, it was confusing that they had never seen my grandma either. According to the neighbor, for me to be born, I needed to have my parents, and that meant I needed a grandma too. After listening to her, I recognized that in our house we had no family photos of my parents, let alone a photo of my grandma.
Our house only had a small album of the photos that my grandpa had me take once a year and some that our neighbors took of my grandpa and me. As I entered middle school, I started puberty and became rebellious, beginning to question my identity. Because I only lived with my grandpa, it was worse for me. I started to have more questions about my parents. When I was in ninth grade, I decided that it was about time and confronted my grandpa.
“Please tell me the truth, Grandpa. Where are my mom and dad? Did they die? Are they alive? Why aren’t there any photos? Who’s my grandma? Why aren’t there any photos of Grandma?” I questioned him as if I was interrogating a criminal. I was so desperate. After I became emotional and started to sob, my grandpa just comforted me. “Patty, I’m very sorry. One thing that I can promise you is that you are my granddaughter. No matter what others say, you are my granddaughter and the only one I love the most.”
“In truth, your mom and dad couldn’t raise you, so your parents left you in front of my place and left. If they are alive, they will come back for you,” he told me that and showed me a small bracelet. “This is what your mom and dad left with you. I believe it was on you when you were first born in the hospital.” When I saw that, my curiosity was somewhat reduced. It was true that my mom and dad abandoned me, but I thought it was enough that my grandpa raised me with his love.
After that day, I was able to get hold of myself. I started to escape from the puberty tunnel. I had no intention of going to college. We were too poor for me to consider going to college, and I didn’t want to burden Grandpa anymore, so I decided on my career before I even entered high school. “Grandpa, I want to become a cook. I want to go to career class when I’m a senior in high school and get my cooking license. And when I graduate, I want to get a job right away.” My grandpa asked me if I didn’t want to go to college. He said that he would do whatever to get my tuition ready. I told him that I wanted to become a cook and set up the atmosphere in advance so that my grandpa won’t feel guilty about it.
As I had planned, as soon as I turned senior in high school, I began learning to cook through a work training program set up by the school, and I got several cooking licenses. I was able to get a job one month before my graduation, and one week after my graduation, I got my first pay. So, I bought some steak and went home. I wanted to eat out, but I didn’t have enough money to do that. I decided to be satisfied with eating steak at home. I bought some vegetables and lettuce, and when I came home, my grandpa’s eyes opened wide in surprise.
I put down the steak and handed him my first pay in an envelope. “Grandpa, this is your spending money. It’s money left after buying steaks.” My grandpa couldn’t talk. “Patty, I can’t receive this. It’s your hard-earned money. You should spend it for yourself. I can never accept it,” he said as he gave the envelope back to me.
“Grandpa, if you don’t accept it, I will just leave home. Why does only Grandpa do things for me? I wanted to give you money so badly,” I threatened him. Eventually, my grandpa wept as he accepted the envelope, then he put the envelope in the book that he enjoys reading.
It was very special to share eating steak in a place that I had lived all my life. I felt proud to be able to do something for my grandpa for the first time in my life. I felt happy as I chatted cheerfully with my grandpa and ate. There was knocking on the door. “Who’s coming at this time of the hour?” my grandpa asked. I got up and opened the door. Surprisingly, two police officers were standing there. “Is Richard O’Leary here?” I said that was my grandpa. Then they asked, “Are you Patty Roland?” So, I said I was.
“Both of you need to come with us to the police station,” they said. When I asked for the reason, they replied, “Mr. O’Leary is charged with kidnapping a child by someone, so you need to come with us.” I was shocked. Child kidnapping? I didn’t know why my grandpa was charged with such a terrible crime. I said that my grandpa was not that kind of person, but the police only repeated that we go with them. Eventually, that night, my grandpa and I got into the police car together. When we arrived, we waited at a designated place. However, strangely, my grandpa appeared very calm.
After some time, the policeman returned, then some other people accompanied them. There was a woman in her 50s and a couple who came in holding their hands. The woman shouted as she came toward my grandpa and me, “That’s right, that’s the old man! He was the one who was the cleaner.
He kidnapped the president’s daughter!” “What are you saying? Who did my grandpa kidnap?” I shouted at the woman. When the policemen started to make the woman and me stay calm, the couple who was standing behind that shouting woman approached me. “By any chance, are you Patty?” As she asked, she had tears in her eyes. Awkwardly, I nodded, then suddenly she hugged me and started to sob loudly. “Patty, it’s Mom. Your mother.”
That was the word that I thought I would never hear. I was shocked and bewildered. However, my grandpa’s attitude made me even more bewildered. He got up calmly and said, “You finally have come back. Are you okay now?” Then the woman in her 50s shouted as if it was ridiculous, “You had kidnapped a child from our orphanage! What nonsense are you saying? That woman shouted, saying that my grandpa needed to be punished for kidnapping. And I shouted that my grandpa was not guilty. The couple stood there looking confused.
The woman in her 50s said that a couple came to her orphanage. They said that they left a baby in front of the institution and came back to take their child. They had left a letter that they will come back to get the child and left all the paperwork from the hospital about the child. I was about three or four.
However, we had no record of the child or any adoption papers. Then I remembered just one incident a long time ago. A child got missing and there was a big upheaval. They reported to the police and registered with the missing child reports, but they failed to find her. At that moment, I remembered that an old man who worked at the orphanage suddenly quit. He used to keep staying close to the kids, so I thought about firing him anyway, but he got the whiff of it and quit. So, was it to kidnap a child from the orphanage?
Leaving behind a shouting woman, I was tested for DNA as my grandpa calmly observed. A couple, he asked the police, “Are they really Patty’s parents?” The police said that they had to wait for the DNA results. Then grandpa said, “Officer, if you require that I stay in jail, I will. But please listen to my story.” My grandpa held the officer’s hands and started to talk. The police also confirmed that my grandpa had a right to defend himself. My grandpa said that he would talk when the DNA verifies that they are my parents. The police hesitated, then asked the couple for their opinion. They said that if that was the only way for the old man to tell a story, they would wait.
While waiting for the DNA test results to come out, my grandpa stayed at home on his recognizance order. I stayed with my grandpa, going back and forth to my work. Two days later, the DNA test results came out. It showed that they were my parents by 99.99%. So, I got to meet my parents after 20 years. When I heard the DNA results, I felt strange. Without realizing, tears flowed down my face, and my parents held me and sobbed loudly. Then the woman who was the orphanage director glared and shouted at my grandpa, as if she was ready to kill him.
“Now you need to arrest the old man for kidnapping. Did you have in mind to put me out of business?” She was acting all excited angrily. Grandpa started his story as promised. Grandpa took out a lot of papers from home and started to show them one by one to the police. “It is true that I have worked as a cleaner at the orphanage. It is not too far from where I’m currently living. One day, I went to work early in the morning and found a young child sleeping in front of the orphanage, all curled up. I assumed that it was a child abandoned by her parents. I was worried that she would be cold and started to take her into the orphanage, but she woke up and blinked her black eyes, calling me Grandpa.”
“The child handed over the bag she had on her. In the bag was a doll with this paperwork and a letter that stated that they will return to get their daughter. I took the child into the orphanage, and that’s how she began living there.
While doing my cleaning work, I saw the child often. However, mostly, her expression was dark. I wonder why, but I learned why after about a month. That woman was abusing the child. Especially, there was a reason for that at that time. The orphanage did not have a very good financial standing due to too many kids, and another kid came in, so she took out her anger on her. The small child was forced to wash clothes outside and do the dishes. Her hands were red, all frozen and bleeding.”
“So, I went to see the director several times in our office and asked her to stop treating her that way. Then she just fired me. As I was leaving, I felt so bad for the child to look so unhappy. So, that’s the reason I did that.” My grandpa had said that even then, the director had turned her back on him. “With those papers in it, the director didn’t even bother to read the documents in the bag and was negligent for not registering and being abusive. That was his reason for taking me.” From then on, he started to raise me as his granddaughter. He knew it was wrong, but it was an inevitable situation.
After he finished talking, the police were in a dilemma. So was I. Only that woman looked so triumphant, saying, “What’s that crazy old man blabbering about? Are you making up a show to destroy me? I will sue you for slandering my reputation.” She continued with a ranting. The police asked if he had any evidence to support his claim. Then my grandpa stood up confidently. He said that a woman who worked at the time, called Mrs. Cumberland, was the witness. The police immediately went to meet with Mrs. Cumberland. While we waited, I couldn’t say anything.
The truth was revealed that late afternoon. Mrs. Cumberland came to the police station personally to be the witness. Just in case, she had taken photos of my red, frozen hands and had kept them with her. When my mom saw my red, frozen hands, she started to cry. There were other photos where I got hit by the director, and my chin was torn. With undeniable evidence, the director was put in a corner. My parents immediately said that they would sue her. Only then she started to beg for forgiveness, but to no avail. She was charged with violence against children and got arrested.
My grandpa and I were able to return home that night. I heard from my parents about them. My dad got defrauded in his business and ended up on the street with no money. And because they couldn’t raise me, they left me at the orphanage. They worked hard to take me back, and as soon as they made some money, they went to the orphanage. But I had disappeared, and I wasn’t even registered at the orphanage. Not too long ago, they went back to the orphanage, and only then the director said that perhaps the old man may have kidnapped the child. So that was why they reported him to the police.
The orphanage director tried to blame everything on my grandpa, but it ended up actually helping my parents to find me. Although what she did couldn’t be forgiven, my parents said that it happened only a few years since their finances were finally stabilized. They worked with guilds for abandoning their child, but now they thought they could get some load off their minds. I did not feel any grudge against my parents. I was just excited and anxious about finally meeting my mom and dad.
I also did not blame my grandpa. He saved me and gave me immense love and care while I lived with him. I think that was the reason that I did not hate my parents. I told them that I understood their situation. I thanked them for coming back to find me. Now, my mom hugged me crying, then she knelt in front of my grandpa. “If it weren’t for him, I couldn’t have grown up so well like now,” she said. It was late, but they thanked him and said that they would take care of him from now on and wanted us to live all together.
My grandpa declined several times, but my parents were relentless. Eventually, my grandpa and I went to my parents’ house to live all together. However, adjusting wasn’t very easy. It was because we lived apart more than being together. In the end, my parents got another house for my grandpa and me to live together, right next to their house. Only then was I able to live comfortably like my grandpa and I used to be. After work, the whole family got together to eat dinner and watch TV, just like any other family.
After I got married, my parents joined my grandpa to live together. Now we all have become one family without feeling uncomfortable. The orphanage director got sued by my parents, who were adamant that they couldn’t forgive her. I had to go to court for the case. During that time, I got to meet my husband. My husband was under the prosecutor in charge of the case against the orphanage director.
Thus, my husband is also my friend who knows everything about my past. He said that he greatly respected my grandpa who had raised a child for nearly 20 years who wasn’t his own. I think about that often. I wonder if I could have done what my grandpa had done. I don’t know if I could have done the same way.
It would have been difficult. I love and respect my grandpa more than anyone else in this world. I hope that he will live long in good health. I hope all of you will be healthy and have a joyful day. Thank you for listening to my story. Please cheer for me and write your comments of wisdom in the comment section.
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