Cynthia Jefferson of the Second Chance Grandparents Group reads some of her contributions to “Grandparents Rock.”

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Grandparenting offers a second chance to be present in a child’s life: to wonder, enjoy, love and teach – in other words, to do it better the second time around. Many members of the Second Chance Grandparents Group have gone beyond even that
to tell their stories in poetry, letters and other creative forms in “Grandparents Rock,” a self-published book available on

“It’s the best group,” said JoAnn Avery, who has led the group of some 27 grandparents at Family Focus since its inception in 2001. “We cry a lot and we talk,” Ms. Avery said at a reading and book-signing at the Main Library on Oct. 6. She added that the group decided to donate all proceeds of the sale of the book to Family Focus.

The book came about after Beth Jacobs conducted an “expressive writing exercise” with the group about three years ago.

Ms. Jacobs is a clinical psychologist with a specialty in therapeutic writing. She has volunteered at Family Focus for more than eight years.

Experienced at conducting expressive writing groups, Ms. Jacobs became involved with the group about three years ago at Ms. Avery’s invitation.

“I began attending more and more regularly, and they started writing with more and more intensity,” said Ms. Jacobs. At times, the grandparents would “take inspiration from a poem or quote, and some days they experimented with different forms of writing. After three years, these writings came together,” she said.

The grandmothers who took the lectern had more than just a few lines to read; they had stories to tell: For many, poverty, abuse, addiction and abandonment shaped who they became as women, mothers and now grandmothers.

Reading and speaking with candor, and at times verging on tears, the grandmothers read poems of regret, family, faith and life – from the nostalgia of first being a parent – “I wish for those first days” – to the wryness of getting on in life: “I forget the simplest things – like where I put my glasses.”

After the reading, Ms. Jacobs told the writers, “I’ve heard all of that. I’ve typed all of that. And I’m still blown away.”

Dr. Dorothy Williams and Fifth Ward Alderman Delores Holmes, both former directors of Family Focus, praised the book and the writers.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am, hearing you read your stories and looking at you. Each story is different, powerful and precious,” said Ald. Holmes.

“This book has wings,” said Dr. Williams. “You make me so proud. I want you to keep rockin’.”

Excerpts from Grandparents Rock &

Regret:“I wish I had known how to love/… have patience. I loved you the best I could. “I wish for those first days. /What would I do? /What wouldn’t I do?”

Family:“It’s very hard having kids, but it’s very good.”“There are consequences for what you do.”“You are blessed … Although your children may give you grief at times … they love you.”“Kids nowadays press their luck.”“To my daughters: When you have children, you have to keep them out of harm’s way.”“We would die and go to hell for our grandchildren.”

Faith: “We have to forgive in order to have peace and to go to heaven.” “We’re going to have trials … Know that God is with you and holding you in His arms, my sisters…”“I have never-ending faith.” “God is a glue that holds us all together.”

Living:“I love people, and people make me shine.”“Now don’t get me wrong. My past will creep up now and again. But I am proud of who I’ve become.”“We all make mistakes, but we move forward.”“I am black, and I am proud.”“I see myself as a beautiful story.”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...