Theresa West cries a lot these days.
She cries when she thinks of all the relatives she has lost, when she thinks of the cancer that has infiltrated her body, when she thinks of the one Christmas gift she wont be able to give her son.
Yesterday, though, for the first time in a long time, she cried tears of joy. I started crying when I got your message, because it showed that someone was paying attention, she said when I finally reached her on the telephone.
It was impossible not to pay attention when West wrote a letter to The News & Observer asking for help getting Frankie Angel Solis, her 5-year-old son, the gift at the top of his wish list.
Top of his list
He drew a toy helicopter with remote control, she told me, but a grandma was first on the list. Hes 5, so he doesnt write a whole lot, but he drew this picture of a lady holding his hand. I thought it was me, so I said I love you. Why are you asking Santa for that? He said No, Im asking Santa for a grandma. When he said that, it broke my heart. How do I get that?
Yall got any ideas?
In the letter to the paper, West wrote, My heart is breaking right now. As hard as I try, I cant do this without support. I write this tonight to tell you I am scared because I cant do it. I need help, please. I asked my son what he wanted for Christmas. He said a family, a grandma or pa like his friends. We need love and support, just someone who cares.
I know there are older people who have lost family and (are) alone. ... The greatest gift I want for my child is family. Help!!! My child wants a special gift I just cant give him. He wants to be loved and to give love. ... He is my angel, and that is his middle name. ... Please help me find him grandparents for Christmas.
West said she knows there are older people who would benefit from a family, even a temporary one. She works in the nutrition and dietary department at UNC Hospitals, and said, Theres a lot of older people out there wanting to have grandkids.
This is no lie: I was in the hospital the other day, and we have this lady who has dementia, West continued. Do you know what she kept saying the whole time? Wheres my new grandchild? Wheres my grandchild? I literally started crying.
How to share
Its not just important to the child that wants grandparents, but to the older people that would like to love a grandchild, West said. The question is, How do people find out about each other? How do you bring them together? Thats the tough part.
Its not so tough in this case. To share your family with West and Frankie, contact her at email@example.com.
Frankie, she said, never met either set of his grandparents. His father died when Frankie was 2 years old. He was from another country, and neither West nor Frankie ever met his family.
Everybody in my family has passed away, she said. My father had Parkinsons, and he died. My sister died of breast cancer, as did my mother and grandmother, and I suffer from it. ... I dont have any family.
She tried to contact an online organization that provides surrogate grandparents, she said, but nobody ever posted back. ... What do you say to a child when he asks, Mom, where are my grandparents?
West said friends have long encouraged her to start a nonprofit organization that brings lonely, family-less people together, and she said she may do that.
Right now, though, she needs just one family.
For her son.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-836-2811