Laurel McCullough arrived home to find two police cruisers parked in the driveway with their lights flashing. If that wasn’t enough to get her heart racing, it was seeing her grandmother on the front porch, clearly distressed, wringing her hands and looking around anxiously.
Laurel slammed her vehicle into park and leaped out of her car, nearly stumbling in her eagerness to find out what had happened.
“Nana,” she cried, rushing toward her grandmother.
The instant Laurel came into view, Helen covered her mouth with her hands, and her eyes, filled with dread, looked to the ground.
“Laurel, oh dear, oh dear,” she said, her shoulders slumping. “I’m sorry. I’ve made a terrible mistake.”
Laurel wrapped her arms around her grandmother, hoping to comfort her.
“Officer, what’s going on here?” “Are you Laurel Lane? This is your grandmother?”
“Yes, but McCullough is my married name.”
“I’m so sorry,” Helen repeated, worry lines creasing her face. “When I woke from my nap, my mind was fuzzy. I was afraid because you weren’t home from school, so I called the police.”
“Your grandmother reported that her ten-year-old granddaughter hadn’t returned from school,” the kind officer explained to Laurel.
Laurel swallowed down her shock. Nana had been mentally slipping for a while now—little things she couldn’t remember, small details—and this was the second major incident within a short time period.
“As you can see, I’m a bit older than ten,” Laurel told the officer. “I’m sorry that we’ve troubled you. She’s a bit confused right now. I came to live with my grandmother when I was ten.”
“No trouble, Miss. We’re just happy we aren’t looking at an abduction.”
After answering a few more questions for the officers, Laurel gently led her grandmother back into the house and had her sit in her favorite chair. “I don’t know what came over me,” Helen said, and moaned, covering her cheeks with her hands. “I’m so embarrassed.”
Helen wrapped her arms about herself like she needed to hold on to the present and leave the past behind. “I . . . I looked at the time and you weren’t home and suddenly you were ten years old again. I was convinced something dreadful had happened to you. What’s wrong with me?” she cried. “How could I have done something so bizarre? Am I going crazy?”
Laurel went to her knees in front of her precious grandmother. “Of course you aren’t crazy, Nana. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Those officers came right away and were so kind. I feel terrible to have troubled them.” She looked up, seeming to be struck by inspiration. “I should bake them cookies to apologize for wasting their time.”
“It’s over. I’m home now, and everything is okay.”
Laurel brewed tea, thinking it would settle their nerves. She sat beside her grandmother, reassuring her several times.
Laurel’s brain raced with how best to deal with this latest situation. Last week, her grandmother had lost her way in the neighborhood, the very one she’d lived in for more than fifty years. Nana had gone out to collect the mail and noticed that the neighbor’s new puppy, Browser, had escaped his yard. She’d followed him to try to bring him back and hadn’t been able to find her way home. Eventually, the neighbor had found the puppy, along with Helen, and had brought Laurel’s visibly upset grandmother back home with her.
Nana looked pale and frightened. “The doctor said that would happen, didn’t he? Me getting more and more confused? Wasn’t it only last week when I got lost? This is all part of having dementia, isn’t it?”
Laurel nodded. The dementia had become significantly worse over the last several months. It was at the point that she didn’t feel comfortable leaving her grandmother alone. But what choice did she have? Their financial resources were tight. All she could do was pray that she and Zach, her husband, could come up with a way to manage these new issues that Nana was having.
“I don’t want you to worry about me, Laurel,” Helen insisted. “I won’t be calling the police again, and I won’t be going outside on my own anymore, either.”
Laurel couldn’t bear the thought of her grandmother being stuck inside the house by herself for hours on end, afraid to leave for fear she’d be unable to find her way home.
“You have enough on your plate,” Helen continued. “I don’t ever want to be a burden.”
“You will never be, Nana.” Her grandmother had always put others ahead of herself. Laurel set aside her tea and knelt before her nana the way she had as a child. Resting her head in her grandmother’s lap, Laurel mulled over this latest development, uncertain what to do.
Helen gently brushed Laurel’s hair with her fingers. “You know, I’ve been praying for you.”
Her nana was a prayer warrior. While Laurel wanted to believe God answered prayers, she’d given up all hope. She couldn’t help being discouraged. Every road she’d taken to bring a child into their family had turned into a dead end. She couldn’t do it any longer. Couldn’t hold on to a dream that ended in pain each time. She’d given up and closed the door on the possibility. Laurel had tried to stay positive, but it seemed a baby wasn’t ever going to happen for her.
“I guess I should be saying prayers for myself,” Nana teased, and gripped hold of her granddaughter’s hand. “God has a baby for you. I feel it in my heart, Laurel. Don’t give up hope.”
Laurel didn’t know how to make her nana understand. She and Zach finally had realized that they weren’t meant to have children. They’d decided to move forward after coming to terms with their situation. Neither of them was willing to go through yet another failed attempt at the process of bringing a child into their home, into their family. And the sooner Nana accepted that children weren’t going to be part of their lives, the better. For her to even mention the possibility of a child pained Laurel.
“Remember Hannah?” Nana reminded her. “She desperately wanted a child, and God gave her Samuel.”
Her grandmother was well versed in the Bible and began to recount the stories of other women who had dealt with infertility.
“And Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.”
“Yes, Nana, you’ve shared these stories with me before,” Laurel gently replied. She thought to herself that the Bible didn’t recount the women who had been unable to have children.
Her grandmother continued to tenderly brush Laurel’s head. “Don’t lose faith, dear one.”
It was too late. Tears leaked from Laurel’s eyes, which she hurriedly blinked away. Disappointment had followed disappointment. The IVF treatments had been costly in more ways than one. The financial burden was only half of it. The emotional toll had been devastating. Hope had been shattered with each negative result, until Laurel had no option but to abandon her dream of ever being able to give birth.
While making payments to the fertility clinic, Laurel and Zach moved in with her grandmother. It was the only way they could make it financially. Nana needed them, and they needed her. It was a win-win for them all.
When the IVF treatments had failed, Laurel and Zach contacted a reputable adoption agency and filled out the paperwork. That had been followed by extensive interviews before they were eventually placed on a waiting list. A very long list. In fact, they were informed that it could easily take several years before they’d be able to receive a baby. Years. And as each year went by, they knew that their chances to be chosen to parent an infant would decrease.
Month after month followed with no word of a baby being available. What little hope Laurel had hung on to dwindled down to a mere speck. She wanted to believe God heard her prayers—she truly did. She wanted to think positively, but after years of trying and years of dreaming, only to have those dreams shattered again and again, she found she couldn’t. And it wasn’t only hope that had diminished; her faith had also hit rock bottom.
Copyright © 2019 by Debbie Macomber. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.