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How Many Grandchildren Do We “Really” Have?

grandchildren 2017
Our eleven Grandchildren, Easter 2017

My wife and I have twelve grandchildren, ranging in age from two months to seventeen years. Each one of these precious children is part of the Gerencser family. Polly and I have never made a distinction between grandchildren and step-grandchildren. We’ve never understood this obsession with blood children. If a child is part of one of our children’s families, he or she is our grandchild. It matters not to us if Gerencser sperm or egg played a part in their conception. We have never said of our grandchildren, even one time, that this or that child is a step-grandchild. Come Christmas, every grandchild is treated equally. We’ve never had the thought of treating some of our grandchildren differently because they were not 100% Gerencser. Unfortunately, Polly’s Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) family views things differently.

Polly and I recently traveled to Newark, Ohio to visit her mom in the hospital. My mother-in-law was scheduled for cancer surgery, and the day before surgery she developed heart problems which landed her in the hospital. Unbeknownst to me, Polly’s mom asked her how many grandchildren we had. When Polly said twelve, her mom replied, “yeah but all of them aren’t yours.” Polly replied, “yes they are,” to which her mom replied, “well, you know…. ” If I had been there I would’ve likely asked, “know what?” Of course, both Polly and I already know the answer to this question. In Polly’s parents’ minds, it’s blood that matters. This has been a common theme throughout the years. My youngest daughter received the same treatment the next day when asked about her oldest daughter — a child from a previous relationship of her husband. Much like her parents, our daughter does not make a distinction between stepchildren and “real” children. It’s absurd and offensive to even think this way. I like to think that this is a generational issue; one where older generations believe blood and name matter and that children and grandchildren who aren’t their blood or don’t carry their name shouldn’t expect the same kind gift or money on birthdays or Christmas as those who have the proper pedigree. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no hope of fixing this type of thinking apart from death. As with many social ills, it takes the death of a generation to get beyond them.

ezra martin august 2017
Ezra, our latest grandchild, two months old. Born six-weeks premature, he was released from NICU several weeks ago and he is now packing on the weight.

Polly and I have two grandchildren who have either a different father or mother than a Gerencser. One grandchild is seventeen and will graduate from high school this coming spring. This girl has been in our lives since she was a toddler. She may have a different name, but she is very much a part of our lives. My son and her mother went through divorce last year. There’s no Gerencser in the home; that is, except our four grandchildren. No matter who marries whom and what happens in the future, there’s a hard, fast rule in our family: once a Gerencser, always a Gerencser. It is cruel for someone to be a part of a child’s life for years, and then, due to divorce or other social upheaval, walk away from him or her. I’ve never understood people who can do this. When our granddaughter graduates in the spring, we will be there. When she plays basketball games this winter, we will be there. Whatever comes her way — today, tomorrow, or a decade from now — we will be there. The same goes for our four-year-old step-granddaughter. We have known her pretty much from birth. She is every bit as much our grandchild as any of our grandchildren who have the “proper” DNA. We will be in her life from preschool to the day that she says “I do” — that is, if we live long enough. You see, what grandchildren really need is love and support; and Polly and I have enough of that for all of them. We wish that Polly’s family had the same, but they don’t, and it’s their loss. They are missing out on wonderful opportunities to have awesome relationships with two beautiful children. It makes me wonder about all their talk about the love of Jesus for sinners. Are these children not sinners worthy of love? And if their daughter and son-in-law say “these are ours,” shouldn’t they accept that and do all they can to be the best great-grandparents possible? I will never understand the kind of thinking that divides families according to DNA. I don’t get it, and I never will.

For a number of years, Polly and I took in foster kids. At the time, we had three children of our own. Many of these children were teenagers. Some of them were with us for weeks, but others were long-term placements. Our three children have many memories of their experiences with JR, Steve, Floyd, Roseann, Tonya, and Linda. For a number of months, a black girl by the name Tracy lived with us. Her placement was unusual because this made her the only black child in the school district. When our first two children were very young, a troubled church girl lived with us for almost a year. Years later, she would tell someone we knew that we made a big difference in her life. It’s gratifying to hear from children who lived with us, thanking us for loving them. And therein lies the core issue for Polly and me. These children, regardless of whom their parents were or what horrific experiences they had their life, we loved them as if they were our own children. Granted, some of the teenagers who went through our home didn’t want our love. In fact, they didn’t want anything from us. But we loved them anyway. Why? First, because of Jesus. We believed, at the time, that Jesus loved everyone; and if Jesus loved everyone, so should we. Second, it was inconceivable to us that we could love one child more than another. Who thinks like this? “Oh, you have the right DNA so I’m gonna love you more than these children who are placed in our home after being raped by their stepfather or abused by their parents”? Where’s the Christianity in that kind of thinking?

Here’s what I know: Bruce and Polly Gerencser are going to love every child that comes into their lives, regardless of their lineage. By God, if we can unconditionally love the feral cats that frequent our backyard and care for them spring, summer, fall, and winter, we can certainly — without reservation and a test from 23andMe — unconditionally love our grandchildren — all twelve of them. That’s just how we are, and we feel sorry for people who can’t see beyond the names on birth certificates.


  1. Avatar
    Becky Wiren

    It’s wonderful that you have so many grandchildren. Both you and Polly have big hearts. So sorry about the in-laws though. How people can have such cold hearts mystifies me.

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    One thing I learned from my husband’s big huge crazy family is that there is more than enough love to go around, and that family means more than blood. They make no distinction among adopted, foster, stepchildren, or natural born children in the family. The only way you leave the family is if you choose to leave it. When people divorce, some of the former in-laws choose to stay in the family (if the divorce was amicable) and they are still considered a sister or brother. It is a very loving and inclusive family. And that is how it should be.

    You have a beautiful group if grandchildren – congratulations!

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    I used to work with someone who, when referring to kids said, “They all love the same.”

    I’ve always felt that it’s our job as humans to love kids. To build them up and take care of their little souls/spirits/tender hearts. It doesn’t matter who made them, they’re all deserving of care.

    One of my friends who has some adopted and some bio kids gets asked, “Which ones are your ‘real’ kids?”

    I commented to her that it would really make me angry, but she said that she just chooses to smile, say they’re all real, and ask, “Why would it make a difference to you?”

    You have a beautiful family, Bruce.

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    great post. you guys are lucky and so are these kids. if only everyone could see that all human beings are worthy and deserving of love and kindness regardless of where we come from.

  5. Avatar
    That Other Jean

    Thank you, Bruce and Polly–for loving all the kids, and caring for all the cats. They need you, and they’ll remember.

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    I hadn’t realized that some of your grandchildren weren’t biologically related to you.

    My extended family has the same open door policy. Some of my relatives are technically adopted or step relatives, but nobody ever takes notice of that or treats anyone differently based on how they joined. Family is family. 🙂

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    What an ass (sorry, but that’s just how I feel). I’ve always felt the same way, but sadly, many folks don’t.

    I have two stepdaughters that I love dearly, so I can certainly relate

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    From all the way in the back… Amen Mr. G!

    10 grandchildren, 9 still living. Some biological – others are “step”. A picture of most of them is my fb cover photo.

    I once made a comment on a public fb post that evidently made someone irate. The post had nothing to do with the LGBTQ issue but someone from that crowd (a quick review of his page left no doubt) went on and on how I was a “stupid breeder”.

    Asked one of the several LGBTQ people that work for me what the tirade was about. Found out being called a breeder is supposed to be an insult. Would it be that I could figure out a way to turn that into a profession!
    Factually, only 3 of my grandchildren are actually my issue – but I’m a “breeder”.

    I’m generally conservative politically & fiscally – while libertarian socially. Started questioning biblical contradictions years ago and was never given any answers that made sense. Finding this place has been a big help trying to sort out religion’s evangelical sect – all of it actually.

    Grew up in a liberal Catholic New York City family that voted for anyone sporting the D banner. Real life changed some of that. And yet – I don’t believe those more liberal than me are any less of a human being. Shrill people that only see one side of an issue only hurt their cause – but what do I know.

    I read stuff every day that I disagree with – but I read anyway to see what others are thinking. Many times I’m tempted to answer a post from Bruce with, “Yeah but…”

    However, on the issue of children being mine, step, adopted, foster or whatever – Mr. Gerencser hit a bulls’ eye!

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Bruce Gerencser