story by Jennifer King
In some ways, Jean Thetford has raised her own family tree.
Since retirement the 78-year-old has worked tirelessly to piece together her family's roots but her work in genealogy pales in comparison to her raising three generations of children.
Her attention now is devoted to bringing up 3-year-old great-grandson Bentley Francis.
Although his father has custody, Bentley spends most days of the week with Jean, his great-grandmother.
"I can't hardly stand it when they don't bring him because I really love him being here," Jean says. "They don't pay me or anything but watching him saves them a lot of money and gives me a lot of pleasure."
When Bentley is over, Jean doesn't have to worry about his safety.
"I know he's taken care of here," she says.
The same can't be said of other places Bentley has been in his short life. He and his mother, Jean's granddaughter, lived with Jean and her husband, Tom, when Bentley was first born. She says the situation changed drastically after Bentley's mother became involved with a boyfriend.
"I tried to get her not to leave with that guy," Jean says. "I told her he had no redeeming qualities. She must've seen something I couldn't see."
She says the hardest part of that time was not knowing how Bentley was being treated. Things have turned around for the family in the last few months. Bentley's father has temporary custody, and his mother is now in a rehabilitation program in Florida.
Jean's main focus now is seeing that Bentley is "well cared for and raised right." Beyond that, she plans to live each day to the fullest and enjoy it while it lasts.
"My daddy used to say that time would go faster when I got older, and I would say, 'Daddy, that's the craziest thing I ever heard,'" Jean says. "But I think I might've been wrong because it sure seems to be whirling now."