Despite cancer, man raising grandchildren

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 10, 2003

While he relaxes on his living room couch, Lonnie Smith's 3-year-old grandson is leaping through the house, showing other members of the family the racetrack for his toy cars - piece by piece.

Times like these keep Lonnie going during a difficult time.

For the past 2 years, Lonnie and his wife Elsie have been raising two of their grandsons: Steven, 3, and Lonnie David, 2. The couple gained custody of the boys while their son, the boys' father, was in jail and boys' mother was living in Kentucky. Their mother, Lonnie said, brought the boys to his home and asked him to watch them. She never came back.

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To make matters worse, Lonnie was diagnosed in mid-May with lympthomia. His illness has not only hurt him, physically, but also financially. The boys' father as well as Lonnie's youngest son lives with him now and their father helps out. However, he is still waiting for a medical card three months after applying.

"To tell you the truth, it's been rough, very rough," Lonnie said. "I get $305 (a month) in food stamps for the boys. I've worked all these years and I get no help."

For about 20 years, Lonnie worked with a burial vault company, a maritime company and at a farm supply store before getting a hernia after lifting something heavy. Coupled with his cancer, he has been out of work for the past eight months. After working for many years, being sick does not sit well for him.

"It makes you lazy," he said. "You have no strength."

Family friends have been extremely supportive, Lonnie said. Calvin and Linda Sizemore, he said, are two friends that take him back and forth to his treatments in Columbus.

Nevertheless, he knows that if he didn't try to raise the children, children that are not raised by family members are sometimes separated. He did not want to see this happen to the boys. Having the active little boys in his home, he said, keeps him going.

"I'm glad to wake up and know they're there," he said with a smile.

"They keep you hopping, let's put it that way," Elsie said with a laugh.