Grandparents Being Parents

With her son home, McGonegal is happy to have some help raising two teenagers, and hopes her son will assist in keeping Erika focused on school and college. But it is not easy, Lennon admits. "It's very daunting to me … I'm 36 years old and I've never lived on my own. I've never supported myself in the traditional way, having a home, caring for myself and my children. I've never done it, not for a day."

And despite his best intentions, Lennon couldn't escape his past. Within weeks, he became frustrated with his job search. "What do I put on my job application?" he wondered. He had no driver's license, no job history and had been convicted of two felonies. "It's really hard for me," he admitted.

Old patterns started to emerge, and Lennon started to stay out at night. The less Lennon was around, the more Erika seemed to resent her father's attempts at discipline. Two months after Lennon's return, Erika was suspended for skipping school.

"My dad used to be my hero," Erika said. "I used to be able to talk to him whenever I needed to, tell him everything and anything." But now she says things are different. "He's just changed, and I don't exactly [know] what it is."

'These Are Kids That Have a Chance'

The same day Erika was suspended, McGonegal noticed that her son, who had no driver's license and no money, had acquired a car. To McGonegal, this was a sure sign Lennon had returned to his old ways.

"When I pulled up and saw the car I was like, 'that's it, that's it, that's the indicator right there, that's the icing on the cake,'" she said, "'that's when our life falls apart, when a vehicle comes into this place.'"

Erika was also furious with her father. "The fact is, Dad, you don't have a license, No. 1. No. 2, the car is illegal. So, you want to go out and do something illegal? Why the hell shouldn't I? And I have to be the one that's grounded … and I'm sick and tired of it, 'cause I don't deserve it!"

McGonegal began to think she's made a terrible mistake. "These are kids that have a chance," she told Lennon. "I want them to have a chance."

But McGonegal still couldn't bring herself to banish her child from her life.

"How do you say, 'Go away, get out of my life?' I'm getting older. Every time he hugs me, I keep thinking this could be the last hug I ever get. How do I just say, 'Go away, go die in the street.' I can't do that."

History Repeating Itself

The rift between Erika and her father continued to grow, and Erika started staying out more and more. Lennon warned his daughter that she was heading down a dangerous path. "You're following my road. What makes you think that it's gonna lead out somewhere different?," he said. "You're following right behind me. What, you think that it's gonna lead out to some magical place? I'm lucky that I had my mom … so that I had a place to come to. … Once she's gone, God knows what I'm gonna have, you're not gonna have somebody to run home to."

Erika ultimately ran away several times, and found out she'd become pregnant by her 20-year-old boyfriend, whose nickname is Kiss. Kiss wanted her to have the baby. McGonegal vowed that she wouldn't care for another generation, but she was torn.

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