Some families share blood and genes, while others are brought together by love.
Katelynn Martinez of Fort Collins, Colorado, isn’t related to her childhood neighbors, Arlene and Bill, but they’ve been her beloved grandparents since the day they came into her life. In March, Katelynn shared the moving story of how they became a family with “Humans of New York.”
She was just 3 years old when she moved into a house outside of Denver — right next to Arlene and Bill. Because her father worked as a truck driver, it was just Katelynn and her mom at home most of the time. Things could feel a little lonely, but then she began speaking to the couple through the fence separating their yards.
“My first memory is Arlene handing me strawberries from her garden,” she wrote. “It was a wonderful connection.”
It didn’t take long for the situation to become more permanent!
“After a few months, I knocked on their door, sat down in their living room, and said: ‘Will you guys be my grandparents?'” Katelynn explained. “It was so silly. They could have laughed it off. But instead they started crying.”
Touched by the request, her neighbors created a heartwarming “adoption certificate” for her and hung it on their wall. It was even more special to them than Katelynn realized at the time because they had no children of their own.
Over the years, the couple’s house became a “refuge” to the little girl. She has wonderful memories of Bill smelling like oil and teaching her how to drive, and of all the craft projects she and Arlene worked on together.
Most importantly, they helped her believe in herself — and went above and beyond for her!
Both of them supported me in all my dreams. Through all my phases. They encouraged me to apply for college, even though I didn’t have the money to go. And when I got accepted, they presented me with a fund. They told me they’d been putting away money since the day I adopted them.
Now an adult, Katelynn understands the huge role they played in helping her become the woman she is. But she also learned she’s been just as important to them. Arlene passed away in 2013, just two days before their adoption anniversary, and left a powerful legacy behind.
“My grandfather gave her eulogy,” Katelynn wrote. “And at the end, he said: ‘Arlene leaves behind her husband Bill. And the greatest joy of her life — her granddaughter Katie.'”
Talk about being brought together by love! While Arlene is no longer here, we’re so glad Katelynn and Bill have each other to lean on.
Share this story to celebrate all the families out there, whether they’re related by blood or not.
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