Today is my son’s birthday. He’s a dad now, with two little ones of his own, and yes, I watch my baby hold his babies and I wonder how we got from there to here so quickly. Of course, I was warned. By my mother and grandmother and aging aunties; I was told to gather the tender moments from the childhoods of my two children and hold them close because they would fly by. And I tried, I really did. But there was housework to do and bills to pay, a marriage to maintain and health problems to overcome, and before I knew it I was sitting in a hospital waiting room looking forward to holding my new granddaughter in my empty arms. The greatest joy of being a grandparent is that you get one more chance to honor the precious days of childhood as you watch your grandchildren grow up, and as an added bonus, you do it armed with a good night’s sleep and a little more wisdom. I think of my mother on days like today, dancing with Andy at his wedding 6 years ago, her head on the shoulder of her first grandchild and I know exactly what she was thinking…how did we get from there to here so quickly?
Getting lots of use out of the pool during this hot, hot summer. That’s my sister’s granddaughter in the warm and wooly Dora hat. It was 90 degrees outside but she insisted on wearing it, even in the pool! I’ve been reading quite a bit this summer, doing some writing again, and working toward self-publishing one of my books. Favorite Aunt Janet keeps asking me about my novels and bugging me to, “put something in print so I can actually hold it in my hands and read it!” So that’s what I’m going to do, but don’t tell her, I want her to be surprised when she opens a package from Amazon next month and pulls out my book!
Last Sunday while on our butterfly hunt, my husband and I came across these handsome fellows grazing in a nearby field. They are African Watusi, and I couldn’t help but wonder how they have adapted to our harsh Michigan winters coming from such a warm, dry climate. The lazy days of August are coming to a close here but they are feeling much more like the cool crisp days of October and I’ve caught myself saying at least it’s not snowing several times already! I do believe that my life would be much easier, happiness much closer at hand, if I could adapt to change like the beautiful horned cattle in the photo above apparently have. I want to learn to embrace not only the crazy weather patterns here in Michigan, but also the roller-coaster ups and downs of this thing called life. In two weeks I’m turning fifty and the one year anniversary of my mother’s death is coming up at the end of September. I can’t believe I’m that old and that my mom has been gone for a year already. I’ve never been very good at accepting change, at “going with the flow” as they say, but I’m making a real effort to improve on that skill. I have to of course, because change is inevitable in every life and as we grow older the ride only speeds up and those peaks and valleys only grow taller and much deeper. My birthday gift to myself is going to be to learn to let go, to put my hands up in the air, feel the wind on my face, and enjoy the rest of the ride for as long as it lasts:)
It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it’s that place in between that we fear . . . . It’s like being between trapezes. It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold on to. ~Marilyn Ferguson
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Okay, so right after Brooklyn was born I felt like I should write a heartfelt, touching, tear producing post about the instant joys of becoming a grandparent. But as wonderful as this week has been, the truth is, I felt a little numb, almost like I was stuck in a dream and any minute I’d wake up, and poof! Meagan would still be pregnant and we’d still be waiting for a baby. I was feeling kind of bad about the way I felt, like I was already failing as a grandparent until Doug expressed the same feelings. I’m not sure why it affected us like this. We’re guessing it may be because we’d been waiting for Brooklyn since the kids lost unborn baby Kiley last spring. Basically this child has been anticipated for eighteen long months, during which time we also lost my mother to a terrible, year long illness.
Years ago, Andy once told me how to remember which direction tightens and which one loosens things; righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. Now when I go out to water my flowers and I turn the hose spigot on and off, I often say it silently to myself, righty-tighty, lefty-loosey and I’d begun to wonder if it was possible for our emotions to turn on and off in the same way. I suppose I was expecting a lightning bolt of happiness to strike me the moment I held Brooklyn for the first time at the hospital, that my newfound love for her would wake me up, would fill me up and make me believe that I actually deserved to be happy. But Doug and I both left the hospital the day she was born in a bit of a daze.
Today we had to go over and babysit Brooklyn so that Andy could take Meagan to the doctor’s for complications from the epidural. At one point, I took the baby into her room to change her. After she was cleaned up, I swaddled her in a blanket so that only her head was peeking out and I picked her up. She started to fuss so I began rocking gently back and forth and talking to her in that instinctive, sing-song mommy voice women seem to be born with. Brooklyn quieted down. She began to study my face carefully and then she smiled, the sweetest, purest little smile and that was my moment. It didn’t happen in a brightly lit, crowded hospital room, but alone in the silence of a darkened nursery. And it was not so much a bolt of lightning, but a gentle lefty-loosey, a gift from the tiny pink lips of my first grandchild that went straight to my heart.
This is the group shot from my mom and dad’s 5oth Wedding Anniversary party in June 2006. It was the kind of day I knew that I needed to savor, to lock away in my memory forever because things were about to change for my family. I don’t know how I knew this, I suppose as we get older and our parents age it’s a given. Yet, it was more than that. I remember that the air itself had a golden glow that afternoon. My parent’s four children were together as we rarely are, most of their grandchildren too. But as great as the day was, there was also something very fragile about it. It felt like we were on top of a hill looking back at our life as a family, ending a chapter and about to turn the page. I wanted it to be the perfect day for my parents because deep down in my heart I knew as if someone had whispered it in my ear, that their perfect days together were quickly winding down. The following winter my mother’s health began to noticeably decline, and by May we began the rounds of doctor appointments and hospital stays that marked the last difficult fifteen months of her life. Memory can be a wonderful thing, binding us to our past, but only if we lock in those pages filled with joy and let the sorrows go.
I wandered over to the fishing pond across the street to take a few pictures and two swans were conveniently floating around enjoying the bright sunny day. It’s finally starting to feel like spring around here. I must admit to feeling a little blue today however, it was a year ago this week that we lost our first granddaughter at only five months gestation. Last spring was tough with my mom being so ill and then the baby’s death. Thinking about those days and weeks reminds me that I have so much to be grateful for; that Meagan is pregnant again and doing well, that my mother is no longer suffering and my dad is adjusting as well as can be expected to living alone.
I suppose what they say is true, time heals all wounds. Or perhaps it just puts some much needed space between you and the pain. And in that space, if you are lucky, you may find a little peace. Near the end of one of my books I write …when the earthly lives of my daddy and brother had safely made that transformation from flesh and blood to mist and memory, when the grief had finally settled itself comfortably into the undercurrent of my days and nights, my voice came back to me. I wrote that not long after losing my beloved father-in-law Hank, and I was remembering that shift, that soft gray place where grief slips quietly into the background and we begin again. That is the joy and wonder of spring too, and it is here at long last.
A few nights ago I was dreaming that I was in strange apartment at some kind of family get-together. There were small round tables set up and I was scanning the people at the tables, looking for my mom. I walked over and peered around a half wall and saw her. She appeared how I remember her at the end of her life when she was very ill and I didn’t want to see her that way so I went back and sat down at another table. When I looked up she was sitting across from me, healthy and young, younger than I have conscious memory of her. She tried to say something but I couldn’t understand her so we got up and moved toward each other and we embraced.
I was going to tell her that I wanted her to give me a sign or come to me in my dreams so that I would know that she was okay. But as I wrapped my arms around her and felt the softness of her short curly hair against my left cheek, I suddenly understood what seemed to be happening so instead I simply said, “I just wanted to tell you that you were a great mom.” I woke up with my lips moving and I heard my own whispered voice speaking out loud, “…a great mom.”