They kept telling me there was nothing like it. They kept saying that all of your other issues and problems seem to melt away – sort of fade out of your trouble laden heart. I could only imagine it. At best, I could only try to absorb the magnitude of what they were saying. But I could only help but wonder – is there really something out there great enough to supplant the pain that still rests heavily on me every day?
And then it happened. My daughter delivered her baby in the early morning hours on a Tuesday in March. On that day, I became a grandmother. In my wild mind I get to imagine what kinds of things I get to do with this little guy. We have another one due in June. That’s when my son Sean and his wife are expecting. I begin to envision these two cousins in high chairs while we are all at the beach and I get to sing. To them or at them – does it really matter? Probably sing a little Bonnie Raitt, and maybe a little “Hey Ya,” and dance around the kitchen while making them laugh. It’s what I envision anyway. We’re gonna have fun, these two babies and me. Big Momma and her grand cubs. The kids don’t think they’ll allow me to call myself Big Momma, nor will they let their children call me that either. But I can bait them a little bit with the moniker. Until – it actually sticks. Or not. The problem of navigating the arena of what to call the grandma is an interesting glide. Not one that I care that much about, surprisingly, but whatever name they decide on will be fine with me. Big Momma, or not.
I hold this little baby boy, who came three weeks early and has a pretty good head of black hair and a pretty defined little nose and tiny little lips. I cannot believe any more today than I could when I was the one having babies, that such a natural miracle can happen. But it has for as long as time. And so it happened to us this March and will happen again in June. Babies have their own timetable. All the while, they keep us holding our breath in excitement and anticipation until they let us know they are ready. And then the world seems to explode with their arrival. Kind of like fireworks on the fourth of July. It’s that spectacular. Truly.
But babies are positively the elixir for the soul. They are the salve for pained hearts. They are the joy of finding that source of love and hope again. So often in life, love and hope get supplanted by some of the more difficult hardships we all face. But then there’s a baby. And everything changes. Just like they all told me it would. Already I feel lighter and happier and more hopeful. How great is that? The miracle of life brings the wonderment of life back to the forefront. I feel blessed for the reawakening.
I sit here in the kitchen of my daughter and son in law, holding the almost three week-old Wesley. I’ve got tears in my eyes as I look down at him while I’m feeding him a bottle that Kara just pumped. My eyes well up as I tell him how much I love him. I say it out loud. I say it so he can hear me. But before I finish telling him how much he’s loved, the tears sneak up on me and I get choked up. Incredibly so. In that moment I’m overtaken by the astounding joy of this new tiny life I’m cradling in my arms. I’ve got Van Morrison playing on Pandora and listening to him always gets me emotional. Then add this little Superman I’m holding to the mix and I start crying. I tell little Wesley, “Not to worry, they are all happy tears,” and I mean it. Every last bit of it. This little baby, and Sean and Leanne’s baby that will grace this world in several more weeks overwhelms me with emotion. These kinds of emotions have been foreign to me for the past, almost 8 years now. I’ve had tons of emotions, but they’ve been of the heavy kind. But these new emotions – I welcome with open arms.
I am acutely aware that since the arrival of baby Wes that my psyche has changed course from the ever-present heartache that I have felt for so long. In degrees, it still lingers underneath, of course it does, but this new experience is an incredible gift. My heartache seems to have lessoned. Or maybe it’s just being supplanted by more, happy and more hopeful thoughts. This new life that I am holding and the one I will be holding soon, is an artists exhibition of what hope looks like. This canvas is blank, with a whole host of possibilities just waiting to be painted. HOPE – what a concept. Babies are the essence of hope and love. Hope for a future that will behold these beautiful little beings and remind me again and again – “Gram, it ain’t all about you. There’s some new kids on the block.” And to that I respond: “Thank God. I’ve been waiting for you guys for a long time.”
I’ve never pushed my children to have kids. It’s their business and their timeline. But on a subconscious level, I’ve been hoping that something in my life changes. Something that will make this heaviness go away or at the very least, make it just a little lighter to carry. That picture in my head did not really include grandkids. Not for the immediate anyway. But then a baby appeared and soon, we’ll have another. The promise these two babies bring to our lives is extraordinary. They represent all that is right with the world and the unyielding endorsement for hope that all of us desire and crave.
As Kara and Wesley are home visiting, I have Superman on the bed to change his diaper. He’s trying to decide if he wants to cry or not. I put on Pandora again and Elton John’s “Your Song,” is playing. It strikes me quickly as I sing the words with automation as I have a million times before, that oh wow – this song is saying something that I’m actually hearing for the first time:
So excuse me forgetting
But these things I do
You see, I’ve forgotten
If they’re green or they’re blue
Anyway, the thing is – what I really mean
Yours are the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen.
And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind
That I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.
Friends kept telling me this was an amazing experience. I believed them. Truly I did, but I had no idea. Really I didn’t. I’m only several weeks into the grandma thing and already I’m mush. But that aside, I’m overwhelmed by the wonderment and joy that these babies are bringing to my life. It’s almost surreal to have my thoughts and my emotions dominated by a bigger picture that consists of new beginnings and a fresh start.
And while everyday life has a tendency at times to hurt and chafe us, it is the beauty of babies that saves our souls. They clear our heart and give us direction. Emotional direction, that is. Their gifts are immediate gratification, contentment and serenity. They give us room to grow with a heightened intensity of love and joy that is different from the love and joy we had for our own children. We get to love differently at this stage and phase of our lives. They all told me this would happen. But I didn’t understand. Not completely anyway.
And as I continue to relish the enrichment and peace these babies bring to my world, I can’t help but sing the words of Sir Elton John as they play through my head:
“How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.”