Friday, November 14, 2014

On Being a First-time Grandparent

Since June, I've thought many times of writing on the subject of becoming a grandparent, but each time I sat down to share my thoughts, I was overcome with emotion.  You see, holding my first, tiny grandchild in my arms was only part of the story.  The whole tale began back in August of 1983.

I was twenty-two years old, married for two years, a college student, holding down a full-time job.  When the doctor announced in the delivery room, "It's a girl!" my whole world changed…for the better.

I spent the night at the hospital holding my darling, rosy-cheeked, baby girl, counting her toes, amazed at the perfection of her tiny limbs, her rose-bud lips, her beautiful, blue eyes gazing up at me while I nursed her.  It was during those hushed hours, when the lights were low and the nurses came and went quietly from the room, checking vitals and showing me how to swaddle my sweet baby, that I began to make promises to my little girl.

"I will always love you," I whispered.  "I will always protect you."  "I will always be there for you."

"I promise."

I spoke gently to my child throughout the night, making plans.

"We're going to have such fun."

"I promise."

I whispered sweet somethings all night long.  All my emotions were heightened, everything became clear, and even though I was young, I felt calm and certain and wise.  I knew everything would be okay, as long as I put my baby first and did my best to care for her and love her forever.

Two years later, I was a single mom juggling a toddler and new job in a new city.  We called our apartment, 'The Bachelorette Pad'.  My daughter regularly told people at the grocery store, "We're sorta poor, but we're rich in love."  We lived on a very tight budget, most of my salary going to the best daycare I could find.  She was the first child to arrive each morning and the last to be picked up, since I had an hour commute each way.  But, the teachers were so loving and kind, it was worth every penny.

We didn't have cable for our grainy-screened, 10" television, so we'd tweak the antenna until The Dolly Parton Show would appear and then sing along, pretending to be country-western singers.  Every penny was accounted for, but somehow, each month, I scraped enough money together for tickets to the ballet, ribbons for her pigtails, new stuffed animals, double-scoops of ice-cream and Disney movies.  We had our favorite parks, where we'd run and chase birds together, and we'd use our library card to check-out books for bedtime.

Our life was small, but happy and I don't remember feeling like we struggled, even though I know I did, especially when I had to say good-bye to her at daycare and for an excruciatingly long month each summer when she stayed across the country with her dad.  But mostly, I just remember how soft her cheeks were when she'd climb into bed with me in the middle of the night, to have 'cuddle time' with Mommy.  I remember her giggles and her artwork and her squeals of excitement when she'd spot a rainbow.  She could tell me the brand of every car we passed by on our daily commute.

"Toyota, Mommy," she'd say, her rosy cheeks glowing in the review mirror, holding tight to her baggy full of Cheerios, strapped into her car seat in our red, Chevy Sprint.  The same car she'd help me wash every other weekend with the hose.

We went to Mommy and Me swim classes and playgroup.  The test always being, to find a balance, but oftentimes, I felt like I came up short, that my little girl might be suffering somehow.  But, here's the amazing thing, she grew up to be a beautiful, kind, hard-working, ambitious, creative, smart, funny, perfectly lovely, young woman.

So, inside a different delivery room, thirty-one years later, when my daughter announced, "Look, I had a baby!" my eyes filled with tears knowing how lucky she was, how her whole world had just changed…for the better.

I stepped forward and glanced down to see the delicate newborn lying against her chest, big, blue eyes and rosy cheeks, tiny fingers and toes, and my heart nearly burst with joy.  My baby girl was holding her very own baby girl.  Over my shoulder, I saw my son-in-law shaking hands with my husband.  We married when my daughter was four-years-old.  Then, in came our two sons, my daughter's brothers, the proud uncles, all four men beaming with happiness, embracing each other.  I glanced back at my daughter who was whispering sweet somethings to her little, baby daughter -- her own promises, her own plans.

A short while later, a nurse came by to check on my daughter.  Nearest to the bedside, I was handed my precious, little granddaughter for the first time and my heart overflowed with joy.  Her perfect little nose and rosy cheeks were so familiar, yet she was a whole new person to know and love, and my whole world changed again…for the better.  I held my freshly swaddled granddaughter and spoke to her gently as she held my gaze.

"I will always love you," I whispered.  "I will always protect you."  "I will always be there for you."

'We're going to have such fun."

"I promise."

My Life On The Lane is once again filled with diapers and squeaky toys and soft, little hands and nothing could be better.      

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