This post was updated just for you gentle readers, in November 2016:
My second son Andrew and his darling wife Sonia gave me my first grandchild at the end of last year, making me a grandma at–it seemed to me–a rather young (cough) age. At least it seemed young to me until I realized that I—my parents’ second child, also–gave my mother her first grandchild when she was my very (also rather young!) same age. Then it still seemed a very young age to be a Grandma. Or a Granny. Or an Amma. Or a . . . whatever.
Bryan and I were still tossing about titles, to differentiate us from the other Grandpa and Grandma in our new grandchild’s life, Sonia’s parents, who also live fairly close.
We all had been quite excited for weeks preceding the birth of this baby. Well, I was, mainly. Excited as in jittery, wide-eyed, and snappish. Every stinkin’ time the phone rang, my body would tense, and my ears would strain . . . Is it Andrew? Is it “time”? Andrew and Sonia (bless them) live only a mile from our place, and during the last few weeks of Sonia’s pregnancy, I will admit (now) that I fabricated reasons to go to town nearly every day, just to peep if Andrew’s car was sitting in the driveway . . . or not. If the car wasn’t there, anxiety ensued. It might have meant that he was simply at work, or it might have meant that he had rushed Sonia to the hospital. Of course if the car was there, it might have meant that he was home from work, because Sonia was in labor . . . you see the circular reasoning at work in my addled brain.
Gentle readers might wonder why I didn’t just call and ask, on a daily basis, or perhaps hourly, if anything was happening in the Giving-Amy-Her-First-Grandchild Department. I might answer that there were many reasons: One. I love my son and daughter-in-law and want to nourish a positive relationship with them, ergo, I didn’t want to drive them nuts. (I was, in truth, driving my own family nuts, but they don’t have any choice in that matter. Bless them. They’re stuck with me.) Two. Andrew and Sonia have dozens—scores, even—of family members from both sides living within a few miles of them. If I called daily to ask, and everybody else did, too, they might just “lose” their phones, permanently. And I wouldn’t blame them. (They seem to lose them enough, the way it is.)
. . . er, Three. My youngest, Malachi, was born only five years ago. I have not forgotten those last few weeks of pregnancy, oh no. It’s bad enough having fluids spontaneously leaking from your body at inopportune moments, hobbling about on grossly swollen feet, and dealing with back pain, sleepless nights and acid reflux, (and surrounded by people who are not having these same problems and can’t understand, no matter how much they assure you that they do) without having to answer the phone constantly and assure your wacko mother-in-law that no, labor hasn’t started yet and yes, you’re okay, and no, you don’t need a thing.
Except a little peace and quiet, Mum. Please. Please. PLEASE.
I did find reasons to stop by their house more often than I had before. I had to share my latest batch of fresh bread, for example—my chickens were producing such great quantities of eggs, did they want some?—some of Andrew’s mail was delivered to our house, silly, it looks important, could I just drop it by? And so on. Legitimate reasons. Innocent, even. But I tried not to stay long, just long enough to briefly and intensely study Sonia’s facial expressions, posture, mood, etc., for signs of impending labor.
Sonia is the sweetest and most patient young lady I know. Quickly satisfied, I’d go on my way after I’d had a glimpse of her, as a decent and thoughtful (and snoopy) mother-in-law should do. Then I’d go home and wonder if her labor had started since I left, and make plans for my next trip to town.
The call finally came. It was after midnight. I was asleep and in bed, but woke up immediately. Bryan is a night owl, and was still awake and he got to the ‘phone first.
“Andrew?” I heard Bryan gasp, as I stumbled out to the living room, where he held the ‘phone, a look of expectant excitement on his face. “ . . . Everything okay?” he croaked. My knees were going weak, and I prayed that I wouldn’t lose consciousness before I heard the news.
He listened. A big smile transformed his face. “It’s a girl?” he said, looking across the room at me through his fresh new grandpa’s eyes. He fumbled for a scrap of paper and a pencil. Then he said her name.
The name of my first grandchild. “Anya . . . Genese?” He scribbled it down, glancing at me and smiling.
Anya Genese. I melted into the closest chair. My son and and his sweet bride had given our first grandchild my middle name, Genese. This was not something that I had even imagined. Wow. After I had been such a pain, too. Joy flooded my heart, and tears filled my eyes and worked their way down my new Grandma’s cheeks. I was a Grandma. Grammy. Amma. Whatever.
No. I was a puddle. A puddle of gratitude. Who cares what I was called?
Andrew asked to speak to me and he told me his baby daughter’s name, knowing how special it would be. He sounded so tired, but so happy, too. I asked for particulars—how long she was, who she looked like, how Sonia was. He encouraged me to come visit them “tomorrow, Mom, but not too early.” Which, of course, I would. Visit, I mean. I would have climbed into the car right then and there and driven the forty-five minutes to the hospital, if he had hinted that I was needed. Shoot. If there was no car, all I’d have had to do was to raise my arms up and flap, and I could fly to the hospital, I was sure of it!
And if I wasn’t working so hard to be a Thoughtful and Respectful Person, that’s exactly what I would have done. It was only midnight and I knew that the kids weren’t going to get any sleep that night. Neither would I. I could hold the newborn Anya while they slept . . . but no.
Bryan and I sat quietly, in the dark living room, in a fog of gratitude and emotion, after the call. I brushed tears away from my cheeks. We were grandparents now.
Anya Genese. Anya Genese! A perfect little baby girl. Thank you, God. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
It was hard not to think about a different kind of a phone call three years before, almost to the day.
Sonia, Andrew’s then-fiancée, had taken ill at college. She had driven home for a weekend of recuperation, and had collapsed. Her mother had rushed her to the doctor, who had ordered tests. She was diagnosed with cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, specifically. So her mother had called me early one morning the week before Christmas that year, to tearfully tell me that awful news. I had cried with her, and then I had gone to wake my son Andrew to tell him that his lovely fiancée had cancer.
Sonia then quietly endured a couple of years of cancer treatments—including several rounds of chemotherapy and then a round of radiation—without a complaint. She lost weight, lost all her hair, until we barely recognized her. She and Andrew had put off their wedding for several months because of health insurance constraints, and then at last they had married in a quiet, small, but joy-filled ceremony, Sonia in a white gown and a beautiful dark wig. It was snowing when the young couple left the church, and I’ll never forget that sight—Andrew whisking his bride off through a flurry of white—both of them looking so vulnerable and sweet and grateful.
When her body came up clean from the scans a couple years later, we were all optimistic and relieved. We prayed that the cancer was gone forever. But there was that post scripted question: would they still be able to have children, after all the abuse on her body? The doctors couldn’t give them an answer on that one. And I couldn’t imagine this young couple without a houseful of children. They were made for it, youthful and fun and nurturing, both of them.
The pregnancy, only a few months later, therefore, had been a breathlessly heralded event. Their lives had started anew. We haven’t mentioned the dreaded cancer again, and we continue to pray that it is history.
And this healthy baby—Anya Genese—our new granddaughter–surely was a testament of God’s goodness and mercy.
“Delight yourself in the Lord,” said the Psalmist (37:4) “and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
I was too full of awe and thankfulness to sleep that night. Bryan and I got up the next day, woke the kids as if it were any other day, showered and dressed, and did our morning chores as if our lives weren’t forever altered, in a sublimely wonderful way. We were Grammy and Gramps, or Grandma and Grandpa, or Amma and Oompa-Loompa or whatever. I put on my favorite sweater and my pink scarf, and my youngest jeans. I put on a bit of makeup. I was a grandma now, but I still could look good. Or try to. We drove to the hospital in Lincoln, stopping for a bouquet of flowers along the way.
In the hospital room at last . . . somebody finally handed my new granddaughter to me, and I took her in my arms . . . and I caught my breath. For just a split-second, I felt like she actually was my baby.
“She looks so much like Andrew!” I gasped, delighted, without checking my comments. The room, after all, was full of Sonia’s family, too, who might actually see only their daughter in her. But to me, she looked just like my son. I don’t know why this surprised me so much—irrationally, I had assumed that, being a girl, she would look just like Sonia, with curly black hair, large brown eyes, and an oval face. I didn’t expect to see the tiny little bow-mouth that my children all have, the brow of my dad, the little close-set ears that are my son’s. Even her nose was Andrew’s. I was confused for a second. This was not my baby, but I sure felt as if she were. I leaned down and touched my lips to her silky brow. She even smelled like my baby.
Of course I loved her instantly.
I studied her fingers: incredibly long, just like those of all my children. I uncovered her toes: yes! She even had those ridiculously long toes that all my children have. My dad’s toes. Monkey toes, we call them.
I knew that I would have loved Anya Genese fiercely, even if she hadn’t resembled my babies so strongly. I was her Grammy/Grandma/Gran, or whatever. I would not let anything happen to her. I would enjoy her, take care of her, protect her and pray for her every day, for the rest of my life.
We stayed long enough to take some pictures and give Andrew and Sonia quick hugs, and then Bryan went on to work, and the kids and I ambled on home, unhurried, giddy with joy, talking endlessly about the newest addition to the family. Anya Genese.
A funny thing happened to my heart that day. Immediately I felt the responsibility to be a Much Better Person. When I became a mom, I should have felt this way, too, but I was always too tired and distracted and sleep-deprived and achy from childbirth to do much. In short, when I had a newborn (and I had six of them) it took all my energy just to keep our home running smoothly, to keep all who needed to be fed, fed, and—if things went well—to actually get a shower from time to time. I would have liked to have become a better person then, too, but I really didn’t have the strength to work that out. It was a dog-eat-dog, frantic scrabble for sustenance and sleep and an occasional bath. But now—now I was absolutely filled with a desire, a necessity, to be better.
A long list of my flaws came to mind, and I determined to work on them! I would have to forgive others for sins against me. I would spend more time in prayer for my children. I would be more cheerful and loving and unselfish. It wouldn’t be an easy assignment–self-improvement never is–but I could do this! For Anya Genese, and for all the other babies that would, God willing, be in the family someday. I could become a better person; I would have to.
Next month (I am updating this post in November 2016) Anya will turn four! She is perfectly healthy, curious and active toddler, a smiley, animated, adorable little personage. She now looks more like her little self and resembles both her mama and her papa. She is beautiful and intelligent and creative expressive and so dear to us.
She is very attached to her mama and papa and I’m thankful for that, and I’m also glad that she is getting to know her Grandma/Amma/Gram too.
The high spots of each week, now, are when I’ll see my granddaughter. Now I get all the beaming grandparents I know. I understand why people say “just skip having kids and go straight to the grandchildren!” and why Grandparents wear those silly t-shirts “World’s Best Grandma!”
One day last week, her mama was under the weather and her papa brought her over for us to play with for an afternoon. I was sitting with her and watching her dip some little rubber airplane toys into a glass of water, and then pull them back out, glancing sweetly at me before sticking them into her mouth and sucking on them, and then doing it all over again. It washed over me that at that moment, there was absolutely nothing I’d rather do than just sit and watch her.
I’m a blessed Amma.
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