In the dark cocoon of the January nights of 1982 I had the opportunity to reflect on the life that was beginning to form within. I was 23. Too young, I felt. Too immature, too ill equipped. It was a time of more uncertainty than joy. I can feel the moment, and see the yellow kitchen light, on an evening 34 years ago when after a medical appointment I returned home and, exhausted, leaned against the doorjamb of our tiny apartment and told Russ I was indeed pregnant.
In the darkness of a recent January night, the memory came back. We were Skyping with our daughter Leigh and her husband Nohé when they held a positive pregnancy test up to the screen. I’m not easily taken by surprise, but this unexpected news would have brought me to my knees had I not been sitting down. Instead it brought me to tears.
With three married daughters and son soon to be married, I have often thought about the possibility of being a grandparent, but couldn’t actually imagine the reality of it. Mostly I thought about the difficulties of raising children: the total physical and mental exhaustion, the worry, the responsibility, the sheer terror of keeping them safe, and you sane. Parents tend to want to protect their children from harm, no matter how old they get, and the notion of them having their own children seemed, well, dangerous.
Over the years I have heard many times, from many people, that “there is nothing like grandchildren.” I’ve smiled and nodded when I’ve heard it said, because I remember my own mother and the power of the love she had for my children, but I never quite got it. It’s like they share a private club that can only be understood by becoming a member.
I may be starting to get it. The impact of the news has taken my breath away. There’s a sense of connection with this little one that I cannot explain — it’s almost cosmic, the sense that this child is floating in an infinite universe that I am a part of. I can feel her (or his) presence as easily as I can feel my heart beat.
Spring is nearly upon us, and we anticipate the Easter season with a longing that always follows the end of a dreary winter. Dying and new life — we experience both on small scales and large every day. When my mother and then my father died, I felt myself inch a little closer to eternity. No one left ahead as a buffer between death and me. It took some getting used to. Mixed with the excitement of a grandchild in my future is a similar feeling, only the nudge toward eternity is from behind, pushing me forward into the realization that my life is gradually giving way. A new generation is ready to take over.
It’s sobering, but also liberating. The things that worried me about parenting are no longer mine to own, because that phase of my life is over. I can let them go and embrace loving this child with the freedom that is bestowed upon grandparents.
Two weeks ago late in the afternoon on a plain old Monday my iPhone notified me of an incoming Snapchat from Leigh. The image that flooded my screen turned my world upside down, much like the little one floating in the ultrasound photo. In front of my eyes was the cosmic universe in which my grandchild is being formed. How worry can melt like winter snow and turn into a spring-like pool of love is part of the mystery of the universe that grandparents inhabit.
Welcome Easter, and welcome new life — for young and for old.