Saturday, January 19, 2013
The last of the future
Last week we had the joyous arrival of our fourth and final grandchild, Emily. The picture under her is her older brother, Joshua, and the next picture is her cousin Charlotte and then her oldest cousin, Caroline. Four sleeping sleeping angels in these pictures.
Each birth had its similarities and differences with the others. There were 4 C-sections, for instance. All babies were born in the same hospital. In two of the births, we knew the gender ahead of time; the other two were surprises at the time of delivery. Three babies were very heavy at birth, and Emily was the lightest of them all - well, if you can call 8 pounds 7 ounces light!
We now have four - three girls and one boy - and our grandchildren roll call is complete. It's definitely a bittersweet feeling. The last time in the hospital waiting room, anxiously awaiting the news. The last time to see the baby weighed in, the last time to see the proud parents as they hold their newborn with the family discussing which parent he/she resembles most.
Now we look to the future. I have been fortunate to have lived long enough to see my two kids grow to adulthood; now I want to live long enough to see my grandchildren grow up and establish their lives. I am so glad my almost 90-year-old mom has lived to see these 4 great grandchildren born. That is a blessing only some people get to experience.
There's nothing quite like being a grandmother. I did not really know three out of my four grandparents. My paternal grandfather I never met. My two grandmothers were elderly and ill as long as I can remember, so we never did much together. So that left my maternal grandfather - he had to fill the role that the others couldn't - and he did so with humor, energy, entertainment, and love, lots of love. Who else would give us chicks for Easter, one of which turned into a rooster in our midtown Memphis backyard and woke the neighborhood until being shuffled off to a farm? Who else would give us brand-name dolls that we actually had seen advertised on TV instead of the generic dolls our parents could afford? Who else made sure we had what was to us gigantic Easter baskets with pastel-colored plastic coverings which gave entrancing glimpses inside? Who else could play the piano by ear with gusto and did so every time he visited? Who else had a cat who played duets with him on the piano and organ? Who else could throw a cane up and catch it in the air? Who else kept two cans in the back floor of the car on family outings - one for bait and one for chewing tobacco? He was truly a legend.
So now it's left to me to build memories for these four beautiful grandkids. I'm still learning how to do this, as it's an ongoing effort as they grow. Their needs change, their interests change, the activities I can do with them change, but at the core is that important relationship of grandmother and grandchild.
It's a cliche to say that I see them as the future, but it's true. They carry my genes, they carry my legacy. They are part of my story and they will carry that as well. If you have grandchildren, you know what I mean. If you have grandchildren who aren't genetically related to you, you still know what I mean. If you are still awaiting that memorable event of having a grandchild born, you probably know what I mean. Our collective influence is powerful. We are the memory-makers.
I was in the post office the other day when a kid about 4 looked up at me. I smiled down at him. Then I realized, "That kid thinks I'm old!" The idea startled me. Then I though, of course he does! I would have at that age as well. 58 is ancient, right? I often wonder how my grandkids will remember me. I hope it is of a grandmother who took the time to listen, who could actually get down on the floor to play and get up again, who was there for their birthdays and other important life events, who was always taking pictures, who taught them about Lincoln and maybe some French, who sang "Pony Boy," who taught the power of forgiveness and patience, who passed on wisdom and guidance and, of course, love, love, love. If they don't wholly think of me as an old lady now, I'm sure in a few years they will, and one day I will actually step into those shoes of an "old lady" from even my subjective point of view. I pray that I will have enough good health and energy and intellect to be able to continue to make precious memories. In the end, that will really be their inheritance - those memories, all tangled in with love and hugs and laughter and some tears along the way.
In a way it seems selfish to me to be so concerned with if and how my grandkids remember me. But it's human nature to want to make a difference, to give meaning to our lives. In a way, I'm keeping up this blog in their honor, as a way to connect with me after I'm gone, to get a glimpse into my struggles and dreams and priorities, and yes, how fortunate I feel to be a part of their lives. I hope to be able to live as long as my mom, maybe even to see some great-grandchildren come my way. In the meantime, I'll concentrate on my role as memory-maker. It's one of the greatest honors of my life.
PS - For those of you who participated in Project Birthday Card to send cards from all over the world to my mom last May, the story is in the 2013 February edition of Reader's Digest at the bottom of pages 126-127. Thanks for being memory-makers in my mom's life!