The G-Word

Standard

Hundreds of emotions rushed through me when my daughter announced she was pregnant with her first child. Her health, age, future, childbirth, anything a mom can fret about simmered within me throughout her pregnancy. The biggest surprise, though, was the difficult time I was having accepting the reality that I was old enough for grandparenthood.

If that doesn’t prove “youth” is relative, I don’t know what does. As if I couldn’t have passed for a grandmother without my daughters having children. I’d already had practice. My stepson had three handsome kids of his own who I adore. I spent a great deal of time with the oldest when he was young, and it remains among my greatest experiences. Gus is the first little person I didn’t give birth to who enjoyed being with me as much as I loved being with him. Nonetheless, he’s a reminder my husband is older than me, and another Grandma rightfully ranks first in all their big hearts. Bottom line: I avoided the “I’m-a-grandma-now” reality check.

Daughter #2, Niece, Daughter #1, aka Mom, and Cait

Like the teenager who knows everything, I was an early-in-my-50’s mom who still had much to learn but didn’t think so when daughter #1 announced her daughter was due in September, 2007. I was abuzz with busy―baby showers, learning the latest in all things baby, and calling friends, most of who held their Grandma comments to themselves, although I could see the smirk in their eyes.

My daughter allowed me to be with her when Caitlin arrived. I was overwhelmed remembering all the love and happiness greeting my oldest when she was born. My parents and I spent years staring at her, awake or asleep. My youngest daughter, Caitlin’s new aunt, joined us in the birthing room soon afterwards, and I remembered how excited my mom and dad were at her arrival, especially my dad who’d finally slowed down enough to revel in all things infant and toddler. Every mispronounced word worthy of a story, told repeatedly. Then in came my niece, and I relived the joy my grandmother, mom, dad, sister and I felt when she made her debut―the first girl born near enough to hover over since my birth.

I held Caitlin close for a few minutes, introducing her to these women whose blood she shares. I told her about the long line of strong women preceding her, a tribute to those who instilled a love so powerful that those remaining were present now. The notion of missing even the first few moments of this new life unthinkable to each of us who instantly became part of her story through no choice of her own.

cait+gramma

Grandma and Cait

What an aha moment for this mom. Just when you think you’ve experienced all the great stuff in life―job promotions, marriage, rock star kids, beautiful homes, and even the significance of surviving the big 5-0―it’s not a leap to believe any big, magical milestone moments might be behind you.

Silly, inexperienced me. It took a year before Cait could say “Gamma.” Now that she’s getting ready for 1st grade, she can pronounce, spell and read Grandma as her mother, aunt and great-aunt did before her. And, I learned that just when I thought there were no longer any more big life lessons left,  being a grandmother is perhaps the most definitive life-affirming experience.

Caitlin and now her little brother multiple infinitely the profound love I felt when I gave birth to their mom. I don’t think either my very tired and hard-working daughter and equally exhausted niece can process the concept of so much love. Nor can my youngest who will be a terrific mother after she ventures down the many paths still before her. They have plenty of time. But this mom, who’s more motivated than ever to stay healthy to experience her baby’s babies, too, alternately laughs and cries at that naïve 50-something woman who feared the thought of being called Grandma.

It’s only when we stop learning new things every day that we genuinely have something to fear.

My Heart Will Be Your Shelter

Standard

On Wednesday and Thursday I had the all too rare opportunity to care for my new grandson, Patrick Xavier. As I sat in my daughter’s apartment, I recognized for the first time she’s creating a home like the one in which she grew up. Books everywhere. Family pictures lining the hallway and on other horizontal surfaces. Candles and “stuff” that obviously have meaning for my 6-yr. old granddaughter as well as my son-in-law and daughter.

It felt beyond validating. I love every minute she lets me into her world. I felt so comfortable sitting there, and looking around I realize part of that is because her idea of home has only changed location.

With a kindergartner and 3-month old, the apartment has its own heartbeat―so full of life and love. Tough to keep neat with both parents’ working so I am more than thrilled to be able to help a little, folding laundry, emptying the dishwasher and anything else I can find.

While doing so, I noticed a sign her husband made for their wedding. They did a lot of DIY stuff, and it all held special meaning, but I hadn’t noticed this before.

It read: “My heart will be your shelter.”

It touches me to my core. What a beautiful arrangement of words creating such a loving, thoughtful promise to my daughter. And in so doing, it comforts me, too. I know he is a genuinely kind man. But I don’t know many men who would take the time to create it and then put it into writing for all the wedding attendees to see.

I’m so proud and so happy for my daughter. She’s in the tornado season of her life, thus she can’t yet see how blessed she is―not that she’s complaining. She’s doing a terrific job; she’s simply tired. I think back on all I did while raising two daughters, and I’m amazed at the energy it took. Raising a family is not for the older crowd or the weak of heart.

But sharing some of those moments, seeing some of her past worthy enough to be replicated, and watching what a wonderful mother she is are priceless gifts. Thank you, honey, for sharing them. Happy Mother’s Day. You’re doing a wonderful job, and I hope I’m around when you have the time and breathing space to look back and know for yourself.

I have a younger daughter, too. Her future is no less limitless; they are both rock stars, and each make my life complete. You’ll hear more about her on this blog, too. But this seems most appropriate for Mother’s Day.

And by the way, although I never thought of putting it on a sign, my heart will always be their shelters, too.

On loneliness and being alone

Standard

There’s a difference between the two.

Vast.

Being alone allows one to feel whole, even in a crowd. You’re comfortable in yourself and the others around you. Perhaps you’re just feeling reserved or quiet or you’re a solitary sole.

Loneliness turns that crowd onto you and says, “Something’s wrong with you. You’re undeserving.”

It doesn’t matter what you don’t deserve because you’re a nobody. You don’t count. People talk over you, or they dismiss anything you say.

Passover and Easter and the promise of Spring are reminders that anyone with a heart should not allow another to feel lonely. We are all just jettisoning through our little worlds in maybe 80 or 90 years if we’re really, really lucky. That’s a nano-second in the billions of years behind and ahead of us.

People who just watch others feel sad must have very sorry stories hidden deep down under. But they should stop the cycle. No one should knowingly let someone else be lonely. It’s the most purposeful abuse of a heart that I can think of.

We’re all just passing through. If we don’t use anything else, let’s wear out out hearts making others feel loved and wanted and deserving. When all is said and done, what else could possibly mean more?

Sometimes life just sucks

Standard

There’s no getting around it. To ensure it wasn’t just me, I googled the phrase. Nope, I’m not alone. Sometimes life just sucks. People you love save hurtful things, and worse, they occasionally take joy in it. Sometimes things seem just great with your kids, and all of a sudden they can’t get out the door quick enough.

Sure, I’ve done lots of things that provoke that treatment. But many times I haven’t. And that’s one thing my parent’s never prepared me for: sometimes life just sucks. People will hurt your feelings without feeling sad about it, or they won’t apologize for something, or they won’t appreciate your efforts when you’re dying for that recognition.

My mom spent the last decades of her life trying to toughen me up. She knew how deeply I loved. She and her mom and her mom’s mom taught me that love. But for some reason I’ve always had a hard time taking the hurt for what it’s worth — something unkind and something I don’t deserve and something I need to learn to walk away from.

If she told me once, she told me a thousand times, “Don’t let people treat you poorly, and don’t let people think you deserve to be treated poorly. You don’t.” At the same time, she’s said, “Own your mistakes. Apologize for them. Make sure your apologies are heard, too.” If anyone knew it took two to cause problems, it was my mom.

I remember one particular conversation with her. She was so worried that I wasn’t “toughening up.” She worried I took everything to heart. I kept saying that’s how I was, and it was okay because I always had her or Toto or my dad, my aunt and uncle — all of them to remind me that I am a nice person and I’m loved by the people that count. And she said, “Doll Face, we all won’t be here one day. You have to toughen up. You have to know that a bully will bully you as long as s/he knows its possible.” It was a Saturday night in our living room in Glenview, and I can tell you where we both sat, and how the light in the room changed as the hours passed, and how her eyes pleaded with me as much as her heart and her words.

I know now she kept on with this conversation so often because she loved me, and she didn’t want me to always feel so hurt by the words and actions or silence and inaction by those I love so much. I know now she probably even then felt the discussion futile, but maybe I’d think twice during these times when it feels like life just sucks.

My mom was so loving and so tough at the same time. I don’t know how she could be both. I know she had more than her share of disappointments, and I know she was a pro at shaking them off and moving forward. In so many ways I’m like my mom. I wish that were one of them.

But I’m SO grateful that I had those countless talks about toughening up to recall. I may not ever succeed in achieving that ability, but I learned about love from a pro. I learned about love from someone who never had to tell me and only through her actions proved what unconditional love is. So if sometimes life just sucks, I hope you have someone to remind you that you are worthy of unconditional love, and you don’t need to put up with those who would hurt you solely because they can. Or judge you as if they were better than you.

I’ve lived a blessed life with so many more wonderful than terrible moments. And to honor my mom, my grandma and my great-grandma, I have to remember that when some bully feels like it’s okay to make me feel bad. Because you know what — sometimes life just sucks. But there’s always someone out there who will love you for all the right reasons. So we have to shake if off and move forward. The bullies are the losers. Not those with hearts so big they can’t be shut off no matter how much they should be.

Some lessons take a long time to learn. Moms — they’re really something. They get that no matter how hard they work to convince you of something, they know you won’t learn some of those lessons in their lifetime. But thank heaven for them. Because that doesn’t stop them from repeating the lesson over and over again. They must know it echoes inside of you until eventually it resonates. They’re right. Sometimes life just sucks, but no one deserves to be treated poorly just because they can.

So whoever it is who loves you without condition and keeps telling you something repeatedly, and you just don’t buy it now, store it away. The truth of it will reveal itself when you need it most. As my mom would say about this and the few other truths that get me through my toughest moments, “stick with me.” Life isn’t always great, but some memories surely are.