Friday, October 23, 2009

A Grandmother's Reverie

The house is quiet. Startlingly quiet. Turning on the radio or my ipod won't help. Going out for a walk only means returning to a still house. Eventually, probably by morning, I will be used to the solitude once again, but for now I am straining to hear the echoes of young life. Our daughter Kate and our grandchildren Maren, almost 7, and Peter, 20 months, were here visiting for a long weekend, but now they are back home. To counter my melancholy, I turn to a journal entry written a week after Peter was born:

Kate and Mike left the house at 5:00 am for the scheduled C-section later that morning. Bruce and I got up to say goodbye and send them off with love. Maren, however, slept until about 7:30, and we had our usual cuddle time in bed. I brought her in bed with me when she was quite small, before she could walk, and soon that became our blessed morning routine. I wonder if that will be a Peter tradition, too, or if we will have something else that is our own.

Anyway, Mike called us at 8:30 with the great news. Peter had entered the world at 7:54, 7 pounds, 4 ounces; 19 1/2 inches long. Lots of blondish hair with maybe a tinge of red. Maren's nose. And healthy. Both Mom and Baby. Thank you, God. Soon we were at the hospital and Maren had the promised first look at him. Kate later said when Maren first saw him sprawled in his bassinet, legs frog style, arms flung out, fresh after his first bath, she laughed. Chuckled with delight. In that moment she became a loving big sister.

Bruce and I waited patiently in the family lounge, but soon Maren and Mike came and told us we could come meet him. The first time I saw Maren, who arrived five weeks early, but was the largest baby in the NICU, I thought “I know you.” I was overwhelmed by the continuity of life and the sense of connection. I recognized her and felt such deep love—love without fear. Love wrapped in joy. When I saw Peter that first time, I was blindsided with awe, an Old Testament kind of awe. Kate and Mike had been tested over and over again to have him, to bring him forth, and he responded to that persistence; to that desire. I felt unbounded gratitude for whatever role a gracious God played in the birth of this happy, healthy, beautiful boy. He is an unexpected treasure.

When I was pregnant with our second child, our son Geof, I wasn't sure I had enough love. Could I love more? Did I have enough love to go around, to give another baby what it deserved? But it all rushed in. Peter, too, signifies the abundance of love; the bigness of it. Maren would have been enough, but now there is also Peter, and we get to experience the bigness of loving all over again. With every person who came to see him and rejoice in his arrival and hold him and marvel at him, he was infused with more love and the unconscious awareness of the abundance of love; the goodness in life. His presence renewed our hope and increased our joy, but we also gave him these gifts, too. When he was awake-and very alert, he would look with such puzzled eyes, and I kept thinking about the unfathomable change he had just experienced--from the womb to the world. If ever I feel overwhelmed by change and transition (and I do!), I need to think about what each baby endures.

When I held Peter those first days, I talked to him softly, "Hello Peter. It's GrandNan, and I love you very much." With Maren's birth I was given the opportunity to create my GrandNan identity, to become GrandNan, but with Peter I am already GrandNan, a role I love.

A major part of that role while Peter was still in the hospital was to be with and take care of Maren, and I will treasure that time forever. She was great. She relished her new title of Big Sister. She shared the spotlight. She gave her heart to him. She adapted to the hospital environment easily and all the coming and going. She rarely fussed about anything, and she was my buddy. Such a good companion in all those trips between home and hospital. The last time we drove back home she sang Christmas carols in her sweet voice—knowing the majority of the words—not always easy ones either, as in "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." One time I had the car radio on, but quickly turned it off when I heard a terrible story about the beating death of a four year old. She had heard it, too. She is so completely loved—how could she possibly imagine a child not loved as she is?

The morning Kate, Mike, and Peter came home from the hospital, Maren made a "Welcome Home" sign and Valentines for them all. She even helped me clean. Then when Mom and Dad and new baby snuggled in the car seat, came in the back door, they became a family of four. It was time for me to ease out the door. Not easy, but necessary. Besides they were more than capable of handling whatever came up. All was as it should be.

New birth, new life, ongoing life. Love.

The house is still quiet, and I miss our dear ones, but I feel better. Much better.


  1. Dear Nancy,

    What a beautiful sharing of a precious time. How fortunate you all are to love and be loved by/with each other. Your beautiful expression of love as you 'eased out the door'. And the reminder of the bigness of love and the way that it nourishes and grows - you said it so perfectly. Thankyou - I feel nourished.


  2. Hi Nan!
    Loved your GrandNan musings. So timely....we just drove our son (home from Korea for the first time in 2 yrs) and his wife and the 2 kiddos to the airport yesterday after a brief visit. The house seems SO quiet this Saturday morning. Can't even go to work to fill the void. Evan is almost 4, so big-boyish, yet sweet, and Linnea at 16 months is taking the world by storm, with a "hi" and "bye" for everyone she sees and lungs that make me hope she will have a wonderful voice some day! So, I'm also trying to organize my day to counter the melancholy...

  3. Well, good grief. Here I was just quickly checking my email inbetween cleaning and getting the storms on for the winter, and now I'm sobbing!! This journal entry is in Pete's babybook and is such a gift to him and to all of us. I love reading about those days from your perspective and it helps me remember how special my two kiddos are. Thanks Mom.
    Love, Kate

  4. What a way to be transported in time, I too am crying and experiencing a sense of Maren's joy, I am even humming Christmas carols to myself,they are the PERFECT birthday tunes. My house is not quiet, in fact I just complained about yet another football game on TV, interspersed with hockey and baseball. I do love the energy but maybe a little less athletics would be good. So I am going to make a cup of tea for my sweet bundle of love and joy, Allibaba and sneak in a minute of girl talk.
    Love you much, Amy

  5. Hi Nancy,

    Still thinking about this post since reading it more than a week ago, and what comes to my mind is what lucky grandchildren and children you have. They will live out their lives overseen by and connected to such tender attention and generous outpouring of thoughts and emotions. You fulfill your GrandNan (sp?) role well.

    Your idea to remember a baby's start in life to assist with your feelings of transition reminds me of my son's New Year's Eve comment when he was four. I just finished telling him all about the end of the year, and how everybody thinks about what happened over the past 12 months and how they behaved, and how many people, our family included, would make preparations to celebrate with friends and festivities.
    December 30th, then the 31st--Five-Four-Three-Two--you count down the seconds to One, I explained. He looked at me and said, calm as can be, "And then, do we die?" Open for my answer, curious even as to how the whole thing would unfold. He was ready and accepting of whatever came next. I think about that sort of ferocious child readiness all the time. (I so hope this recollection doesn't seem morbid; it was a really touching moment, truthfully.)