I woke up this morning with my grandmother and my Aunt Nancy on my mind. We lost my grandmother two months ago after she suffered a series of health crises over the past year. I've already done my best to capture her in another blog entry. She was on my mind again today because my Aunt, her only daughter, is turning fifty years old. (Well, and because she's just still on my mind generally).
|Me and Aunt Nancy in 2009. Yup, that would have made her 47 here - amazing.|
Why is this on my mind now? I think when we lose people close to us we reprocess the big moments in their lives, good and bad. I don't know how my grandmother lived through that day or the days that followed, but her suffering and also her strength to go on and eventually live joyfully over the decades are sources of limitless sorrow, anguish, hope, awe and wonder for me. Her suffering also poses the biggest hurdle I have in my own faith. The Bible says that no care is too small to pray about. But I can't pray about the small stuff when I know that God doesn't intervene "magically" for the big stuff. And most things I'm concerned with, when I really think about it, are "the small stuff."
Anyway, with my aunt turning fifty and a new baby girl of my own at home, my mind couldn't help pondering what this day fifty years ago meant for my grandparents. They hadn't taken a single picture for three years after Scottie's death. When my husband got the idea to rig up my grandparents' old slide projector on one of the very last afternoons I ever spent with my grandfather, we watched the pictures change from 3 young boys growing up to a new baby girl and two pre-teen brothers. My grandfather through his severe macular degeneration knew what the baby girl picture was and what it meant, and he stated simply: "She was the answer to our prayers."
And so I can only imagine the emotions my grandparents might have had on what would have been a cold, snowy day in a small Illinois town exactly fifty years ago. They had no way of predicting the sex back then and I'm sure after birthing three boys my grandmother would have have been blown away to learn she had a daughter. I picture my grandparents holding their new baby girl in their arms, amazed at the redemption life can offer even in the darkest of situations. Both times I've given birth I've experienced a whirlwind of confusing emotions. With Matthew, I felt that my body had been inadequate to deliver him and that I had already failed as a parent - even as I felt overwhelming love and joy. Having been face-to-face with what would have been my own mortality if not for modern medicine, I also shed tears for all the hundreds of thousands of women who had died in such a terrible way, and who never got to meet the babies they'd carried. With Claire, I felt empowered through a very easy delivery, but my heart was aching over my imagined betrayal of Matthew by suddenly loving another child as much as I loved him. So I truly cannot imagine the intense and varied emotions my grandparents might have felt as they welcomed my amazing aunt into their lives that day. All I know is what my grandfather said: She was the answer to their prayers.
And with this on my mind, although my own challenges pale in comparison to what my grandmother faced, we also had a redemptive day. I woke this morning after a rough night involving a nightmare about my husband's sleep deprivation, the details of which I'll spare any readers. Seriously, he's been getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night pretty much all month with hardly a day off to catch up. I was just finishing up a week of being very ill myself, which was not easy what with needing to care for both children 24/7 on my own. And I do mean 24, and 7. I was up twice a night nursing and on average twice more with my toddler for various reasons. This went on for over a week, and recovery was starting to seem like a pipe dream.
And then today was just a delight. I woke up with a slightly stronger voice than I'd had for the previous 5 days, having only been wakened twice by the baby (who had, thankfully, interrupted that nightmare). The weather was ridiculous for January 14th - 61 and sunny. A little scary but still, so restorative to the spirit. I decided to brave an outing I hadn't yet dared with both kids: Matthew's favorite park, Cambridge Commons. We call it the "pirate park" since it has a sort of "shipwrecked" theme and is covered in sand. I hadn't braved it yet because every. single. time. I'd taken Matthew there pregnant it had been a *major* scene to leave. I would try everything first - counting down how many minutes, lollipop bribery, everything... and then it would still take a superhuman amount of energy and strength just to wrestle him into his stroller, and then again into his car seat - 6, 7, 8, 9 months pregnant. I once tried this park without a stroller and ended up carrying him four city blocks to our car, holding him with my arms woven together as he writhed and yelped with all his might to get out. So even though these "transition" tantrums hardly ever happen anymore, it would be a nightmare if he had one with Claire there. I could not possibly transport both of them back to my car.
But I figured I'd chance it, I just had a feeling it would work out. The weather was just so beautiful and it's such a fun outing. Plus, the park near our house doesn't hold Matthew's attention anymore unless other kids are there. So I managed to get both kids and all their stuff in the car, including picnic lunches, and we set out. After we found parking we headed to L.A. Burdick's to get Mama some famous hot chocolate to take with. I was reminded what a treat it is to live near the historic Harvard Square and Cambridge Commons. Hardly anyone was at Burdick's that day so a friendly worker let Matthew pick out a treat. Matthew was absolutely floored in a quiet, awe-filled way that was so cute. I instructed Matthew to tell the man "thank you" but advised the man that he doesn't have those words yet, and to my astonishment Matthew whispered "Thanks." It was such a great moment! With our mutual treats in hand, we took off for the park.
All the way to the park Matthew didn't stray. I pushed Claire the in stroller and he was the perfect big brother, very intently pushing what he could reach of the stroller underneath me as we headed to the park. He does love to do that, in fact, the other day at the park he was taking breaks from finding worms with his "big boy friends" Alex and Chase just to push Claire for a bit. SooOOooo sweet. Anyway, we had a wonderful time and Matthew didn't put up the slightest fight when it was time to leave. He pushed "Beh-Beh Kyar" (as he calls her) all the way back to the car. He is so good with her, I'm amazed by it every single day. He gives her gentle hugs and kisses periodically throughout the day, whether he thinks I'm looking or not. I often catch him resting his head on her legs as he snuggles her - he knows he shouldn't go any higher or he might smush her. He often brings various toys or pacifiers to her in her swing, thinking she must want them - lol. And I must credit her with being the sweet little sister she is. She watches him all the time and never stops grinning when he interacts with her. I'm not sure anything can compete with the joy I get just from watching them, every single day.
Last, but certainly not least, Mark got home by 8:00 last night. That hadn't happened all month. It was amazing both to see him and to have another set of hands for bedtime. Everyone but me was asleep by 10:00 pm, and I always sleep better when my family is peacefully asleep before I am.
Anyway so with my mind on what must have been an amazingly redemptive day for my grandparents exactly fifty years ago, we had a somewhat redemptive day ourselves. I like to think my grandma was smiling down at us, sharing just a little more of her warmth.