Still Life

I was fortunate to be able to stay home for the first year of my son’s life. Thank you taxpayers, for which I gratefully pay, I was on Welfare. Yes, I was an unwed, Welfare, not-quite- teen mom. I was twenty when he was born and most of the women in my mother’s family got married (ehem) first and then had babies, late for their generation or our cultural sensibilities. 20 was young. Single was unthinkable.

I remember the first time I heard the term single-parent as applied to divorced women.  I took that term and pasted in my heart and mind.  It was 1980 and shouldn’t our culture have changed enough to move from being unwed to single. . .and lift from my little boy’s life the uglier words like illegitimate. . .he’s mine legitimately and I got the proof. Neither does the word bastard work for so many reasons, including it’s downright Dickensian.

(Long pause, oh let’s say two days just for giggles)

Mother’s day night, sipping a Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin and full of myself I started typing a post. My kid is 30 and he’s got a kid. And I’m a grandmother and two of the best experiences I’ve had in the last seven months are the following.

First, when I waiting in the waiting room in the company of the other new grandparents, I paced. Literally. I also wanted to smoke. . .and I don’t. So I drank coffee. . .and when we finally got to go in the birthing room, there was a bright little boy. I decide not to put a camera between me and the event. I wanted to feel it. Then I saw my son pick up his newborn like he’d been handling babies for a long time. Not one shed of insecurity. He held his son and said, “Hi Lincoln, you know me, you know my voice — I’m your Dad!” Stunned, I just watched. The baby went back to the mom, to the other grandmother. . .all the while I”m remembering the first think I said to my new boy was the exact same thing: “Hello Michael, I’m you’re Mom. You know me. You know my voice. . .You’re my Michael.

Then a little over three months later, I returned to the northeast, a conference and friends in NYC and the grandchild, now three months old.  I was only mentally ready for how cold it is up that way in February and I don’t believe there’s away to prepare physically, except to pack layers, and then buy a hat because some how yours got lost somewhere between DC and Boston on the Bolt.

Then I came to my son’s home. He was working from the dining room. The baby slept in the swing and I watched the baby wake up. Then I watch my son handle this baby and diaper and feed him. Calling him silly names. Telling me baby information, updates that sounds the same but he’s a new parent. Then the sweetest wrinkled brow when I said my grandson’s name.  He looked at me with blue eyes intense, focused, I don’t know that voice. He looked back at his dad and then at me and decided I was ok. Yet no smile.

I then spent time holding him, we just looked at each other. I told him who I was and then he broke into a toothless smile. A bit more time passed, he fussed and he went down for some sleep. It was a big day. I was sleepy so I curled up in the corner of the couch with a book and pretended to read. I watched him sleep. I watched my son at work. I grew quiet inside for it had been a long time since I’d been alone, quiet with my son and there was this new life that is some how attached to me.

Holding my grandson is like every hard obstacle I overcame because I don’t seem to know how to take the easy way out of anything. . . the baby woke up and my son went to him, doing little baby play saying over and over, I love you. I love you. And I knew he didn’t say that for my benefit, that’s not my son’s way. He said because it’s the truth.  And all I could feel was wonder knowing I did something right in the world: my son loves his baby so fully.

Then I got to feed him and as I did, I said the thing I said to him at birth: Didn’t know you’d be the prize but you are so worth doing chemo.  This baby may have blue eyes like I do, may be nearsighted, crooked teeth. May sing or write or understand quantum mechanics, but he doesn’t carry my FAP gene, nor does his father.  I know this.

(time for tea and acknowledging the post is a bit schmaltzy)

Now the hard part is  learning how to be a long-distance Grammi.  I have no role models for this. My mother was around. She helped me out, gladly.  My sister and husband remind me, guide me because my life is in Austin and that’s not going to change any time soon.  Still life.


4 thoughts on “Still Life

  1. Moira Muldoon May 11, 2011 / 6:00 AMMay

    Love this.

  2. skinner May 10, 2011 / 6:00 PMMay

    Wow, this is a great post.

    The gusto of the first section really acts as a wonderful lead-in to the tender main body.

    Distance is a tough issue, but I might suggest Skype (if you aren’t using it already) as a great tool for bringing living-rooms together.

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