Jul 042022
 

July 4, 2022 — Mom, it’s hard for me to believe you’ve been gone for over a decade. When you died, you had been long lost to us already. Your passing brought a strange relief. Yet, I’ve never gone a day without missing you, especially on your birthday, my birthday, holidays, and sometimes just random moments.

In the last 12 weeks, I’ve missed you more than ever. Mom, you wouldn’t believe how the world has changed in the last decade.  I hope you know only the good things.

Do you remember when your two grandsons were born a few months apart?  The oldest — mine — came two weeks late. Darn stubborn, he would not come out, even after an entire day spent at the hospital. You and Dad were driving down from home. The plan was that I would be admitted and induced at six a.m., and by your arrival at six p.m., the baby would be here or arriving soon.  God laughs when we make plans. The hospital released me, and we all went to Olive Garden for dinner.

We were back at the hospital two days later at six a.m., and you and Dad followed.  You came in and out of my labor room, and I tossed all my pain and anguish on you rather than Herman. I told the nurse  “Get that woman out of here.”  She removed you, and you came right back, patting my shoulder, giving me ice chips, talking to me in a soothing voice.  And no, I didn’t deserve it after how mean I was to you.  But you kept being my loving mother.

I didn’t want you in the delivery room. But as soon as your first grandson arrived, his father took a Polaroid picture (remember those?) and took it out to you and Dad in the waiting room. No one could deny the fatherhood of our son. Draw a little beard and mustache on him; he was a dead ringer for his daddy. You and my Dad came into the delivery room, and Herman first held the baby, and then you did.  I was too shaky from the delivery to hold him.

A few months later, your second grandson arrived five weeks early. No one expected him to arrive, though his father arrived three weeks early in 1960. I was two-and-a-half, but I remember my annoyance at finding my grandparents in your bed. My grandmother told me, “You have a baby brother.”  I think my response was the two-year-old equivalent of “Big whoop.” You and Dad had left our home in the middle of the night and my grandparents flew in from the farm to ride shotgun for me. You had my little brother so quickly that Dad was back at school in time to teach his 8 a.m. class.

And thirty years after the last baby was born in our family (my brother) you and Dad became grandparents of two boys in four months.  You reveled in being a grandmother — you were over-the-moon with your babies. You stayed with us for two weeks, teaching everything from bathing to holding to feeding. I cried when you left. When grandson number two arrived, you and Dad flew to Iowa to meet him and sat under a big shady tree while your son told you every precious detail of his baby’s early delivery.

And now you’ve become a great grandmother, Mom. That tiny baby born in Iowa is now a daddy.  He married the most brilliant, beautiful girl he met at college five years ago, and their baby boy came this spring. While we probably should not have been surprised, he came early. Way early. Six weeks early.

Oh, Mom, your great-grandson a beautiful baby. He has dark, big eyes and dark hair that swirl in a circle in the back just like his daddy. He has a few cowlicks like his grandpa. I hope you can see his daddy and mommy tend to him; it will melt your heart. The baby came six weeks early and had to be cared for in a NICU by angels on earth.  It was hard on your grandson and his wife, but they were rock steady.

You were the first thing I thought of when I heard he was here. Mom. I felt it in my bones that you were especially watching over him. Of course, he has your son and grandson’s nose and eyes. I found Dad’s old Ektachrome slides of my baby brother as an infant that proved my point.

Yesterday, the baby made his first trip to Wrigley Field; yeah, that place you burned your knees so badly on your first visit. On subsequent visits, you learned to wear a hat and long pants and enjoyed nine innings of watching other people’s babies until you had your own to watch. Both of your grandsons grew up to be rabid baseball fans (one Cubs, one Reds, as Dad would say, at least it’s the national league.)

Last week Herman and I got to meet the baby. During our visit, the new grandpa and Herman went to Wrigley Field to watch two of the worst teams in the National League duke it out.  Yes, you guessed it, the Cubs and the Reds.  I held the baby and whispered to him, away from his parents, “Gloriana, Frangipani,” a wisp of the song you sang to me as a child. I felt like I was holding him for you as I held him. I could feel you channeling your love for babies through me. It’s funny, but now I notice babies more; maybe it is your genetic influence.

I fully understand now that life is a river that bends and changes. While history and remembrance exist, one never sees the same river twice. We are all connected by the ebbs and flows that life gives us.

Usually, I  would not quote myself from past writing. But this paragraph I wrote the week my mother died resonates again with me today as I contemplate the birth of her first great-grandchild and the sublime grace I felt in meeting him for the first time.

Grace appears, and we reach out to grab it, like the tiny, milky seeds from a dandelion plant on a hot summer afternoon. I find it in the old stories, connecting the dots, comfort in the words. Maybe it is telling this story for others who are beginning the journey. Maybe it is just learning to absorb and soak up every ray of sunshine, a glorious blooming flower, and a child’s toothless grin and fill one’s soul with the goodness ripe for the taking. 

 

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