by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove
I’m about to do the most obvious thing in the world: talk about the experience last week of becoming a grandparent. Our grandchild, Theodore Jonathan, was born 9 days ago.
I won’t talk about how charmed we are by the infant (visited on Skype), or about the joys of the grandparenting relationship. Technology has so far provided the connection with him. We anticipate joy in getting to know him, but as he may always live in another city that will become what it will be. It’s the mere fact of his approach and arrival that are presently absorbing me.
Phenomenology: the approach to knowledge from studying experience. Some call it naval-gazing. Self-absorption? Narcissism? Perhaps. In this case, because the ground under my feet has been shifting since Theo’s birth, I’m curious. Telling you about it may be of little use to you, but my urge to poke under the surface of experience seems unstoppable so I’m just going to do it.
If I get any of it right, it might go some way to illuminating why grandparents smile so benignly if you mention their grandchildren. It’s almost like a secret. Is it just that the child is so lovable? Or more?
New Behaviours, Mostly Compulsive
I photograph his image on Skype every time we talk to our daughter and son-in-law. And then send the pictures all around, to whoever I think might be interested. Or even not.
I keep going to the computer to see if anyone has messaged us to comment on his arrival. Or how they like the latest photos.
I live in a state of simmering excitement, which leads me to fall over or forget what I’m doing, especially after a glass or two of wine.
Memories of our daughter (only child) at the same age abound and I voice them to husband Dave. He seems to have some of his own and tells me them so we’re partly living in a time zone 29 years back.
Family Connections Fascinate
We’ve found it fascinating to look at the seven-pages (small print) printed from the Family Tree page that Dave has tended for a few years listing all our family members. The Snelgrove grandson’s list of “Relationships” goes to the eighth step of connection: our family newborn has 350 family relationships (that we know of). The last one, “Sally Brown, the wife of a third cousin of Snelgrove grandson, eight steps to a direct ancestor”, may strike you as being on the remote side. But to us, it seems precious. The boy has a familial connection to at least 350 other people. And he hasn’t even made his first friend yet.
A Little Out of Control
While awaiting this birth, which occurred exactly at the time predicted – meaning that there weren’t anxious weeks of wondering when, when, when – a flittering butterfly kind of mind took over my days. For the last month, sitting and focusing on a single topic or activity – required for writing a blog – wouldn’t happen. Woke up wanting to, and instead, spent hours doing busy work: sorting a drawer, tidying a shelf, making lists.
There were other ways in which, on reflection, preoccupation with the impending birth had taken over some emotional core. Blood pressure was up, digestion wonky, an aggressive rash spread over arms, shoulders, head – all signs of stress. What, me stressed? Nothing really to be concerned about. Our daughter is competent, healthy, and all will be well. Friends were solid in keeping the mind on the right track. Worrying would be doing her a disservice.
Okay – well and good. But now, a week later, I tend to recognize the impact of the history of childbirth and our own store of tales from friends and family. We know that childbirth isn’t a slam dunk. Lots can happen. In the two weeks prior to the birth, our daughter suddenly had to get to hospital to have several minor but not pleasant procedures, which she handled sensibly and recovered from in the following days. But that reality served to emphasize for me the tough truth that, common as it is, bringing another life into the world isn’t going to be easy and won’t necessarily be without incident.
Separating from our kids in their teens, as they push away from us and have to try themselves out in the world, is accomplished with varying degrees of success. I think we had arrived at a comfortable place, trusting our daughter as a capable adult. But! When she was seeming to be in trouble, in those trips to the hospital – with her husband working long hours at a serious job and no friends nearby to drive her, plus an expensive taxi ride to the Emergency Room and back – my protective impulses went back into high gear. I couldn’t halt the shakiness inside. I yearned to be there to be able to help. But I likely wouldn’t have been! My anxiety would have interfered with her problem-solving.
All part of the fact of our child really being out there on her own. She’s blessed with a fine husband, a fine man, and not all alone. Except that, in the matter of bringing life into the world, there’s no controlling what may happen. Some deep trust in the life force, the ongoing circle of life – however we can visualize it – has to take over. But it can be a mighty struggle for a parent.
The irony is that she’s now one too. And all that awaits her. I don’t envy the trip. Except that I do. How wonderful it is.
Age is Clear
My age is now underlined. I’ve distained many of the nostrums about being old. “Dress your age”, “Act your age”, “It’s all downhill now”. Still don’t buy into much of that.
But looking at one of my short-skirt-and-tights outfits, I saw it differently. I’m a 73-year-old grandmother of a little boy. Maybe there’s a way to incorporate that into how I go out into the world, pointing to second thoughts about my indifference to age-appropriateness.
This one is still open for consideration.