There were four overriding priorities I envisioned as I approached my retirement three years ago: being able to spend more time with my son, daughter-in-law and our grandkids, learning to speak Italian, traveling and writing.
It was Christmas Eve, 2007. We were hosting Christmas Eve dinner at our house. We had a houseful of guests that included our immediate family plus my husband’s cousins visiting from Italy and my son’s high school friend. We were getting ready to sit down when, just before dinner, my son asked me to come into the family room because they had a gift they wanted to give me right then. What was the urgency? Was it a utensil that I needed for the dinner? I sat on an ottoman when he and my daughter-in-law gave me a small cube of a box. It seemed too small to be a utensil but you never know! My husband tells me that at that moment he had an inkling that this was not about the gift in the box, but that this was an announcement. I pulled off the ribbon and and took off the paper. Inside was a plain box that gave no indication of what was inside. I opened the tissue and inside was a small red onesie with the inscription – July 20, 2008. My fervent wish since my son and daughter-in-law had married five years before was that we would be grandparents, so you would think that this would have been the first thing I would have thought of. But I can be pretty thick at the strangest times. All I could think of were the onesies I had given to the daughter of a friend at her baby shower a few weeks earlier, on which was inscribed “The result of Mommy kissing Santa Claus.” “How adorable!” I said, holding up the onesie, still oblivious to its meaning, “Almost like the one I gave to Julia!”
And then it registered! It was one of those moments when everything is happening in slow motion on the outside but my brain was in the middle of a firestorm – “Oh my God!” “Oh my God” I kept screaming! My husband and I had been waiting for this moment, we were going to be grandparents and I was going to be Nana. That sense of thrill and wonder – that reveling in grandparenthood – has stayed with me from that day to this.
I believe I was born to be a grandmother. I remember the relationship my son had with my mother who found it difficult to describe adequately the love she felt for him – he was truly the light of her life. And it was a joy for me – his parent, her child – to behold the two generations on either side of me bonding the way they did. I saw my mother-in-law and father-in-law and my son and the fun they had together. I watched my friends become a grandparents, and what a unique gift that was. I remembered my own special relationship with my grandparents and how important they were to me. Grandparents are the ones you can rely upon to confirm that you are the best, the smartest and, yes, to tell you that sometimes you screw up. I knew I wanted to be that person for another generation of our family.
My son and daughter-in-law chose not to know the baby’s sex before the birth of their first child who was actually born on July 26 that year (“Same day as Mick Jagger,” my grandson now tells me!). So when my son came out to the waiting room and breathlessly told us that the baby was here, told us the baby’s weight, told us we could go back with him to see the baby, I finally exploded, “Is it a boy or a girl!?” “Oh!” my son said laughing, “it’s a boy!” I saw my grandson just minutes after he was born almost 9 years ago. He was a large baby, 9 pounds 5 ounces, and very alert. I knew right then that I would take any opportunity to be with him. I was still working at my job for the first six years of his life. But when any chance came up to take care of him on a workday, I made it a priority (and I know I was blessed to have the kind of position where it was possible to do this) to clear my calendar in order to be with him. I didn’t want to miss out. I wanted that connection, to pay attention and know the infant that he was and watch the child he is now.
I didn’t know whether there would be another grandchild but just 2 years after our grandson was born, we were ecstatic to receive another red onesie with the date July 14, 2010 (actually born July 11)! This one to be a “perfect little girl,” as my son told me after her first ultrasound.
So that was it – our dreams had come true – we had a boy and a girl to dote on! And what a joy they have been! They are healthy (both), beautiful (both), smart (both), funny (both) , dramatic (my granddaughter), willful (both). With our grandson, we have learned all there is to know about construction equipment, dynosaurs, dragons, horned animals, cars, and soccer and soccer stars. With our granddaughter, we have watched FROZEN many times, I’ve played Barbie and American Girl dolls, and have taken up the role of errant student to her very stern, officious principal, when we play school. Together, we have had countless sleepovers, taken numerous trips to visit family in Italy, attended a family reunion in Pennsylvania, visited Disneyland, gone to plays and movies, and splash parks, gone bowling, visited arcades.
Last week, I happened to be at their house for dinner. My daughter-in-law was filling wine glasses and writing on the glasses to identify whose glass was whose. She called my glass “Tanana.” I said, “Tanana?” She explained that whenever they get in the car to come out to the western suburbs, the kids ask, “Are we going ta Nana’s?” It doesn’t get better than that!
See you next time!