Thursday, May 15, 2014

To my daughter on Mothers Day

"I love that you are different from other moms," begins Cait's Mothers Day note to me. I was still in bed, perusing my iPad before making a beginning of a glorious Sunday morning. Hmpf. That comment can set a mom back. She went on to wander through a meadow of memories plucking images for my Mom's Day bouquet. She, too, lay in bed, still Saturday night in her place half across the world. 

I'll be asking what she meant by that opening line, but I know one way I am different from many mothers.

"Oh...after that baby comes you will never stay so long in Turkey." How many times did other grandparents crow that tidbit as our first grandchild joined the family. I would smile, but it puzzled me. The child was Cait's and Josh's. Of course we would love to live nearby and be much a part of their lives--we savor those Abu Dhabi years when the whole family, including my dad, lived together in one big apartment, the gorgeous community of it! But God's time came to spin us apart to four continents, and then to only three when Curt retired and Africa was dropped from the mix. 

Don't get me wrong. Our granddaughter Lia is wonderful! But, yes, I am different towards my child's child than many other grandmas seem to be. For my deep joy is in watching Cait and Josh. Watching them grow from sweet couple to papa and mama, watching them love the little one, and teach her, and discipline her. Watching her find her deepest security in them.  Watching her imitate and adore them.

"Mom," Cait pled the day they told us there would be a babe, "you'll be here, won't you? And you'll stay at least a month, won't you?" She was terrified. So I agreed, though I'd barely begun to absorb the news that there would be a grandchild. As she gained confidence we modified the plan to two or three weeks, and when a C-section was required I knew it would be three.

Those first precious days.... We poured gratitude to God that the C-section saved their two lives on a daughter who felt she'd somehow failed at motherhood because the cesarean had been necessary. We held the babe in the hospital, though not much because Josh could barely let her go. We prepared a gourmet brunch with champagne for Cait and Lia's homecoming. It was the bottle of champagne they had purchased for their first anniversary and then didn't drink because they learned Cait was pregnant. Cait was anxious that morning with every infant mewl, and I took the babe and rocked her in my lap to quiet her so that Cait could enjoy her meal. 

Cait took to calling me the baby whisperer in those first weeks because I alone in that little household knew the magic to quiet a babe. I alone had the calm, centered spirit that was not afraid of the tiny life, because only I had loved and quieted other babes in their first days of life. 

When time came for giving the first bath, I helped to prepare the small tub, but then I backed away, wanting this joy for Lia's mom and dad. Yes, I coached a bit, but this was their work. And yes, I never changed one diaper for that, too, was a glorious task that belonged mostly to Josh, the fledgling dad. 

I knew Cait still felt like a whale that first week, but to me she was beautiful, and I told her so. She cried with love and joy to hear it said, and took courage that the day would soon come when she felt she had her own body back, too. We rejoiced together as her swollen legs and feet returned to normal and ankle bones appeared for the first time in months. One day I took her to a fancy restaurant for lunch, for I wanted her to experience that babies are portable--to have that joy with her. I cooked, washed dishes, dusted and vacuumed, fed animals, and listened. 

All so precious. For those short weeks I was mentor, coach, encourager, maid, and baby whisperer. Sharer of the first steps into a new life. 

But greater joy awaited me nine months later when next we visited their home. 

This time we met a little person. She crawled and rolled and climbed and crept along the furniture. Our granddaughter had grown and changed and, yes, we adored her. 

But for me the glory lay elsewhere. To Lia, we were a little more than strangers, for she'd known us at our home in Turkey only three months before. Grandpa was fun, and funny. Grandma was calm and smiling and always good for a cuddle. But Cait, my daughter, was the center of Lia's universe. Cait was motherhood in full bloom. Relaxed. Laughing. Ready with diversions. Sensitive to Lia's cries and moods and silences. Ready to roll, diaper bag packed, chatting to her daughter the cheerful news of color and tasty food and special people. 

Forever in the treasures of my heart will be Lia, a little unsettled, crawling fast to her mother's lap, instantly relaxed once she got there; Lia burrowing her small face into Cait's shoulder; Lia intently focused on Cait's face as she leaned in with open-mouth baby kisses reserved for her parents alone.

Today, a year later, Lia is affable with us when we Skype. She chatters and comments. But only Cait understands her language, and we meet our granddaughter through the lens of our daughter's interpretations. 

It is this about being a grandparent that I truly love: to watch my daughter bloom with gentle wisdom, to hear her teach and direct and comfort with mother-understanding; to know that the stamp of her creative and steadfast personality will mark this child for life; to witness the love of these two of ours, Josh and Cait together, multiply and increase; to know that for our grandchild the days are full of hope and promise--that strong foundation that joyful, gentle, true parenting imparts.
I still get my fun. This was the first time anyone thought to give Lia the whole banana!

Happy Mother's Day, dear Cait.