Monday, July 23, 2012

The Grandma Syndrome

"Grandma", a word sounding as old as Methuselah, was about to become my title. My response to this new position escalated to the point of panic. Initially, I didn't react well to the word, mother, either.

I remembered my own grandmother, with her soft white hair wound up in a bun; hair that when let down, easily reached her waist. I can still see her laboring over delicate paper-thin streudel dough in a warm kitchen filled with the aroma of chicken soup and fresh baked bread. I thought of my children's grandmother, who had wiry salt and pepper hair, mostly salt, velvety skin, and eyes that seemed ageless. She was lovely, wore no make-up, and exuded a gentleness that gave the word, "Grandma", a good name.

The title, "Grandma" seemed to place me in a different age bracket; and I wasn't ready. I could still squeeze into my designer jeans, if I lay flat on the bed to pull up the zipper. My hair, mostly my own, was still blonde, and I hadn't yet given my bikini to the Salvation Army. I would probably have to soon; the neighbors were starting to complain. I did Jane Fonda religiously, which meant once a week, and wasn't planning on taking Geritol for a few more years.

Soon after my daughter informed me of her pregnancy, placing the weighty mantle of "Grandma" around my neck, my life began to change. My shoulders drooped as I walked down the street, hinting that osteoporosis was right around the corner. Wrinkles, seemingly cropped up from nowhere, etching the itinerary of my life. Silver strands peeked out from among the gold, thinning gold at that. Fading eyesight precipitated the need for "Granny" glasses, and all my best parts appeared to have dropped six inches. My husband, suffering his own identity crisis, joked about trading me in for two twenty-year olds.

"Go ahead," I told him. "I may as well be widowed as the way I am now."

My youth was gone, chased away by a menacing word that hovered like an albatross over my troubled psyche.I sulked most of the nine months preceding the arrival of the one responsible for my fate. I was proud of my daughter, excited by the prospect of a new baby, her baby, joining the family, but I couldn't adjust to my novel role. I laid claim to many titles in my lifetime, from Miss to Mrs., to Mommy, a brief encounter with Ms., plus a few titles that didn't need capitalization. There was something about the word, Grandma, that stuck in my throat. My friends smirked and made the usual jokes, perilously endangering our friendship. They could afford to be cute. None of them were about to be grandparents. I would be the first.
It wasn't fair. I had raised my children, gave my all in the name of motherhood, faced the daily grind of bottles, diapers and finicky eaters; lost sleep during middle of the night marathons with teething toddlers, and suffered through puberty and adolescense with only a hint of martyrdom. Now when the "best was yet to come," some small stranger, still to be born, was transforming me into an old woman; a grandma.

My daughter's delivery came, as most do, in the middle of the night. It was a long, hard labor, beset with life-threatening problems for both herself and the baby; problems which made my own insignificant. My pleas, that night, to a higher authority, did not concern my apprehension of grandmotherhood. I begged for the safety of my child. Nothing else mattered.

After an agonizing wait in a room full of people mutely sharing similar concerns, the doctor burst through the delivery room doors. Ten agonizing hours had elapsed since we entered that room. It seemed a lifetime. The doctor spotted us and rushed over. My heart was in my throat as I rose to meet him.

"Your daughter's fine" he said, smiling. "Congratulations, Grandma! It's a boy!"

He had to say "Grandma". My husband breathed a sigh of relief and began passing out cigars. I sat silent, relieved for my daughter, uncertain of the reality before me.

I finally walked over to the glass windows of the nursery, where "Grandpa," beaming proudly, had preceded me. I looked down upon a tiny, screaming infant, who, with flailing arms and red, wrinkled face, was a miniature of my daughter. He stopped crying, and gazed up at me with unfocused eyes, appraising me as I did him, his mouth turning up in a crooked grin. I loved him at once. Suddenly the word "Grandma," the most beautiful word in the world, seemed to fit like a pair of broken-in running shoes.


  1. What a wonderful post! I love it, Micki, and I can't wait to someday be a grandma myself. I always found the name so comforting, and called my own grandmother 'grandma'. You once again made me smile from ear to ear, and I love the way you ended it, with his crooked smile. Beautiful! And which grandson is this? Keep writing, Micki, it is happiness personified! Hugs always, Deirdre

  2. Another phantastic blog post Micki. Your posts are always so warmhearted and humorous. It's just so your own style!! I love it!!

  3. Oh, tears again, and smiles in between. Marvelous post, Micki! I just loved it!

  4. Wow, Micki!
    I wanted to read more!

  5. Beautiful post with just the right touch of humor! I hate to be repetitive, but you are an AMAZING wrirter!

  6. Deirdre, This was Ian, the baby born on the day Noelle died. He was always into her and at two yrs old he said that "When I grow up and become Noelle, the truck will miss me". At 14, the same age she died, he went to Rome with his Grandma and in a narrow alley a truck whizzed by and missed him by inches.
    Thanks for reading it.

    Raani--thank you--I di these years ago--not sure I can still write this way.

    Thanks, Linneann--seems I'm always making someone cry even in funny ones :).

    Thanks Cherrye-that's my problem, I write up to a thousand words and then it's over.

    Sandra H--keep right on saying it--I never tire of hearing you.:)

  7. Thank you, Micki, for another lovely post. I became Grandma in April of 2011, and I've loved every minute of it, just as I'm sure you have. Grandchildren are wonderful gifts from our children to us, aren't they?

  8. Another heart-warming post, Micki, intermingled with just the right amount of humor! OK, Grandma, what's on your plate today? LOL:>)

    I'm now "Grammie" of six and lovin' it!

  9. Sharla--glad you liked it and yes, grandchildren are our reward for surviving children!
    Hugs, Micki

    Sandy N, I love my grandchildren in a different way from my children, not less, not more, but different. I'll bet you understand too and congrats upon being a "grandma" of six--your catching up fast, but I have a great grandson that's turning two in September. :)



  10. Okay, You did it again. I'm sitting here in my office crying. What a beautiful post—something I'm sure your duaghter and grandson will treasure.

  11. Dear Peggy,
    So sorry to make you cry. That's why I try and mix sadness with humor--to take away its sting.Thanks for coming to my site and reading/commenting.

    Hugs, micki

  12. Micki, as if I did not have a reason enough to cry! But the ending sure made me smile. I keep waiting for our grandchildren to arrive but I think I am blessed with only the four legged ones and I adore them!
    Never doubt yourself, you will never loose that special way you have with words.

    Many Blessings,

  13. Thanks, Rosemary

    Having the loving support from friends like you will certainly help


  14. Dearest Micki, My Grandson, Charlie, calls me Nanna, which is what all my kids called my mother. To hear that little voice say Hi Nanna, means all the world to me. And I know you feel that way too about Ben and all your other grandchildren. Your love and warmth shows through everything you write, Micki.
    Hugs from, Mary Firmin, Deadly Pleasures

  15. Hi,
    This is beautiful!!!!! As you see, I am catching up with your blog postings. This morning I thought about you and the nearest thing to saying hello was reading your blogs. This posting touched my heart. Grandma, one of the most beautiful words in the English language. A title that I won't enjoy because I don't have any children, but it is a title that I treasure deeply. I love this article.
    Thank you.