30 Days of Thanks: Why I'm Glad My Mom Was Around For My Pregnancy
My mom never got to be the kind of grandma she wanted to be, but in the first two years of my son’s life she was the kind of the kind of mom I needed her to be.
Before she got sick, my mom wanted to be a grandmother more than anything. She and my dad had already offered to help with the baby every day when I went back to work. They’d bake, they’d go to the park, they’d take field trips. They were in their 60s but they were just big kids themselves, they’d assure me. They say that life if what happens when you’re making other plans. So is death.
She arranged her dialysis schedule so she’d still be able to help with the baby. She’d made a promise to help with Clark and no disease was going to mess with it, even if I insisted she not worry about it.
And she got worse. A fall, congestive heart failure, continued kidney issues, plus a stroke. I can barely list the litany of things she went through. The disease ravaged her through and through.
She could barely hold my son when he was first born, and it only got harder as she grew weaker. She helped change diapers and feed him, but she couldn’t play the way I’d seen her play with other kids. When I picked Clark up at their house, she’d say things like, “He’s crazy about your father. It’s good, since your dad never got all the time with you kids that I did.” But the look in her eyes translated that to, “I want desperately to be that grandma I imagined.”
Those were the good days. Soon after, we enlisted the help of sitters and Clark spent just two days a week there. Sometimes, she barely registered Clark’s presence or would be so loopy from the meds she’d stare into space as Food Network played reruns. On more than one occasion, I selfishly, immaturely complained to anyone who’d listen that she didn’t love Clark, was a rotten grandma, wasn’t trying hard enough to get better, I don’t even want to remember now.
I only made remarks like that to her a few times. Mostly, in her presence, I’d wonder how long she had left and I’d hold her hand. As she lost weight and strength, her hand still felt like her hand.
Once, on a supposed good day, I tried to take her shopping. My mom, who I’d normally lose in the store because she flew through the aisles so fast, could barely make it in the door. I had to pull the car up to the front doors so she wouldn’t have to walk back. As we drove away, I cried and asked the question that lingered in the hocus-pocus-gypsy part of my brain: “Do you think you got sick like this so I could have a baby?”
The question had been in my mind since Clark’s birth. Like something had planted an illness in her just so I could carry a baby to term. To get the good, you needed the bad. Like life was all just trades, and Clark was only here because my mom was dying.
Her head whipped around in anger. “Don’t ever say something like that again,” she said, her voice stronger and more lucid than it’d been in a long time. “Your baby is the best thing to ever happen to this family.” I think I needed to hear that. I didn’t wonder again.
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