- November 11, 2019
- Posted by: Sharon Greenthal
- Category: family, midlife
My grandmother lived to be 98 years old. For 23 years, there were four generations of us on my mother’s side of the family, until I was 50. We did not take this lightly–in fact, my grandmother, being the attention-loving person that she was, would gladly share this fact with anyone, any place we went.
“We’re four generations!” she said to the ticket taker at the merry-go-round at the local mall as I was taking my 3-year-old daughter for a ride. He smiled and nodded, a little bemused at her announcement.
“We’re four generations!” she said to the waitress at the local diner, who oohed and aahed over us, especially how young my grandmother looked (she did look young for her age). And so did my mother, who at 50 became a grandmother for the first time.
Grandparents have been a delightful gift, both for me and for my children – extra love for a long time in our lives. I had very young parents (they were 22 when I was born), and I always assumed that I, too would one day be a grandma who is fun, energetic – and most of all youthful.
Well, things don’t always happen the way you hope they will.
All around me, friends are having grandchildren. Being a grandmother is the thing to be doing at this point in time–enjoying the babies of our babies, indulging them in ways we could never indulge our own when we were raising them. I go to showers and see the moms-to-be (and the dads) filled with anticipation and, I suspect, a bit of anxiety. I look at pictures and videos of babies, toddlers and older children, adorable little versions of their moms and dads who are young adults I’ve known since they were in preschool ,some barely out of diapers. I’m so happy for my friends who are Nanas or Grandmas or Grammys or GaGas or Gigis or Mimis—but I’m sometimes jealous of them, too.
To be clear: I do not wish for my children to marry and have kids before they’re ready. In fact, I fervently hope that they don’t. Knowing how marriage and parenthood will take over their lives, change and redirect their visions for the future, I hope they will wait until just the right time to make these choices. However, despite my concern for my children’s happiness and success, mental health and financial stability, I can’t help but feel like time is slipping away and I’m never going to get to be the kind of grandmother I had – or my children had.
By the time my mother and my grandmother were my age, they each had two grandkids to play with, cook for, cuddle and spoil and adore – and they were both so good at it. I can’t imagine my childhood without trips to the bookstore with my grandmother, or playing the piano with her, or running around her garden or visiting her in Florida once she and my grandfather retired. I can’t imagine my adulthood without my grandmother’s month-long stays at my house after each of my children were born, keeping me company and cooing at my babies and giving me as much love as I was giving to my newborns.
I can’t imagine my children’s childhoods without my mother coming to stay overnight and watch movies with my kids, babysitting while my husband and I went out for the evening, or my father coming to as many of their baseball and softball games as he possibly could. Every morning I would call my mother with updates about my babies’ progress, the good, the bad and the smelly. I want to be that grandparent—but it may not happen.
And so, along with the waiting, there’s the sense that time is slipping away from my possible future grandchildren and me. I speculate about whether I’ll be able to see them graduate from high school or help them buy their first car or have a conversation with them about adult things like love and responsibility and the greatest movies ever made. I wish for a weekend in New York City to see Broadway shows with them or to take them on a Caribbean cruise where I’ll let them have as many fruity drinks as they want. I want to FaceTime with a toddler whose words I don’t understand but whose face is the face of every child I’ve ever loved.
Most of all, I hope to see my children become parents. I want to watch their eyes fill with joy at the sight of their little ones, hear them scold or praise or simply sing a silly song with the children they are as much in love with as I was with them—and still am. That is the biggest thing of all, the thing I hope for, to see my children love their babies as much as I have loved mine, and always will. It may be a long time before I have grandkids – if it happens at all- and though I have no idea when it will be, I’m certain of one thing: Meeting my grandchildren will have been worth the wait.