It’s exciting and bittersweet, watching my firstborn child blossom with pregnancy. My emotions are so strong and unpredictable, I feel like I’m carrying the child. It’s as though I’m suffering hormonal surges that burst forth in tears without warning.
I dropped off a bouquet of her favorite flowers early yesterday morning, the day of her baby shower. I also asked about some matching pie plates my mother and grandmother had. I wasn’t sure if my daughter had received her grandmother’s plate. I’d found two more to the set at a yard sale that morning. D chose her favorite, so now all three of us have one with one extra left over. Perhaps for the little girl my daughter is carrying?
As we stood in her kitchen chatting about pie plates and turquoise Amish farmer Pyrex bowls, the tears overwhelmed me once again and I began to cry.
It seems like it was only yesterday my belly was swollen, along with my face and ankles (just as hers are now), with her. And, in that yesterday my mother was younger than I am now and my Nana was still alive. Dying, but still here. She passed two weeks before A was born, and her last words to me were, as she rubbed my belly, “Take care of that baby.” Twenty-seven years later I still miss her terribly. She was my rock, my everything, in my turbulent young life.
My earliest memory is of being held by her. I was two. My papa stood on the driver’s side of the red Comet, new then, and Nana stood, holding me, in the open door on the passenger’s side. She was pointing up to the hospital room where my mom and new little brother were staying.
Throughout my childhood, they were my constant. I adored my dad, but I can admit that he failed me horribly. As my parents fought with each other and sought their own selfish desires, my grandparents cleaned us, fed us, and cared for us. They truly parented us.
In spite of her parents’ sacrifices, my mother didn’t speak highly of her mom. She didn’t appreciate what she did for her, for her children. It never seemed to be enough for the spoiled, grown up child.
My mother had her own reasons for interfering in my life and the lives of my children. Control. Hatred. Selfishness. Money. But, she was their Nana nonetheless. And, two of my three adult children don’t see her, don’t remember her, for what she truly was. They only remember rides on the tractor and songs sung with a quivering voice in a rocking chair when they think of her. Just as I only remember summer gardens, three meals a day at the dining table with all of us gathered together, fishing trips, and coffee in the camper up hunting when I think of my grandparents.
My daughter doesn’t know all about my childhood. I hope my kids don’t find out until I’m gone. But, they know some. And, they all know the difficulties I had with my mother as an adult. They witnessed much of it. However, they still choose to just see her through the rose colored lens of a grandchild’s tainted vision of love.
I honestly doubt my Nana was as perfect as I remember her either. And, perhaps, my mom had some valid reasons for her resentment. I’ll never know. I don’t really care. I loved my Nana, and she was good to me. That’s all that matters to me. And, I have to accept that’s all that matters to my children. They didn’t have the same experiences with my mother that I did. They love their Nana, and they think she was good to them.
I wasn’t the mother I set out to be. I had dreams of being the kind of mother my grandmother had been. Instead, I think I fell somewhere between my mom and my grandma. I didn’t protect my children. I put my job before them. I put my ex-husband before them. And, they suffered horrendously because of it. I’ve apologized over and over again, begging their forgiveness. They appear to have forgiven me, but I know the memories and pain linger. I certainly don’t want my little Bean (what we call my granddaughter due next month) to know those things about her Nana.
I want Bean to only know that I will be good to her. That I love her. No matter what the mistakes were that I made raising her mama, I’ve changed some and I’ll try harder with her. She’s my second chance. And, I suppose, perhaps, there may have been an element of that in past generations. I’ll give my mom the benefit of the doubt and assume that she wanted a better relationship with her grandchildren than she’d had with her children. Her pride just wouldn’t allow her to ever admit that she’d ever been wrong.
It doesn’t really matter. She’s gone. My Nana is gone. All that any of us are left with are our own memories and our own interpretations of those events and those relationships. And, they are ours. Mine belong only to me. My daughter’s belong only to her. Bean’s will belong only to her.
As I enter into that adored and forgiven position of Nana, I want to be worthy of it. But, I also don’t want Bean to hear the painful stories her mom could tell her about my failings. And, as I stood in that kitchen, looking at my swollen, beautiful daughter, it occurred to me that she doesn’t want to hear my painful stories about my mom’s failings.
It’s time to let go. It’s time to quit talking about it. It’s time to just support my daughter and love my granddaughter. It’s time to let my mom and all of her sins rest.