Everything and everything

It’s kinda hard to explain it. Overwhelming and completely normal. That feeling that you just want to be better. You want to be healthier. You want to be kinder. You have your priorities figured out.

You realize you don’t have all the time in the world, like you did before.

So you know your imprint needs to last beyond making meals and cleaning up. You know your whispers in the middle of the night, your silly, made-up songs you sing when the parents are out of the room, need to touch your little ones’ most ancient self. Because it’s gotta last. Your love has to last beyond your years.

I remember my mother’s eyes when new mom Katie was born. Mom knew she wouldn’t be around for long. Her chronic lung disease, caused by a lifetime of smoking, was taking its ugly toil. It was all she could do to walk. But that she did. Heroically. Through the streets of Solvang, CA where she bought my baby girl, the mother of my new granddaughter, a ceremonial birthday candle, as she had done before for all the grandchildren and grand nephews and nieces. That day, I remember dressing up my baby girl in a Sunday school frock and hat, knowing how much her outfit would delight my mother. And it did.

It was a wonderful last trip to the Central Coast of California. On the scenic drive, Mom shared what it was like growing up with a “distant” mother, who herself was mysteriously adopted in England by a church elder. Her mother, she said, favored her sister and brother. She, Mom explained, was the working child who did everything she could to please her mother by completing all the household chores–and then some. Mom never experienced the deep, long-lasting, forever, just-because love from Grandma Elizabeth.

That trip, almost 30 years ago, helped me figure out my mother and forgive her for not being the mom I thought I needed. Our heartfelt conversation made me realize it was me not her that was the problem: I wasn’t the daughter she deserved.

From that day forth I did my best to do better by Mom. She was a champion. A warrior. I waited too long to figure that out.

Babies give us a chance to connect with the past, the present and the future. Our stories are deep and intertwined.

“I love you, I love you, I love you,” I whisper to three-day-young Millie, cooing the same words I say to my grandsons, the same words I sang to my mother when she was latched to a respirator in the dark days before she died.

“That’s it, isn’t it?” Ray Bradbury told me, and others who cared to listen. “Do what you love and love what you do.” Try not to worry. Be present. Let go of the bad. In the end, at the beginning, none of the bad stuff matters.

Yes, I’m sleep-deprived. Yes, I wish I could go outside and scream at the top of my lungs, “This is my granddaughter! Isn’t she amazing?” But we have to be careful, restrained, for we live in a time of pandemic disorder.

Like other elders, I’m here in our tiny cocoon, thinking about life, Millie, Mom, and wondering what this time in history is all about. Together, with a tear-drenched, off-key lullaby, we’ll figure it out.

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