To Be of Service

Two months ago tomorrow, I jumped on the red eye from LAX and arrived in the early hours hoping and praying I made it in time to witness the birth of my granddaughter. Fortunately, I arrived in plenty of time–a week before my daughter gave birth to Millie–but wasn’t allowed in the delivery room due to severe restrictions caused by Covid19. My son-in-law gave me the birthing blow by blow details and, as sad as I was that I couldn’t be there to meet Millie in person, I was gratified that all went according to plan and my daughter delivered a healthy 9 pound 4 oz, 22 inches long baby girl.

And here I sit in the dark, in bed, my real red eyes filled with tears knowing that at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning I will leave this world, this chapter, this little person and her parents and I can never, ever replace this magical time.

Magical because I watched the birth of parents, the first smile of a little person, fretting over constipation and colicky throw-ups, lack of sleep, never-ending laundry, shortage of food, toilet paper, sanitizing wipes, adjustment to new schedules, teaching remotely, swapping Millie, swaddling in the dark, singing Disney lullabies and gazing into those eyes that melt away all the sad, all the bad.

It’s time to go home and do the things I need to do. But the world isn’t the same. I’m not the same. I know my way around Katie’s NYC neighborhood now. I walk like a New Yorker with my head down, like I mean business. I’ve learned to adapt to the hot apartment and snow in May. Turns out I don’t need to exclusively eat organic and that off-brand frozen vegetables are actually pretty good. Turns out, after a lot of hemming and hawing, I can focus on what’s important. And let me tell you, it’s not my job. It’s not the guy who’s president. It has nothing to do with anything on TV.  My priority? It’s my tribe. It’s my people. It’s those of us with a heartbeat, the ones who care so much about others that they push aside their needs for the sake of others. To be of service.

I remember my mom saying I’d be lucky to have “as many friends as you have fingers on your hand.” I used to get so mad at her for saying that because I thought it was about volume. “I have so many friends, Mom,” I’d say to her, thinking she doesn’t understand. But she was right. Deep, pure relationships are rare. Like the one I have with my youngest daughter. Like the sweet, joyful relationship I have with my grandsons and now, granddaughter. To be loved for just who you are. To hold no grudges. To forgive. Forget. To want nothing but love inspires more love.

I know you get this. You don’t want to leave, but you have to. You don’t want them to ever die, but they have to. You are grateful for your time with them. But it’s never enough. Not 90 years. Not two months. My God, you know how much you’ve been blessed, but you don’t want it to end. You don’t want her to grow up too fast. You want sew a coat with her smell laced in the fabric. You want to feel her heartbeat next to yours and know that, really, you are the only person on the Planet who can stop her crying because, because, you are her grandma. And she knows that. And you know that.

Millie won’t remember these months, being shut in as her adults sleuthed for toilet paper, read the latest death toil and Googled, “When is it safe to travel?” But I will . I will remember that these were the days I fell in love with a little girl who didn’t care how old or fat or poor or Democratic or Republican I was, but how my gushy arms comforted her when her tummy hurt. I will remember that when the world felt like it was going to hell, in a tiny apartment near a roaring train, it rained and snowed and it was Spring.


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