Today is about strength. Inter-generational strength, flowing from grandmother to mother to child. And about the healing that flows from the flow. I have written much about my mom’s lifelong courage. I have learned much from it, and suspect I will continue to through the twists and turns of my life. I didn’t expect to learn about my daughter’s inner strength just as my mom’s physical strength was ebbing.
As I wrote yesterday, my mom held on for my daughter’s 12th birthday, which we celebrated in my mom’s bedroom. My siblings were there, as was my daughter’s other mom. We had a party – as much of one as we could, knowing my mom was likely to leave us very soon. My brother – a generous soul – realized that our daughter could use a special present to get her through this very challenging time, and gave her an iPad. I don’t remember the rest of the gifts, but my mom’s card to my daughter is indelibly etched into my soul. It spoke of the hopes and dreams a grandmother had for her granddaughter. We sat, tears welling up in our eyes and making their silent journey down our cheeks, as my daughter read the card aloud. My mom had signed it with her usual two apples – one larger and one smaller, her symbol of the name my daughter called her.
My daughter gave her Apple Baby a long, close hug, and kissed her on the cheek. Tears searing my cheeks, I left the room to compose myself. Shortly after, my mom’s best friend arrived from New Jersey, and they spent time together as we gathered our strength in the living room. We heard laughter and love, singing and succor, flowing from the bedroom.
Like my daughter, I had a treasured bond with a grandparent. My grandfather was my hero. He watched over me and made sure I was loved at all times. He taught me all I know about baseball. He helped me to understand that little things – a hug, a consoling arm around a shoulder, the touch of a hand– could soothe and heal as well as, if not more than, larger gestures. Unfortunately, when my grandfather lay dying – also after a massive stroke – when I was 18, I was unable to touch him or kiss him. I was terrified of death, and bereft that he was leaving me. He couldn’t talk, but kept reaching for my hand. I have rued my inability to give back to my grandpa a scintilla of the comfort he had always given to me.
On the night after my mom’s funeral, as I was sitting with my daughter in our hotel room, I told her how proud of her I was, how impressed by her giving a eulogy for her Apple Baby, and how amazed by her poise at the funeral and the Shiva. Most of all, I told her, I was blown away by her hugging my mom in the last days of her life. My daughter responded, “You know, Mama, I don’t think I would have done it if you hadn’t told me the story about your grandpa. I know how much you regretted it, and I didn’t want to feel that way for the rest of my life.”
Sometimes, strength shows itself in ways we don’t expect. My daughter’s actions toward my mom comforted two generations – or maybe even three. I was, and am, a proud Mama on this, my daughter’s 15th birthday.
Three more days of stories shared and lessons learned. Thanks again for walking this road with me.