The rain beats down on my windshield with big, wet drops. Is God crying? Does He feel the pain I feel. Our tears mingle together. And, I don’t know why they’re coming.
My baby has my grandmother’s name and my husband’s grandmother’s name. We gave our baby girl the names in tribute to two noble, stalwart women, who loved God and family and life and people. We wanted to instill in her a sense of history, of connection to her past.
Today, I sat by my grandmother’s hospital bed. Her namesake played with the sheets and talked baby talk. My grandmother’s eyes lit up as they always do when she sees one of her great-grandchildren.
“Put her here on the bed beside me,” my grandmother pleaded.
I did as she asked. Jenny Maydene played with Grandma’s ring and hospital bracelet. Talked some more baby talk, patted Grandma and then settled in for a nap.
“Everyday I think, ‘I’ve got nothing better to do, I could be holding that baby if she were just here,'” Grandma says.
Jenny squirms and rolls over. The hospital bed is too confining. She wants the open spaces. She cries. I succomb and hold her.
“Sometimes I wake up and I don’t know where I am,” Grandma is telling me. “I don’t know if I’m at home or where I am. Then I remember I’m in the hospital. I worry that I’m losing my mind.”
She’s lived a full and meaningful life. But I hang on to her tenanciously. I don’t want to let her go. She means too much to me. I remember her when others would have called her old—in her 50s and 60s when cotton dresses and flour sack aprons were her main wardrobe. And she was worried about dieting and losing weight. Her robust figure had soft, smushy parts just right for hugging grandchildren. Now her body gets frailer with each passing day. Sometimes I look at her and it’s hard to see the strong, active farmer’s wife I knew as a child.
She was a leader, opinionated, people-loving. Even though she lived on the farm with Papaw, she was never far from people as long as she had her telephone. And, their home seldom held just two. If children, grandchildren, and other relatives weren’t around, there were always neighbors and friends to stop in for a visit. And, if they didn’t come to the two-story farmhouse, she and Papaw went to them. She was active in club, auxiliary and church work. She knew everyone for miles around and everyone knew her.
But most of all, she had dignity. She had a sense of calm self-possession in that she knew who she was and what her mission in life was. That’s not to say there weren’t times she lost it, like the time someone at a box supper let a mouse out of a box and she climbed on a school desk and screamed bloody murder. Still she kept her poise, as much as any grown woman in dress can while standing on top of a school desk howling.
Even now she has dignity. For dignity is defined as the “degree of worth or honor” a person has. In that sense, my grandmother is the most dignified person I know, because of earthly people she is one of those I hold in highest esteem.
So, for all these reasons and more, my baby has her name. But today I realized there is one more reason I gave my baby her name. I realize my baby may one day be all I have left of my grandmother. I gave my little girl a name I love, so hopefully for the rest of my lifetime I’ll have a remembrance of the one who originally bore that name.
Hospital is no place for a baby. Our visit has to be short. I don’t have much time. I lean down to kiss her and I tell her I love her. She looks me in the eyes and saysthrough tears, “Oh, Honey, if you love me even half as much as I love you, it would be enough.”
And then as we get ready to go, she says, “No, you can’t go yet.” The visit is just a few minutes out of my busy day. I realize to her it is all she has to look forward to, visits from me and other relatives. We give her more kisses and leave as she calls out, “Don’t forget to cover that baby’s ears when you go out.” Always the caretaker even as she is the one being cared for.
I’m crying as I drive home. But the tears are not for Grandma. I know the Crystal City she is going to will be much better than any earthly home. No, the tears are for me because I love her so much and letting go hurts. God’s raindrop tears? They’re for me, too, and for all those who love her dearly. Because He, too, knows how very much we’ll miss her when she leaves.
Good-bye Grandma. I love you and I’ll miss you more than any words could ever express. And the rain beats harder on my windshield.
©1991 byTeresa Parker