Thursday, March 5, 2009

I More Than Love You

A few weeks ago I got a call from my grandson’s school where he is in a Nursery program three afternoons a week. It was the school nurse looking for my daughter, I told her that my daughter was at work and asked if I could take a message. After verifying that I was Jayden’s grandmother she told me that she was calling because he had fallen, he had a fat lip, a bruise above his mouth, and what looked like a tiny little chip missing out of one front tooth. She told me that he was fine, he wasn’t crying, and he was sitting on the lap of the teacher’s aide and holding ice on his mouth. She said there was really no need to come pick him up until dismissal time, but that it was customary to call. I thanked her for calling and said that I would be there at 2:15 as usual to pick him up.
My calm during the phone conversation contradicted the anxiety and worry that was gnawing at my insides. I felt more than a little anxious, I had to see for myself that my boy was okay. I wanted to tear right up to that school, grab that little guy in my arms, and race him home.
I don’t know what’s come over me. I didn’t used to be like this. I’m the mother of five and I’ve gotten countless phone calls from school over the years. Playground mishaps have been plentiful, and I’ve always taken them in stride (well, except for the time my youngest son decided to crawl in the ceiling of his classroom, fell through to the floor and broke his femur. That left me somewhat panic-stricken too). But I know that kids fall. They get hurt. It happens. They heal.
And it is not like Jayden hasn’t fallen in my presence, he’s gotten hurt and I don’t come apart at the seams. My sister-in-law Susie just reminded me about the time we were taking a walk with Jayden and I kept telling him to hold my hand and he wouldn’t listen. He then fell onto the concrete, hitting his head hard. I did scoop him up right away and hugged him to me, but I also said very matter-of-factly to him, “That’s what happens when you don’t hold my hand.”
So what was it about this phone call that sent me into a tailspin? The nurse said he was fine and he wasn’t crying, but I kept wondering if he wanted his “Umma”. I kept thinking of all the times he’d fallen at home and came running to me for consolation. I’d be in another room, in a house full of people, and I’d hear him calling for me frantically, “Where’s Umma? Where’s Umma?” until he found me so I could kiss the hurt away. I wondered if in his little head he was thinking, “Where’s Umma? Where’s Umma?” and there was no Umma there this time to kiss it better for him.
I think this new feeling I’m experiencing is something that I refer to as ‘the Grandma factor’. It’s a new trait that I now possess, one that I couldn’t even fathom before grandchildren came on the scene. I’ve been grasping for a word to convey my feelings for my grandchildren and while ‘love’ comes close, it doesn’t do this feeling justice by a long shot, I really don’t think there is a word in the English language that could convey the feeling I have for them. I don’t know if I’m unique in feeling this way or if all grandmothers feel the same, because what I feel for these children is so much more than I felt for my own children and it is something that took me by surprise. I never knew I could feel this way about another human being. It is so different than a love for your spouse, of course, but it’s even so much more different than the love you have for your own children. It’s more than love. And I don’t know of a word that expresses ‘more than love’. I remember my sister-in-law Susie one time saying to Jayden, “Oh, I love you so much. I love you so much it hurts.” And that came close to some of what I feel. A love, so much so that it hurts, but also a love so much that it heals. A love so bright and burning, a love that is radiant, it is bliss, and joy, and enchantment. It is everything good. Even that description doesn’t come close to what I feel.
Most amazing to me is that this feeling wasn’t awakened in me until grandchildren came into my life. From the moment I first laid eyes on Jayden I felt that “Grandma” must be the most beautiful word in the English language. Now I am grandmother to two, Jayden and Mia, and I am on a quest find a word to best capture what Grandma (Umma) feels for her grandchildren. For now I will have to settle for telling them, “I more than love you.”

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