Sunday, September 11, 2016

Finding Myself as Grandma

I never anticipated being a grandmother at 38 years old. It’s been nine years since my grandson was born, followed by his sister and my newest granddaughter, who’s one.

I don’t feel like a grandma. I’m footloose and fancy free these days. I can come and go as I please, without having to concern myself with finding a babysitter. I can be gone for days at a time if the whim hits me.

Although I am only 48 years old, all my children are adults, making their way in life - the same as children of other older grandparents. However, many of the people who are my age are still raising their kids, some of them with toddlers. I think to myself they have a long haul ahead of them, which brings me to the conundrum of being a young grandparent.

To put this into perspective, it’s like being in your twenties again, when people are falling in love and getting married, and suddenly you find yourself to be the last one to get married, and /or to have children. Your friends’ lives become filled with all the things that involve their little family – and not you.

With divorce rates hovering at 50% for the last decade, there are a lot of single-grandparents out there, both men and women. But, most of them are in their late 50s or early 60s. This societal shift is due to married couple’s staying together for the sake of the children, and divorcing when the last kid moves out. I suspect this trend will continue far into the future with a decline in the age of single-grandparents, because of the belief staying together only hurts the kids, and not helps them.

Instead of resolving myself to sensible shoes and dresses, I choose to redefine myself. I am the author of my life, and this but a new chapter in it. I delight in the moments when people seem shocked that indeed I am a grandma. “But, you don’t look old enough to be a grandma.” I concede that I don’t look the part.

I dress for my age, or what I feel comfortable in for my age. I never tried to be my daughters’ best friend. I never shopped in the same stores where they shopped, trying to fit a body that has birthed three children into clothes that are designed for, well, bodies that haven’t. I have middle-age wrinkles for which I refuse to indulge in Botox for the sake of clinging to youth, a ship that sailed twenty years ago.

It didn’t really occur to me until a couple of years ago that I am free to do whatever pleases me. Now, that in itself was a bombshell. I have never lived to please me. I was flustered by the very idea of it. I was asked, “What do you need,” and “What do you like?” I had no clue what the answers were to those questions.

My entire adult life has been about living for everyone else. I lived for my boyfriend and what he needed and liked. I lived for my daughters and what they needed and liked. I lived for my bosses and my friends, for what they needed and liked, and found that in the end, I had somehow become lost in the mix. In fact, I no longer existed at all. I was a shell of a person that only existed before the age of eighteen. I was a ghost haunting my own life.

I like canary yellow, burnt orange, sea foam green, coral and violet, because they are not black, gray or sad.
I like the smell of the ocean on a spring morning, and the sound of the waves as they tumble with playfulness on the shore, laughing their way back out to sea. I prefer the Atlantic in the morning as the sun casts a river of orange in the midst of the waters, creating new hope for a journey less troubled; and the Pacific at the close of day as the sun sinks into the water at twilight, beaming accomplishment at the river’s end.
I like the sound of thunder on a summer’s afternoon as it rumbles across the prairie. It shakes the very core of me, letting me know that I am alive. When the rain ceases to drench the earth all around, the sun never fails to break the clouds. Its rays wrap a blanket of warmth around me and I know all is well in the world.
I like the feel of the horse beneath me, while it bolts across the grasslands, carrying me far and away. The hooves collide with the earth beneath them, the dust exploding into the air. At the canyons edge there is all the world that lies below and all the heavens cast above.
I like the taste of Turkish coffee intermingled with the laughter of friends on a cold winter’s afternoon. It is rich, warm and robust; full of life.
I like the sound of the violin as it mourns the notes it casts into the world, the vibrations of all that was, is and ever will be; or, when it sings joyously the songs of the universe as they race to the stars and moon from the amphitheater that once was.

Today, I still enjoy these things. Sometimes, in spite of ourselves, we must reach back to the person we were, to find the person that we are. I enjoy the laughter of my grandchildren as they cling to me with arms wrapping me in love. I like to rock my infant granddaughter in the still of the evening, when she drifts off to sleep into a world of peace.

Today, I like who I am, recognizing that the only thing that I need is love.