Call me Nana. Call me Bubbe. Meema. Oma. Grandma. It doesn't matter what you call me, only that you do. I have weathered two miscarriages with your parents and one full term pregnancy. I have written a book about wanting you and waiting for you. And I have talked about you incessantly to anyone who would listen. And now that you are here, I am getting greedy. I want you to talk to me.
On a recent autumn morning I accompanied you and your parents to "free play" in one of those facilities with a big padded room for families without giant carpeted basements where suburban children kick a ball and ride a scooter. It was behind a gaily-decorated New York City storefront with miniature stationary cars in the anteroom for little tykes to 'drive' while getting their silken baby tresses shorn.
As your mom took off your shoes and your dad maneuvered you out of your quilted jacket, I kicked my boots under your stroller so that I could walk among the cushioned play equipment with you. When your dad stuck out his large manhand and said "Let's go, son. Take daddy's hand," you shook your head no and extended your little hand towards me. To me! You placed your tiny paw inside my palm and led me down the hall to the playroom. This singular act, this moment of choosing was your first deliberate gift to me. And I thank you.
What is it about grandparenting that has so totally captivated me? I try to parse the overwhelming sense of satisfaction I get when I am with my grandson, to understand the visceral pleasure of this stage of life. It starts with the anticipation of charting the changes that happen so rapidly between visits in the first two years of life, the pride in each new skill set acquired. Look what you have accomplished in such a short space of time! It is an achievement outside myself. It is watching nature progress as it should: akin to the rising of the sun, the swelling of the tides, the turning of the earth each day. It is the understanding that this process, this unfolding of a human being is the greatest miracle of living. And that is awesome in the truest sense of the word.
I am amazed that all this wonder is available to me through the most mundane experiences. Last month you were being fed with a spoon. This week you hold a slice of honeydew in your sticky fingers and gnaw at the juicy green flesh. Twelve days ago you squirmed in my lap when I tried to read your favorite book about busses. Just yesterday you picked up that same book, plopped down beside me and turned the pages. "Double-decka" you declared as you pointed with a pudgy finger. (Now, mind you, the kid has yet to say "Grandma" but he has mastered the four syllables of a mass transit behemoth.)
As I get older and Facebook is filled with obituaries of classmates I have lost touch with -- or never knew -- I contemplate my legacy. Did I build a bridge that will span two cities? I did not. Did I discover a cure for some horrific disease? No. Did I write a book that might be read by someone long after I am gone? I doubt it. There will be new social issues and other stories to tell. But there will still be you. You, with your wide, brown eyes. Your mother's lashes and her perfect nose. Your father's full lower lip that swells into the sweetest pout. If all goes well and the universe is good to us, you will go on long after I am gone.
We are all finite. With every passing year that becomes more evident. I am not frightened by this reality. I am a gardener and the gardener understands the turning of the seasons -- the planting, the sprouting and the harvest. We understand what happens when the soil is spent, when a new seed emerges. That is grandparenting.
So, yes. I will take your hand and walk with you to the playroom. I will roll on the floor with you and wiggle through the tunnel. The morning will slip away and I will not notice. I will not look at my phone. Or the clock. I will be here in this time, in this place, with you. Just the two of us. Clapping hands. Laughing. Jumping. Waiting for you to say "Grandma," to shape that word in your mouth and in the doing, the simple act of naming me, you will create my legacy.