11/16/2011 12:07 pm ET Updated Jan 16, 2012

I Get to Be Granma

When my daughter had her first son three years ago, I drove the four hours from my town to her city in record time. It's amazing I didn't get a ticket. When I walked into her hospital room, it was empty, without even a bed. I continued racing, this time to the nurses' station. My daughter had planned for a natural, home birth.

"We're so glad you're here," exclaimed a nurse I can't describe because I don't remember anything but the panic I was feeling. Apparently my daughter had been rushed to the O.R. to be prepped for a C-section, and my son-in-law had been in her bathroom ever since. "Would you please knock on the door, or just go into the bathroom and make sure he's OK?" The nurse was afraid he had fainted. He was sitting on the side of the tub, face in his hands.

I took those hands, held them both, assured him she would be fine: C-sections were quite commonplace; and reminded him that she was sure to need him in the O.R., especially since she would be awake but numbed, to protect the baby. I had never seen my son-in-law in such distress; he is a public defender, intelligent, calm, and witty. I am only grateful I was able to get through to him. As he moved out of her room and down the hallway I called after him, "You're having a baby. Isn't it great!" He smiled and quickened his pace.

Several hours later after they had done all the tests they do with newborn babies, I got to hold my grandson for the first time. I knew I would love him: he was my grandson; but I didn't expect the overpowering rush of love I experienced for that little being resting in my arms. I really loved Gus, immediately, unconditionally, and as much as I had each of my daughters when they were born. He was my daughter's child, but I was learning that he was also mine.

The experience was the same with her second son, born last year, but it didn't surprise me. They are both the most adorable, most intelligent, most loveable boys a grandma could have. I remember laughing when my ex-husband's mother said that her first granddaughter was brilliant because she could get her fingers into her mouth. She looked spastic to me. Besides, several of the other babies, when released from their blankets, did the same thing. Now I understood why she said what she did, and why she was so thrilled. There is nothing like it, holding a grandchild for the first time.

I didn't believe it could improve, but every month it has. He could see me, he could actually reach out to touch me, he recognized me, he smiled when he saw me, and eventually, raced outside to yell 'Granma' when my car would pull to a stop. When I would lift him up into the swing at the park, sticking his little legs into the holes so he would be sitting securely, and he looked up at me with total trust, my heart sang.

His smile as I pushed him faster and faster was joyous, as was my own. The day we walked to the park with his mom, one of her high school friends and her little girl, and the friend was shocked at how high and fast I pushed him, I felt proud that I had conquered my own fear so that he would have none. The friend pushed her little one almost as high, and the child laughed out loud, glancing at Gus, who was sitting in the very next swing, with total delight. We adults were both grinning like crazy.

I have thought of moving from my little country town to the city where my grandsons live, but I have made a life for myself here and still want to live it. Being Granma doesn't mean I have to give up me. I visit at least once a month for some days, run alongside Gus as he rides on his two-wheeler without training wheels, and crawl around beside Zeke, who laughs at me.

Even at 10 months his Granma seems like a funny, silly being to him. I can't wait until he recognizes me -- when the visits are once a month, he forgets. In a few months Gus will want to play basketball, even though he's vertically challenged and we'll laugh at how funny we both look, trying to make a basket from many feet beneath the hoop. Zeke will run circles around us. When I am sad about anything, a visit with those little boys takes it away within moments. If I have to be over 50, at least I also get to be Granma.