I have a grandson, but I don't consider myself a grandma. Some people think it's because I'm vain about my age. Please. I am vain, but not about my age. I've never been shy telling people how old I am. It really is because of the weight that the title carries.
Grandma means so much. It means hugs and gifts and blankets and watching him grow with the loving detachment of not being mom or dad. It means telling stories to the next generation so that nobody forgets where they came from. It means weekends and overnights so that a young couple can have some time alone. It means baby hands on your face.
I don't have any of that in my life.
I only have biology to prove that I'm a grandma.
In this world, there is a little boy that is my daughter's son. His presence since the beginning is something I could feel. I knew when he arrived. The electricity in the air was so powerful. The buzz in my ears so loud. I sent a message to his aunt and asked if he was here yet. The next morning, she forwarded the message that he had finally arrived. I knew. I felt him. I could almost feel his baby hands on my face.
But I also knew I probably wouldn't.
It's been over a year since he came into the world. I've seen him... in photos. He is a beautiful boy. He looks so much like his dad. Maybe he'll grow to be a kind man like him, too. His name is that of one of the books of the Bible. The book that restored my soul. But for some reason, I always call him by his father's name. Maybe because they have the same smile.
Maybe because it hurts too much to say his real name.
A few mornings ago, I was having breakfast with my husband. I'm not sure when they were seated, but halfway through my meal, I noticed two small arms and a wiggling head behind my husband. Babies always smile at me. I think they know that I'm just a goofy kid disguised as an adult. Being so new to our corrupted planet, they see more than the rest of us humans. They see the kid in me and instinctively know I'm one of those big people who would rather play than work.
I caught his eyes and smiled at him. My mind went right away to the little boy I'd never met. This could be him. Similar features. Same hair color. Seemed to be about the right age. I waved hi and mimicked his hands in a backwards wave. But it wasn't a wave. He kept wriggling, nearly jumping out of his father's arms. His dad was doing a good job keeping him from falling, but it was obvious that the toddler was starting to wear him out.
Then came the crying.
The little boy was clearly unhappy and the dad was starting to look really uncomfortable. The boy kept looking over at me as though I wasn't getting what he was saying. "Why are you just sitting there?!" and "Come pick me up!" That's what his hand signals and cries seemed to mean. Not a strange backwards hello or discomfort from being held too tight. It was "Come here!" I felt for his father. He was alone with the baby and seemed at a loss as to how to soothe his son. I got up and walked over to him to see if I could help. Yes, I am that crazy lady that will walk into your space and offer to help even though we've never met. I figured I could entertain the toddler enough so that the dad could get him turned around and sit him in his high chair. I squatted down next to him. "Is it okay if I come say hi?" The dad was relieved. "You look like his mom... a little." If that was it, now that I was close up to him, the baby would see that I wasn't his mom and might go back to having breakfast with his dad.
But that's not what happened.
What happened next was one of those moments that is over too quickly. One of those moments you wish you could freeze. Or hope that someone was watching unfold and had the good sense to snap a picture of random sweetness. One of those moments that maybe was a divine appointment meant to lift a person's spirit. What happened next was that this man's son jumped out of his arms and into mine. His little toddler body was in my arms before I even knew what was happening. His hands went right onto my face. Baby hands, all chubby and soft, squeezed my cheeks... just for a moment.
In that moment, I imagined what it would be like to hold my grandson. His life flashed in my mind. The early days swaddled in a blanket. When he learned to roll over. Then sitting on a park swing. Or in a car seat eating Cheerios.
"What's his name?"
It was my grandson's father's name. The name I always mistakenly call him because it hurts too much to call him by his real name.
And then the moment was over. The little boy, soothed, went back to his dad. Maybe he had enough time being comforted by a woman that resembled his mom. Maybe he was ready to eat his pancake. Or maybe the angel on his shoulder told him that was all the time I needed and that he could go back to having breakfast with his dad.
Back at my seat, I could feel tears welling up in my throat. We paid our bill and left, waving goodbye to Dylan.
Technically, I'm a grandma. One day... who knows when... I might get to meet the little boy that calls my daughter his mom. I'll hug him. I'll probably cry a little. And then I'll try to imagine what his baby hands might've felt like on my face all those years ago.