While reading my book last night I came across the word “Grandmotherhood” and immediately thought, “perfect title for my next memoir!”
It has often been said that grandchildren are God’s reward for being a parent. Another expression, which I love, is, “When a child is born, so is a grandmother”. Becoming a grandmother has been a source of unending joy to me. The feelings that I experienced when I held my first grandchild, Emily, in my arms in 1988, were feelings of absolute joy and a very deep love. Even though my grandparent days were something I had anticipated, the depth of the love I felt caught me momentarily off-guard. It was an actual infusion of delight, appreciation, and infatuation with this tiny baby girl. She was immediately an important member of our family for always. I realized right away that my life had moved to a new but wonderful dimension. Even though I came to Canada as a child and lived far away from my own grandmothers, the special connection I had with them remained constant until their deaths. Even so until I experienced this unique joy myself, I could not imagine how deep and profound that connection actually was!
Emily Susan McIntosh was born in North Bay in September of 1988. She is the daughter of our second daughter Michelle and her husband Jamie. After holding her in our arms in the middle of the night with tears in our eyes, Alex and I had to return to Lively as we both had to work later that morning. When I arrived at school, my principal Vasco Piccinin asked me why there was a glow about me and excitedly I reported to him that I had become a grandma during the night. He congratulated me and then announced it on the PA! All day long my colleagues hugged me, shook my hand as well as the children wanting to talk to me about our new baby. It was wonderful! After school, I called Michelle and she enthused how good the baby was, that she just slept all the time and that she was finding it difficult to feed her. A warning bell sounded in my head. What did I do? I called my mother, Emily’s great-grandmother. Mom asked me to keep her and my dad apprised of the baby’s condition. I remember saying to my mother; “You worried about us, then about the grandchildren and now about your great-grandchild!” That brought home to me very clearly that once I had given birth I would be a mother forever even into the next generations.
As it turned out the baby did have some problems and spent some time in the neo-natal intensive care unit. What a relief when I phoned my daughter a few days later and heard Emily lustily crying behind her mom. The danger had passed and she was fine! Thank God! Michelle and Emily spent a great deal of time with us and so we watched this delightful little baby girl grow and change before our eyes. Each new development was a source of wonderment. Whenever Emily was at our home I read to her every night. I even would have her crawl into bed with me while I was reading to her and the intimate feelings of having a little child lie within my arms while we were enjoying our stories together was a constant source of absolute joy to me. It was a tradition started then but one which I continued with all of our grandchildren no matter what their age. Emily reminded me of the sense of curiosity and discovery which children have and it was even more fun to experience this with her than it had been with my own daughters. I think this was probably due to the fact that we were not raising her but observing her closely from a very different perspective. When Emily was nine years old she and her mom moved to Calgary. Of course I missed her dreadfully! That summer and for the next two summers that they lived in Alberta, Michelle sent her daughter to us for the entire summer. Having a grandchild all to myself without the parent being present is even better than watching her interact with her parents. I loved it! That is when a tradition developed where she and I had a “Grandma and Emily Special Day” every so often. No one was allowed to join us. We are still continuing that tradition today even though Emily is 18 years old now. We usually have lunch together; often have manicures at the same time and of course - shop. During the course of our important special day we chat and catch up with each other’s events. I don’t know who looks forward more to these occasions, Emily or me? One year when my first granddaughter was nine or so she composed a poem about these special events for both of us. She typed it and painted a small wooden easel with my favourite colours. It was my Christmas present from her that year. Of course it remains one of my most prized possessions!
When Emily was seven years old, our second granddaughter, Rachel Anne Fex Jordan was born to our eldest daughter Jacquie and her husband Scott. This captivating little redhead immediately stole our hearts! Rachel with her curly red hair presented us with the challenge of ensuring that we were as much a part of her life as possible as she lived in Toronto and we were in Lively, 385 km distant. Thus began the routine of Alex and I making frequent trips to the big city, as we wanted this beautiful baby to know us personally. We did not want to be just a voice on the phone to her. Whenever we were in Toronto, reading to her was a favourite activity for Rachel and me. The wonderful smiles of recognition when we arrived at the house soon assured us that we were accomplishing this goal. Our cottage at French River also drew all of us close together and gave Emily and Rachel the opportunity to enjoy each other. Camp activities such as swimming, campfires, playing games on rainy days and of course reading to my two granddaughters were huge sources of enjoyment to me. Rachel’s dad loves to fish and it was an activity that his little daughter soon enjoyed as well. I loved watching the two of them sitting at the end of the dock after supper chatting and trying to catch fish. I love to read for my own enjoyment and since Rachel has learned to read she and I withdraw at times to lie on my bed - both of us immersed in our own stories. It is another way that the joy of books draws us close together. Rachel has become a talented Celtic dancer and whenever she has a recital or competition we try to attend. Last month there was such a recital and watching our granddaughter dance on that stage with a huge smile on her face the whole time gave us such a feeling of pride and happiness knowing that she was enjoying herself so much!
Jacquie and Scott’s second child was a long-awaited grandson. Finally a little boy to enjoy! Jacquie called us from the delivery room, “Mom, I had a baby boy!” This baby boy could not be called little! Trent Alexander Martin weighed in at a big 9 lbs. 15 oz! Wow! We couldn’t wait to meet our first grandson! We hurried to Toronto when he was about two days old and Grandpa Alex presented our new grandson with a small football symbolic since Alex had played football for many years with the Sudbury Spartans. Trent’s parents appreciated the gesture very much. My father, Trent’s great-grandfather, spent Christmas in Toronto with us that year and his first great-grandson too immediately captivated him. Lucky little boy to have so many people who loved him, as were our two lovely granddaughters. Watching a little boy grow and develop was a new experience for my husband and myself. It was such fun to watch Trent’s activities, which were so different than our granddaughters’ interests. He loved mud! Catching frogs was and still is a favourite game at camp. Cars captured his interest from a very young age. All different kinds of rocks fascinated him. Keeping the knees in his pants is still a losing battle. We learned first-hand that little boys are more rambunctious than little girls. Trent is most adept at constructing amazing structures with his Lego showing that his visual perception is excellent and that he can be patient when the activity absorbs him. Having raised three daughters this little boy really taught us what it is that little boys are made of. It is a joy and a pleasure to watch him grow and develop. He is playing hockey now and when it is possible, we watch him play. Like his cousin and sister, Trent also loved listening to stories read to him.
Our youngest grandchild is another little boy. Matthieu Alexandre was born to our youngest daughter Allison and her husband Rey in September of 2006. What joy to have a baby in the family once again! Matthieu is a happy baby who smiles, laughs, rolls around as we watch him with great pleasure. Matthieu loves to be tickled and screeches with delight when I do so. In his short six months he has certainly won for himself his own special place in our hearts. He has already evidenced a love of books and loves it when I sing to him. I even sing to him on the phone! His mom tells me he smiles and laughs when he hears me on the phone. With this little boy as with our other grandchildren in Toronto we are travelling south often so that he will recognize us and will know how much we love him. Matthieu has piercing blue eyes and when he looks at me with total trust I am humbled but experience again that deep profound love which I have felt for each of my grandchildren.
“What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional, love, kindness, patience, humour, comfort, lessons in life. And most importantly – cookies.” This is a quote from Rudy Guiliani. What a grandparent gets back is immeasurable pleasure and a sense of wonderment and fun. I wouldn’t miss these blessings for anything!
An American writer, Ruth Goode wrote in 1905 that,” Our grandchildren accept us for ourselves, without rebuke or effort to change us, as no one in our entire lives has ever done, not our parents, siblings, spouses, friends – and hardly ever our own grown children.” That says it all!
A GRANDMOTHER’S PRAYER
Let me give my grandchild gifts
Not just toys but other things…..
Like treasured dreams and memories
That give a child both roots and wings.
Let me help with little things
To teach someone to tie a shoe,
To answer funny questions now
And always know just what to do.
Let me use this special time,
Feeling blessed by circumstance;
For sometimes being a grandma is