Do I Dare Redefine Myself?

I sat down on the patio with a glass of wine and opened my computer with the intention of finding a gift. It’s three days until a baby shower for my daughter-in-law, one that will welcome my son’s son into our family.

I felt “him” for the first time just a day or so ago. Before now, I’ve been caught up in my own life, swirling in part around the departure of my daughter and her family for Japan. They’ll be there for three years, and the grandsons that lured me to San Diego will no longer be here. When they return, they’ll be young men, one of whom already is a bit taller than me. I expect he’ll tower over me before I see him again. (I am planning on a visit, of course.) The younger one is betting on the same; although he’s a few inches shorter than me at this point. I’ve got some advantage for now.

But today the reality that another young being will enter my life hit me hard, all because I scrolled through the registry on Amazon aiming to pick out the perfect gift. Diapers? Baby Tylenol? That’s not exactly the gift with which I want to welcome this baby into the world.

The responsibility of another layer of grandmotherhood weighs heavier upon me. And perhaps that’s why I’ve held him at bay. I haven’t wanted to know him until now. If I acknowledged him, I’d have to think long and hard about how I want to be here for him; show up for him — not out of some preconceived obligation of what a grandmother should do for her grandson, based on what I’ve done before — but what I’m truly being called to do for him.

My oldest grandson and my first grandchild, Jude, visited me within hours of Shana telling me she was pregnant. I awoke with a start in the middle of the night, alone in my bed, in my vast home on the Arroyo Colorado — a life where fly fishing and university teaching were the focus of my life, that and a marriage going sour.

A presence loomed heavily over me. At first, I was afraid, and then I asked, “Who are you?” Jude made himself known to me. I relaxed and smiled. When I accompanied my daughter for the 4D ultrasound, I knew I was “toast” when I saw that little being in the black and white photograph. Before that moment, I thought my girlfriends who already had grandchildren were crazy. At that moment, I understood. I had more than myself to consider — once again.

Jude is the one that now towers over me. He’s the one that my heart aches for the most at this moment. I was at his birth, waiting patiently as his mother labored with him, and I held him shortly after his dad had welcomed him into the world. Jude challenges me most with his intellectual conjectures. His curiosity grander than anything I could ever imagine. More than once he’s stumped me with ideas that far outreach his years. I am going to miss our long conversations while he lives in the Land of the Rising Sun.

It’s not that I don’t worry about Max. I stayed in San Diego because of him. Jude was conveniently born in the summer semester, so I stayed in San Diego temporarily. Max, however, chose to arrive in February, just weeks after the spring semester had started. Thankfully, I was given permission to teach and advise my students remotely, which at the time was an anomaly, not the norm. I was also at Max’s birth. Holding him just moments after he entered the world was a gift, just as it was at his brother’s birth. Max looked into my eyes, and I knew my life was about to make a detour. His deep, soul-searching eyes were that of someone I had known for so many eons. I could not leave him. I turned my back on a full-time university teaching position with benefits and flung myself into an entrepreneurial life because I wanted to be near, to be a part of both of their lives, supporting my daughter during her husband’s deployments, and creating memories at birthday parties, trips to the zoo, afternoons at the park, and movie nights at Mio’s.

Max is our emotionally intelligent child, always concerned with how everyone is doing around him. One day, when he and Jude were having a “Sleepover at Mio’s,” I dropped something in the kitchen. He immediately asked, “Mio, are you okay? Do you need help?”

And just as these boys are leaving, another one is about to arrive.

Only this time, my calling is not to stay, but to venture onward. Not to stay out of a commitment that I don’t even remember making, but to discover how to live a life that is truly one of my own making, one that will bring peace to my soul, one that yearns for adventures of my own.

While I have enjoyed and hold dear so many memories with my children and grandchildren in San Diego, I need more. Mostly trees and water. I left a life of writing along the Arroyo behind. I left long forays into nature, mainly wading the Lower Laguna Madre in search of redfish and speckled seatrout behind, and while I do have the beach that I can visit, casting into the surf or walking along the beach just doesn’t soothe my soul in the same way.

And this is where it gets dicey.

Motherhood and grand-motherhood have reigned supreme in my life. It’s what I thought I should do to be a good mother and a good grandmother. I’ve made sacrifices. I’ve made “do.” I’ve put a part of myself aside to be here. And that’s hard to admit. It’s hard to say. I need more. I want more.

I’ve been entrenched in a life of putting myself aside for others. I’ve lived under the spell that it’s my duty to make sure everyone else in my life was happy and on their way first — and only then could I tend to my own needs. My husbands, both of them, came first, too. And at times, they overtook priority over my children. I served their needs and their dreams, ignoring my own. My time with these men wasn’t without some reward. With the first, I have two amazing children who have gifted me with four grandchildren, soon to be five. And with the second, I learned to fly fish.

I shared today with a few people from my meditation group, that fly fishing serves my writing. When I leave my computer and head to the water (which of late has been far too infrequent), I discover different perspectives about that which I’m writing. I gain insights that are often shrouded by the busyness of my daily routines and my crowded calendar.

That’s what’s calling me now — more writing, undiscovered perspectives, and time on the water with my fly rod, where I know I’ll uncover more about myself and what it is I have to offer this world.

And as for “Bodi,” my son’s name for his unborn son, I trust he’ll understand why I’m the crazy grandma who spends time roaming the waters under the pines or wading with the stingray and redfish on tropical flats, listening to the whispers of the trout or the wind. I trust that he’ll know — just as I will — that I’ll make sense of it all and share what comes.

I may not be like my grandmother, whom my own children called “White Grandma,” who upon our arrival doled out handfuls of chocolate chips. I may not be around on a weekly basis to pick him up from school as I did his cousins or his sisters. And I definitely will not be making Rice Krispy Treats — with or without sprinkles — for his children’s baby shower — no matter who asks me and how much I love them. (What an awful sticky mess! Yes, I made them for his baby shower, with sprinkles, some with chocolate sprinkles to keep his sister, Abigail, happy.)

But I will visit, bearing my own gifts and most of those will likely be of story. I’ll trust that that’s what he needs from me as he grows into his life — and I grow into mine.

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