“What are you going to be for Halloween?”
“A grandmother,” I replied.
“Like Estelle on Golden Girls with gray wig and baggy clothes?”
“No. No costume necessary,” I replied. “I will be a grandmother.”
Back in March, I was curious when my son and his wife asked me to dinner. I could tell there was an announcement coming by his familiar breathy and fidgety behavior, like he was about to tell me he had to build a model out of popsicle sticks, and it was due tomorrow.
“Soooo, we’re having a baby at the end of October.” He paused. “And we’re moving to Connecticut.”
“Oh!” I said, knowing that the excitement didn’t reach my eyes. “How exciting!”
Last summer when my ex-husband asked when they planned to have kids, I had said a bit too emphatically, “take your time!
“Not me,” said the man who was my 3rd child for 25-years. “I can’t wait.”
After the big announcement, I called my friend. “I’m not ready for this,” I whined.
“It’s not about you,” she replied.
But my feelings are about me. I’m allowed to feel sadness. Distance and a new baby will mean my son and his wife will no longer be a phone call away from a dinner, concert, or art exhibition.
I felt grief. Images of how I had visualized my grandmother-hood — wrapped toys under a Christmas trees in my suburban house; Easter egg hunts in my backyard; trips to the zoo, swinging little hands with my husband on their other side — were added to the long list of loss after divorce.
I felt guilt. As a new, middle-aged single woman, I felt more connected to my younger self than I had in the last thirty years, and frankly, I didn’t want to meet the traditional grandmotherly expectations of moving nearby to be an on-call babysitter.
“So, you’ll be a ‘granny,’” people said when I told them about my son’s baby.
“Oh god, no.”
Neither a “granny,” nor a “nana,” nor a “grandma.” They sounded so…well, old. I had considered GiGi since it’s a nickname of Virginia. Except, my daughter-in-law’s mother, a grandmother four times over, is already GG. Let’s add frustration to the list of emotions, along with anxiety that I’d have to spend forced time with my ex-husband after months of very intentional limited interactions.
Of course, I didn’t share these emotions with my son and his wife. I plastered a smile on my face and took them stroller shopping; told charming stories about my son as a baby; hosted a shower at my small place in Manhattan.
My therapist coached me to drop the guilt. “No one is asking you to move,” she said. “You can define your role as a grandmother any way you want.”
I worried about the distance. “Don’t forget the impact you had on your nieces and nephews,” my friend Sonia reminded me. “You’ll spend more time with your grandchild than the once or twice a year you saw them.”
“What would the holidays look like?” I asked my mother on a call.
“You always know how to make things fun,” Mom said. “I can’t wait to see what you’ll come up with.”
Four hours old, as I studied this perfect little guy in my arms, it felt natural. I knew then that I will take on this new role my way. It will be another new adventure — with this little guy beside me — to look forward to. With no horrible gray wig and baggy clothes in sight, of course.