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Archive for April, 2015

Lots-of-Candles-BirthdayThis beautiful essay on the New York Times “Opinionator” blog shows how powerful a tie can be between a woman and her granddaughter, especially as the granddaughter becomes an adult. And it ends in a way that, frankly, surprised me — just as it surprised some of the earliest commenters, who said that what the story really shows is that life is complex, and that end-of-life decisions have to be made in highly idiosyncratic ways.

The grandma in question was 93 years old and facing surgery for sepsis. Please let me go, the grandma begged her granddaughter, and please convince your mother (the older woman’s daughter-in-law) to sign off on that, too. But the daughter-in-law thought the real problem, besides the sepsis, was that Grandma was depressed. So she insisted on surgery, which the older woman got, and also on treatment for her depression. And the result was that the grandmother lived another 9 years, happy, thriving, painting watercolors and writing poetry and generally having a blast.

Wendy Spero, the author, was lucky to have both of these women in her life: the grandmother, whose mantra was “Do whatever your heart desires,” and the mother, who always said “If you’re an artist, you’re an unhappy waitress.” These different world views didn’t just reflect the juxtaposition of heart versus practicality, as Spero concludes; they reflected, also, a juxtaposition of the roles themselves. The mother’s job is to make sure her child is capable, productive, independent. The grandmother’s job, enviably, is just to make sure her grandchild lives a life of joy in which she feels cherished and heard.

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a leg up

house-320x233Unless the real estate market in Brooklyn in 2015 is far crazier than it already seems (considering the insanely inflated prices in the parts of Brooklyn where today’s version of yuppies are choosing to live) — by which I mean unless putting in a bid on a house and getting it accepted by the seller isn’t really the least bit binding — unless something weird happens, in other words, it looks like Nutmeg and Southpaw just bought themselves a house. And it’s a house in a part of Brooklyn that looks like the town in Maryland where Nutmeg grew up — though when I said that to her, she said that this is a part of Brooklyn that’s said to remind everyone of the town where he or she grew up.

That seems like a good sign, doesn’t it? A sign that it will be a good place for Grandbaby to grow up, too?

They’re buying the house with their close friends, another couple with a baby, which makes the crazy-expensive house more affordable. But the only reason they can swing it is that iDaddy and I have given them some money for a down payment, and Southpaw’s parents have given them, or rather lent them, even more. Which is nice for Nutmeg and Southpaw but not so nice for us as a society, already brutally split between the haves and the have-nots. The leg up that we’re happy to give our kids in this way will only accentuate that split, and will give our kids and our grandkids a chance to live more spaciously, go to better schools, run around in backyards, and do all the other things that will make their lives easier right from Day One. It’s sad, that dreadful division that we’re only serving to perpetuate. But here’s the rub: I’m also enormously thankful that we can do it.

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bassinetThere’s something of a sense of unreality to Nutmeg’s preganancy, which I guess is part of what it means to be an expectant grandmother rather than an expectant mother. Even when we saw her this weekend for a baby shower; even when we went up to her apartment and saw the little bassinet they’d set up in the living room with its bunch of teeny tiny gifts lined up in an adorable tableau; even when we went to dinner and I sat next to Nutmeg and was able to feel the baby moving, with an intense sense memory of how it felt to be the one carrying the child rather than the one with her hand on the belly; even with all that, I can’t quite picture what it will mean to have a baby in our lives, a baby crying all night long in our house at the beach, a baby AT the beach with us, wearing the delicious little bathing suit I couldn’t resist buying for the present iDaddy and I brought to the shower. (It was a co-ed shower, very low-key.) Maybe this is what it takes to make it super-clear to me that this is not really MY life that’s changing, it’s THEIRS, Nutmeg’s and Southpaw’s — another pivotal “aha” moment in the ongoing adventures of parenting grown-ups.

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dorothy_parker_kris_hedingWhen you use a Dorothy Parker quote from three generations ago to highlight a phenomenon you’re trying to suggest is something new in this generation, maybe you need to consider whether the phenomenon you’re talking about is actually all that new. That’s the advice I’d give, gratis, to David Brooks, whose New York Times columns are often provocative and interesting but are occasionally a bit smug — especially when he’s talking about his new favorite topic, morality and character-building.

The Dorothy Parker quote in today’s column concerned child-rearing. Americans children aren’t raised, they’re incited,” Parker supposedly said. If it was true then, it’s even truer now, Brooks continued; “a thousand times” more true. Maybe he just had a bad day at the Google quote machine.

His point is one that many others have been making for a long time — and I hope they’re all wrong: that this latest generation of kids is being excessively praised and excessively “honed,” to the point that they feel that the only approval and love they get from their parents is contingent on their performance. Quite apart from the fact that this is an argument that is internally inconsistent — how can you object to parents praising their kids for just being themselves, but also object to them praising their kids only if they show their talent? — I think it’s just plain wrong. I like to read pieces like this in a different way now, with an eye toward imaging what life will be like for my incipient grandchild. I’m afraid that this time, Brooks offered me nothing interesting to think about.

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jicamaI’m not surprised that Nutmeg is turning out to be, as Southpaw puts it, a “hardy pregnant lady.” She’s pretty much been hardy her whole life — or maybe the better word for it is uncomplaining. I actually can’t remember a time when she complained about anything, other than when she got chicken pox at about the age of 7 and seemed to think it was somehow my fault. (She was always very angry at me about her chicken pox, and refused to let me try to soothe her — I have a photo of her glaring at me from a baking-soda bath with terrible accusation in her eyes.)

So it’s nice to see that this hardiness, or stoicness, is getting her through pregnancy. She’s at Week 32 now, her baby currently the size of a jicama — the iPhone app CuteFruit no doubt runs out of less exotic produce to compare fetus sizes to over the course of a whole pregnancy, and this week jicama it is — and yesterday Nutmeg’s doctor did another sonogram, apparently just because she could. All is looking good in there, Nutmeg reports to us. She and Southpaw could recognize a fist and not much else. The doctor assured them that after the baby is born, things like arms and legs will be a lot easier to identify.

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small circle

huge.49.247975I never had a whole lot of friends, so the ones I do, I treasure. And in much the same way that I was the first person in my small circle to have a baby, I seem to be among the first in my slightly-different small circle to have a grandbaby.

Here’s the best thing about those friends: they’re so curious about how it all feels. One of my oldest friends from junior high, whose son is the exact same age as Nutmeg but is still single, keeps begging me for photos so she can vicariously experience the thrill of Nutmeg’s growing belly. And my friend Wisteria, whose daughter has known Nutmeg since they were both in day care together when they were TWO MONTHS OLD, wrote an email today about the impending arrival. “It’s weird to think that your life will forever be punctuated by her birth,” Wisteria wrote. “My god, don’t you already understand all those people who do nothing but talk about their grandchildren? I’m already doing it and she’s not even my grand baby.”

Friends who revel in my good news — how lucky is that? We’ve all waited for what feels like a very long time for our kids to start procreating, watching with trepidation as our own bodies start to give out, hoping still to have the wherewithal to change a diaper or run after a toddler when the time comes. I’m glad my own time is approaching (and not a moment too soon; my right knee is killing me), and glad that friends like Wisteria are waiting in the wings to cheer.

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treesToday was the kind of day that makes life worth living — and I took a photo of what I mean by that just so I’d never forget. Gorgeous day in early spring, a walk across my beloved Central Park just north of Sheep Meadow, cherry trees in bloom, and an ice coffee and chocolate chip cookie in hand.

I was thinking about what small pleasures, exactly, MIGHT actually make life worth living because I was on my way to New York Hospital, where Ur-Momma has been since Thursday. After 30 hours in the ER she was finally given a room, and it’s a surprisingly nice one; she’s been at this hospital a couple of times in the past 4 or 5 years, and never before has she had a bed with a window, and a window that looked straight onto the East River. On a sunny Saturday, that’s pretty great.

cookieIt would be more great, of course, if Ur-Momma could remember why she was there (GI bleeding and severe anemia), or could remember that she was in a hospital at all. But she was alert enough during my visit this afternoon — she even had gotten dressed and was sitting up in a chair, eating her cherry jello and clear chicken broth and reading the New York Times — to tell me that the days at home have been passing very very slowly for her, and she feels very very lonely. Can a person be truly demented if she’s able to describe her own isolation as “feeling de trop“?

She did come up with one thing that might entertain her — being brought to the Met and pushed around in a wheelchair to look at the paintings. I think this is something I’m going to see about having her aide do one day soon. Not yet, though. First we have to figure out how to make her bleeding stop (it doesn’t seem to be doing it on its own, so there might be a colonoscopy and cauterization on the horizon for Monday), fix her anemia (after 4 transfusions, her blood count is now pretty much normal, but we have to see if it holds), and let her get used to being home for a while. In the meantime, many people who love her — her sister, THREE of her grandchildren, her daughter-in-law — called during my 4-hour visit. So clearly, her feeling of being de trop is mostly a mind set. And, I guess, a reflection of the fact that when you’re 90 years old, no one needs you anymore, so the definition of happiness can’t be the sense of being needed. When you’re 90, frail, widowed, not especially mobile and relatively alone, you have to come up with a new definition of what makes your particular life worth living now.

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