The other day I was walking the dog down Cedar Street east of where I live when a car pulled up and parked at a house just ahead of me. I watched as a gray-haired couple got out. They turned and looked toward the corner. The school bus had just let out its passengers, and now three children were running toward the older folks shouting, “Grandma! Grandpa!” I was barely past them before I started to cry.
Part of my emotion came from what’s been happening with my father. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I hurried to California last month when my dad became very ill with congestive heart failure and a blocked aortic valve. When I first got there, it looked like he could die any minute. He was so pale and so thin. Every time he dozed off, I looked to make sure he was still breathing. He rallied somewhat with the help of medication but faces heart surgery early next month.
While I was in California, we looked through piles of family photos of my grandparents and his grandparents. Dad showed me where things are in the house “in case I conk out.” We talked a lot about death, not an easy subject, but he needed to talk about it, and I needed to listen.
For my brother’s side of the family, Dad is “Grandpa.” But I never made him a grandfather. All I have to offer is myself and a dog. And I will never be a grandmother. Yes, my stepdaughter’s children called me “Grandma” for a while, but I haven’t spoken to either of them in years. They have their own grandmother and great-grandmother, but I don’t have any kids or grandkids I can claim as my own. My grandparents are all gone. So is my mother. In a few days, months or years, my father will be gone, too. So I cried as I walked the dog through our muddy streets on a cold November afternoon. It was just one of those moments.
Many of my readers here are younger than I am, wondering how it will be years from now if they never have children. I tell them it will get easier. It’s true. Once you get past menopause, once the time of worrying about whether or not you will become parents is over, you accept for the most part that your life is about other things than raising children. You get a lot more comfortable with the idea. But there will be moments like mine on Cedar Street when the reality hits you like a baseball bat and the tears come. As my dad is fond of saying, “That’s just the way it is.”
As always, I thank you for being here, and I welcome your comments.