Where All Love Begins and Ends

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This past weekend was wonderful!  On Thursday, Teo and I departed San Diego on his first plane ride. Our visit originally had two purposes: to meet my new niece Charley Ann and to celebrate her brother, Cody Allen’s 4th birthday.  I couldn’t wait to cuddle with sweet two-month-old Charley and watch Mateo play with his cousins Cody and Lane.  The agenda included a family birthday party on Friday and a friend party on Saturday.  Otherwise, we didn’t have any plans other than spending time with family and cuddling baby Charley as much as possible.

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Charley is just as precious and adorable as I imagined!  She grinned and cooed back at our cooing and smiles.  Witnessing my sister, Sarah and brother-in-law, Casey manage their family of three was so lovely.  As Sarah handed Charley off to me for a diaper and clothing change, she commented: “You know it’s your third child and your sister when you walk away and don’t worry about anything.”  It’s true.  I gave Charley a bath, changed her a couple times, and rocked her to sleep more than once during our two day visit.  I loved the intimacy of being invited to step into my sister’s family and be helpful and connected to their daily routine.  Even though the visit was brief, I was truly present and left feeling like I got to know Charley.  Such a blessing!

A third purpose for our visit became known last week.  My mom’s mom (aka Nana to me) is 95 years old and has lived in a nursing home for several years.  She fell and broke her hip on Tuesday evening and had it surgically repaired on Wednesday.  I wanted to make a visit to Nana in the hospital.  Fortunately, we were able to drop Teo off with my sister and his cousins.  Cody couldn’t wait to see his “favorite friend Teo!” anyway.

Walking in to Nana’s hospital room, I was taken aback.  Not having seen her since last summer, in addition to the trauma of her fall and surgery, left her looking much frailer than I expected.  She’s been having some dementia set in, so I didn’t expect that she’d know me. Over the past decade, as our visit have been so infrequent, she often calls me by my cousin Cheryl’s name.  Nana has a lot of grandchildren and great-grandchildren!

Nana has always recognized my mom.  However, this time she didn’t right away.  Once my mom reminded her, recognition quickly set in.  Mom explained to Nana who I was and I leaned in close, taking Nana’s hand and smiling big.  As she studied my face and smiled sweetly back, I thought “She knows me!” but, then I quickly acknowledged that her reaction was more akin to Charley’s response of smiling back at someone smiling at her.  Regardless, it was a connection and that felt important and special.

We spent about an hour with Nana and our visit covered the entire spectrum of emotions.  Most of what Nana said didn’t make a lot of sense.  Nana has always made us laugh and this visit was no exception.  She had my mom and I in stiches with her explanations and commentary.   She was also characteristically feisty as she described some person who’d offended her… we’re still not clear who it was, but man, she pissed Nana off!

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Both mom and I had to fight back tears when Nana asked her, “Does mom know?”  She was referring to her own mother, who died the week before I was born, knowing about her being in the hospital.  My mom has had to explain to Nana several times over the past six months that her mom (aka Granny) was dead.  But, this time my mom sweetly replied, “Yes, she knows.”

Those moments in the hospital, sitting with my mom and her mom, I kept thinking, “This is what life is all about.”  Watching my mom lovingly care for Nana and sweetly kiss her on the forehead several times before we left, I was struck by the role reversal.  At Nana’s advanced age, she’s now like the child being nurtured.  As the end of her life nears (although who knows, she’s an awfully strong fighter!), Nana is looking for the comfort of her mother and finding it in the love and care of her daughter.

It was so poignant to visit with Nana right after meeting the brand new addition to our family in Charley Ann.  Bookends of life: the beginning and nearing the end.  In both, we have the love, devotion, and nurturing of our mother.  Robert Browning said: Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.  What a blessing to beautifully witness the stages of life and motherhood through Charley and Sarah, Mom and Nana.