When our newest grandsons, twins Ellis and Brady, were born last October, we spent a lot of time together. Sleep schedules were nonexistent and 4-year-old big brother, Adler, needed some attention from Mom, too, especially when our son-in-law had to begin doing a small amount of traveling for work.
I spent a few nights rocking one twin to sleep, putting him down ever so gently, and picking the other one up, repeating lullabies and gentle back-patting for hours on end, watching the street lights fade into morning and content with a night well spent as we began to know each other.
There is nothing more important to a grandparent than creating that indelible bond with a new grandchild. I honestly believe they began to know my voice and the soothing repetition of our rocking in the nursery by the streetlight’s glow. It was a special, idyllic time for a few months as they learned my touch at bottle time and my track up and down their backs for a burp. We smiled at each other when diapers were changed and swaddles were velcroed tightly. Blessed time together.
And then it was March, and the world tipped irrevocably.
We were all in the vulnerable age groups—John and I at the upper end of the spectrum, the babies and their brother at the opposite end. FaceTime could never be the same as the touching and swaddling and rocking we once knew. The babies were growing and learning and adding teeth and making sounds we’d never shared. And doing it without us.
They took walks but never interacted with people other than their immediate family. We missed out on storybooks with them in our laps and squealing bath times with babies wrapped in warm towels. Their first babbles and first scoots and first Easter and first Mothers Day were shared by video and phone calls. Guess The Baby became a daily game as Brady grew hair to rival his brother’s and Ellis filled out thigh rolls to match Brady’s.
Finally, one beautiful June afternoon, we were able to meet up with them, social distancing on their patio with masks on. I cried at the nearness of them.
The next visit, we were able to hold them. There was no recognition, no easy molding into my arms. Each of them in turn stared at our masks, unsure of the unfamiliar vantage point their parents had adopted and reaching for the comfort of their arms.
We have some catching up to do, and we’re up to it. They were interested when we shared our first indoor visit, bouncing with delight in their circular molded contraptions on the floor, and actually smiling at us. I sang their lullabies to them and barely held their bottles—they’ve passed the need for my help.
They sit in high chairs now, and as I helped feed them mashed bananas there were tentative smiles and fingers reaching for the spoon. I put a couple of strawberry puffs into the little hollow on the tray meant for a cup in the near future and Brady signed more. And giggled.
Last week, it was green beans, and Brady reached for the little hollow and smacked at it until I put the puffs he remembered into it. Ellis put his hands over his face in peek-a-boo mode, the way we had done the week before. He remembered. This is going to be fun. The earliest months couldn’t be ours in the easy, familiar, expected way it was with our other grandchildren.
Circumstances cheated us of that.
But these days are all the more treasured because of it. I will cherish those earliest memories but also revere the newfound adventures we gradually share, never taking our time together for granted, always looking forward to the tomorrows I pray we will be blessed to share.