I'm in the Denver airport on my way to SFO, having left Texas where my son, daughter-in-law, and new grandson live. I feel biological, like some cavewoman, because I am balling my eyes out. I had nine days with my five-month-old grandson, with his wide, dimpled smile, squeals of delight, and screams and protests as he can't crawl yet, and to him, it seems like everything is out of reach!
Now, I am having "grandson detox," and I am flooded with images of him gazing at me while I feed him his bottle, reaching up and touching my face, wondering, "What is that?" and letting me burp him. Imagine having filled up on warm, sweet milk, then having someone sit you up and gently pound on your back? How intrusive! Until those beautiful burps come up, paving the way to being wrapped up and enjoying some peaceful slumber. It's not easy to be a baby, and being a grandmother is a new adventure!
Complex emotions and multi-layered feelings
If you are someone who loves babies – all of them – then this makes perfect sense, but I've never been one to wile away the day shaking a rattle in front of a baby to entertain them. Now, with my first grandchild, I'm rattling that rattle and loving every minute of it.
That's how the emotional brain works. It doesn't generalize to loving all people on the planet equally. And just the way every sexual experience is fresh and every birth of a child is fresh, every relationship is fresh. Just thinking of him fills me with at least 20 feelings, as images of him come to mind.
It's hard to talk about a really intense emotional experience like this. That's because the brain is firing and those circuits create a multi-layered experience, and to talk about it takes translating the emotions and sensations from the body (the emotional brain's activations, along with everything else) and when we put words to it (neocortical closure), we lose something.
Putting emotions and sensations into words
I'll give it a try: He feels cottony. Fluffy, sweet, on a body level, as if he is my child, but I don't have that responsibility – the "already worrying about college" angst. I have no daily responsibility for him, worries about such things I experienced with my children, the jaundice, the cut lip, the trip down the hill at Phoenix Lake that left my daughter with scars, the angst about . . . well, everything. I don't mean paralyzing angst, but as a first-, second-, and third-time parent (with my three kids), there was a lot to be aware of and a lot to learn to find out how to neutralize the pain and usher in a surge of joyful growth.
Back to cottony. Yes, I am removed. I cannot be his mother. I am his grandmother. My job is to support his parents in their sacred journey of parenting and try – really try – to not give unasked-for advice . . . unless NOT saying it would leave me feeling like I was neglecting them or my grandson. Fortunately, I was able (except for a few unfortunate times) to put a cork in it and tell them that only they knew, and to trust the deepest part of themselves.
Missing the baby already, having a good cry
So the outpouring of tears, the immense grieving of being away from my beautiful (OK, I'll say it, "the most beautiful baby on the entire planet that ever was or ever will be") grandson. Somehow, I believe our magical genes prepared us to love THAT little being so that we can adore them enough to manage to feed, change, bathe, play with, cuddle, and laugh with them.
Another element is feeling (really root-body feeling) my passed-away relatives, particularly my mom Mackey and my dad Papa. Their genes are being passed on. The circuits they wired into me are passing along not only to my children but to my grandchild (and it looks like two more to come), so their most fundamental wires of who my parents were have now become part of who this new little being is. Not the specifics, just the most fundamental expectations about what life is, who we are, and what we have come to earth to do.
Sadness begins to transform into joy
The gritty tears have led me to my brain's resiliency pathway, and now I've spiraled up through tender sadness and more, and right now? Right now I am still fragile. I'm going to be fragile for as long as I need to be fragile, and I trust if I stay on my resiliency pathway, feeling my feelings and the process, then I will come out the other side in an emotional state that is right for me.
If I stay with my feelings, really ride them out, I will be in joy. What I know for sure is that this precious little being has changed – and deepened – what I know about being alive, awake, and aware. Relationships do that!