I first published this when my first Granddaughter turned 21 in 2009. Now three of my grandchildren have attained this magical age. Ah, how the time files. I am re-publishing this because I have so many requests for Letters to Grandchildren as they grow to adulthood.
To my Granddaughter:
Twenty-one years ago today my life changed forever: my first grandchild was born.
I raced up the freeway in the middle of the night. My chest was ready to burst with anticipation. Nothing could prepare me for the joy of holding her in my arms. Her tiny perfect hands mesmerized me. The small fingers reached and then clenched and without touching me, grabbed my heart forever.
All of my grandchildren are born perfect. Raising my children I lived with a hyper-awareness of my responsibility to teach them, guide them, and bring them up in the ways they should go. I wish I had known then what I know now: that I am free to love, nurture, encourage and support; knowing that children are precious and needing only from me that I cherish them.
This pure beam of love from my heart to a newborn child has been repeated in my life. That night of my first grandchild’s birth was the beginning of a new love affair. The changes in me began immediately and continue.
The first thing I lost was the “age” vanity. Was I old enough to be a grandparent? You bet! I assiduously sorted through the options of grandmother names and happily chose, “Grammy.” The sound of it is still music to my ears. (Although I confess to shock when I first got a phone call and heard a man’s voice saying “Hi Grammy.” Am I old enough to be the grandparent of an adult? You bet!
I also lost any sense of responsibility for those on the periphery of my life if it interfered with my joy in my grandchildren or their joy in me. My priorities immediately changed and placed this small being at the top of my hierarchy of interests. At the time she was born, I was deeply immersed in running a successful business. The night I got the call that she was coming, I ran to the office, handled what I could, and hit the road. It was the beginning of a delicate juggling act, which I performed until my retirement.
Grandchildren have given me the gift of second chances to enjoy sitting on the floor rolling a ball back and forth; to put my cheek on the soft hair of a child as I we read a book together; of lying in bed with my face inches from trusting eyes watching me until sleep closes them; of coming up with new and different answers to the ever returning “why” of life. I have been able to look at these young people with joy and love without allowing the stresses of strains to daily life to interfere. When they are with me, they are my purpose for that time and place.
They renewed my interest in sports. It has never been a true interest: I have watched my children…not the games. Now I have watched cross-country in Burlington, Vermont and Ashland, Oregon. I have gone to soccer games in the Rockies, on the Oregon coast and points between. I’ve attended baseball, basketball and football games and golf tournaments in the heat, the cold, the wind, and all sorts of precipitation. I’ve even joined fantasy football and NCAA pools so that I can be up on current conversations. I have joyous memories of playing golf with a gaggle of grandchildren, some carrying a full bag of clubs and some so small as to be dragging a 9-iron behind them as we walked from hole to hole.
My cultural interests have expanded. I’ve attended plays, programs, piano recitals and symphony concerts, choir performances and extravagant shows with a proud grin on my face. (An Oregon Shakespeare Festival play has never been as enjoyable as a middle school performance of the Bard’s plays.) I’ve flown through bad weather, driven through the snow, and argued my way past security guards to make it to school programs and graduations from kindergarten through high school. My deep belief is that if anyone is depressed or bored they should go to a grade school or children’s church program to make their whole body smile.
I have studied French and Spanish and learned a few words in Chinese, Korean and Japanese so that I can understand as my grandchildren learn and grow. I have learned to understand, if not to speak, in the language of the new generation. I know that a sick puffy is a wonderful down jacket. I recognize, “I’m good” as the modern “no, thank you.” I’ve been cool, awesome, bad and sometimes embarrassing. I recognize “my bad” and like try to change it, you know.
I have traveled with them and to them to exotic places where we can all learn to be part of a greater world. I’ve learned that joy, love and pain are exponential. That what my grandchildren experience is intensified by two more generations as their parents and we experience it with them.
And so, Dear Granddaughter, I love, love, love you x 9. Thank you all for being born. Thank each of you for being who you are. And “Happy Birthday” to my precious first grandchild.