In having her first child in her mid-30s, My Daughter the Admirable Woman appears to me to have come into being who she was always meant to be; and somehow, so have I, and this was very unexpected. I always thought that if I ever had grandchildren, their being 3000 miles away would be very hard, and I was perfectly content not to have them. Now, the heart-pricking distance seems very hard. And if I lived close, they would still be busy, and I still would not want to be a pest. But there would be times that I could see my granddaughter, hold her. But I cannot overwrite the axiom that I do not fly, that I do not travel; it is simply too undoing to my health. I would arrive useless and it would take me a very long time to recover. I hate these limits, and I hate explaining them even more.
So, like a lot of long-distance grandparents, I find myself masterminding strategies for patiently waiting for the Admirable Woman to set up Skype, to e-mail, especially pictures, to call. And she is so terribly busy, and she is so terribly involved now, for the first time, in something in which I can at last take a true and heartfelt interest — her own family — and it’s just very hard. But every photo and brief message with that dopey tagline, “sent from my iPhone” is a font of joy and outright gushing. It’s the down-gush, the timeless valley between up-gushes, that is difficult. It is as difficult as anything I have ever done.
The down-gush, that timeless valley, is full of tripwires and idols. As my pastor says, sometimes God’s sheep just fall off a cliff. Temper flares at perceived deprivation of an object of desire. Substitutions are sought. I cannot yet hold my grandbaby, so I’ve suddenly developed an obsessive interest in Corning Ware, as if Pyrex and Corelle were the very manifestation of eternity. I catch myself, shake myself: it’s fine to enjoy vintage Corelle mugs for their iconic American simplicity and sturdiness, but these are not eternal life. Nor is there salvation through one’s grandchildren. As precious and as necessary as they immediately seem to become, the most important thing I can know is that God will have withheld not one single good blessing from my hand, even if I never touch my granddaughter’s perfect skin.
On the up-gush, my granddaughter was declared at one week to be very strong and to have excellent muscle coordination. At 11 days old, she is one of the most busy people on the planet: she is processing the syntax of English, a subject-verb-object (SVO) language, and the cadences of her parents’ speech. Her parents purpose that she will be bilingual, and are probably speaking Spanish with her as well, her mom to the best of her schooled ability, and her dad with comfortable fluency. She is visually imprinting their faces, and the faces of visitors, and the extraordinary face of the genius boxer, who is pouty but acquiescent to her superior-being status. She can raise her head and suck her thumb. It’s all so much work, and so very wonderful.
And some very wonderful things are just very hard.