This is normally the place every week where I put a piece of my first-pregnancy-memoir-in-progress. This week I'm going to make a slight departure from that usual schedule and post something else.
Here's what happened: I was asked to submit a first-person piece to a leading parenting magazine. There was no promise of publication but of course I poured my heart and soul into the piece. I rewrote the entire thing following some requests and found photos that could run with it. I told my family and friends that it was going to run in the June/July issue. Then I got an email saying that the last editor who was needed to sign off on its publication decided "to pass" instead.
I was disappointed. Not angry, of course. Just disappointed. And hormonal. But thus is the life of a (self- proclaimed) writer. You have to knock on a lot of doors, and kick a few in, before you get to the place you want to be professionally. So after I replied to the email graciously and genuinely thanked the editor who had helped me rework the piece into something I was quite proud of, I had an idea.
Hey.... I have a blog.
I have readers. I'm the only editor who needs to sign off. What the heck? I'll just publish it myself.
So here you go readers. I saved you a trip to newstands.
Regularly scheduled Memoir Monday programming will return next week.
Reluctance Turned Reward: How Kindness Endures
|Sleeping on Grandpa|
“Next month… I already had a baby shower… It’s a family name… Yes, I like it too… That’s not necessary... No thank you… Well, if you insist… Thursday? Okay.”
I hang up and sink down into the swivel barstool, hand across my mountain of a belly, as the anxiety of cold calling my daughter’s grandparents escapes my body. Their son had rejected our daughter and I was afraid they would too. Yet once her due date was within a calendar page, I felt the overwhelming responsibility to reach out.
It was with reluctance that I accepted their invitation to dinner. Yet, with each passing breadstick, I felt oddly at ease with these strangers with whom I now shared a life.
My daughter’s grandfather Bill was one of the first to hold her at the hospital. When my maternity leave ended, he asked to help take care of her during the day. I wanted to be withholding – to punish them for the sins of their son. I thought of my daughter instead and accepted his offer.
|'Two bald heads...'|
Despite doctors’ reports, Bill helped my daughter dig into her first birthday cake. He moved all of his Boston Red Sox knick-knacks to higher ground when she started to walk. On Saturdays, he made her pancakes and his trademark peanut butter syrup. When I could not make ends meet, he invited us to come live in their home.
“I can’t do that,” I sobbed through the phone.
“It’s easy. Here’s what you do. Get a big truck, load up your stuff and the baby and get over here.”
I cried even harder.
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Never, ever feel sorry for yourself. ”
I started packing up the ladybug-themed nursery as soon as we hung up.
We moved into two comfortable bedrooms at the back of his house. It took him an entire afternoon to reassemble her crib but he was determined to do it alone. He often remarked that I was too skinny and served me vegetables direct from his deep fryer. With three grown stepsons out of the house, a busy high school junior for a daughter, and a wife that had to work two jobs, Bill enjoyed the extra company we provided. He would talk to me about politics and celebrity gossip from his burgundy leather recliner.
“I’m not going to make it to my daughter’s high school graduation,” he confided on a stormy October afternoon. I almost missed this revelation as a loud clap of thunder rattled the windows.
“Yes you are. Don’t be silly,” I offered with emptiness.
He leaned forward on his boney knees and removed his glasses.
“No, I’m not. I can’t tell my daughter that. I can’t tell my wife that. So I’m telling you.”
I reached out and squeezed the coolness of his frail hand.
“Your secret is safe with me.”
About a month later, I was offered a promotion over 1,000 miles away. It was clear that Bill was on the losing end of his diagnosis. How could I take my daughter away now?
Bill sensed my reluctance. He told me to do what was best for my family.
“But you are my family. You are our family now,” I countered.
“I want you to do what is best for that little girl. Take the job,” he said. A wicked grin spread across his weathered face as he added, “I’m sick of you two crowding me anyway.”
A Thankful Farewell
We flew back six weeks after the move to say good-bye to Bill. He could not speak but smiled when his granddaughter sat on his Hospice bed. His emaciated frame moved cautiously at even the most menial of tasks and my own body stiffened when I realized that he really was dying. I caught a glimpse of a smile he and my daughter shared and I thought back to that first phone call. Maybe my daughter wouldn’t remember her Papa, but he had left a positive imprint on her life -- and on mine. I reached out and squeezed the coolness of his frail hand, forever thankful for taking a risk.
You can contact Katie by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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