Grandchildren, Grief, Grace & Gratitude

Tom-of-the-coast-of-Maine-2Most of the posts on this blog deal with social and political issues.  This post is more personal but I hope that it resonates with other grandparents whose lives and hearts have been transformed by the arrival of a new, small, speechless, innocent person:  their grandson or daughter.

Just about two months ago our family was gifted with a new member who weighed just over seven pounds.  As any new grandparent, I was overjoyed at the birth and anxious to meet my grandson.  He was born in Hawaii and my wife and I live in Rhode Island so we boarded a plane and eagerly headed West.

As I expected just seeing, touching, holding and smelling this precious infant filled me with joy and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for his life and for the opportunity, along with other members of the family, to nurture him along life’s way.  I doted over him as did my wife and his parents who showered him with love.  He was/is cherished.  I watched his parents care for him.  I watched my wife care for him. I watched my in-laws care for him. And, I care/d for him myself.

A surprising thing began to happen to me as my heart opened and embraced my grandson.  The more I cherished him, the more aware I became of a feeling of sadness stirring deep within me.  I was  perplexed.  Where was this sadness coming from in the midst of such joy?  Was I suffering a bout of depression that I had struggled with earlier in life?  Why were my hands shaking? Why did I feel joyful and a bit empty at the same time?

It took several weeks and the help of others, like my wife, to recognize what was going on.  The joy and hope I felt as I held my grandson had awakened long repressed and pre-verbal memories of my own childhood.  My grandson was clearly loved and I knew he felt that love even though he could not speak or understand the spoken word.  He could feel it in the most primal of ways.

Although I imagine that my parents did the best they could, I never got this primal message of being cherished and protected.  Somehow my core feelings were loneliness, fear and trembling.  The love I felt for my grandson was naturally and inexorably putting me in touch with a deep sense of grief.  I was/am grieving never feeling those primal feelings of love and safety.

Grieving like this has been a very good thing.  It has made me much more profoundly aware.  Letting feelings come to the surface and sharing that grief with others like my wife, siblings, children, friends and readers of this blog is enabling me, at age 68, to consciously and positively incorporate my sense of loss during my own infancy and childhood into the man I am today.

My grandson and the love I have for him has opened and deepened my heart and I can feel joy without having to psychologically bury the pain of the past.  Each day of my grandson’s life is a day in which I can feel real joy without having to repress the negativity of my own childhood.    For this grace, I am deeply grateful.

Enough about me.  I would prefer to meditate on the grandchildren everywhere who bring new life and hope both into world at-large and into the lives of everybody who has the chance to love and nurture them.  They are all grace-in-the-flesh.