That memory of the evening when my phone rang will remain with me forever. “Mum I am expecting a baby” her words were dancing a tune and I could feel the joy coming over the airways. After the call was over I sat down and was immediately brought back to a similar phone call some years previously when my eldest daughter rang me from Atlantic City to tell me that I was going to be a grandmother to my first grandchild. I recalled how difficult and painful it was to be so far away from her and now I was journeying down the same path as my youngest daughter was living in Sydney in Australia. I already knew how I was going to miss my daughter and her baby growing up in her womb.
One morning, I was at my desk supposed to be writing up notes but my heart and my mind were over in Sydney. I lifted my pen and started a conversation with my new grandchild. This was my first page.
~ Wednesday, 20th February, 2008 ~
I call you Peanuts because that is what your Mum and Dad have called you. I have just seen a picture of your scan and you are 7.5 weeks old, a beautiful little miracle less than one inch long. I was filled with deep emotion and love as I looked at it. I cannot help but imagine what you are. Are you a little girl or a little boy? It really doesn’t matter because I know I will love you so much. I have said so many times that a grandchild is a wonderful gift so I am all excited as I wait for your coming.
I am going to put your picture up in my office at home and each morning I will talk to you. I will tell you stories about your Mum when she was a little girl. I will ask the angels to protect you as you grow and also to look after your Mum as she carries you snugly in her tummy.
I continued writing in the form of a letter telling her about the morning her Mum was born at home and the midwife was looking for my husband who had, by this time, escaped to Mass. His excuse was that he wanted to give thanks for the safe delivery. I thought he may have gone to the pub. The Irish men in those days didn’t linger too long in the delivery room, if indeed they came in at all. I told her stories about Ireland. I wrote about the joy of hearing that she was born and what it was like when we first met. I continued my writing to her up until her first birthday, when she was still living in Sydney. Not long after Leila’s first birthday I got the word that Leo was on the way. I knew I had to do the same for him; Letters to Leo. In 2013 my son and his partner were expecting their first child Ava Jane. I wrote one for her, again, telling her stories of Mum and Dad and what was happening in the world during that time.
Of course, I now know that the love between a grandchild and a grandparent is the purest love that one can experience. Now and again one of them will say “Nana I was reading my little book last night in bed”. I believe that along with love, one of the greatest legacies is passing on the family history and especially the funny stories. My grandson, on return to school after lockdown, was encouraged through writing to express his feelings whilst in lockdown. He wrote this beautiful poem, his first, at the age of ten:
Keep Hold of Hope
For if you let go
Life is an unloved Heart
Withered with snow
Keep hold of hope
For if it goes away
Life is a poisoned leaf
Starting to decay
Keep hold of hope
For if you leave
Life is a challenger
That cannot succeed
I hope I may have inspired and encouraged him.
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