Other animals are still alive when their young have young, and yet we don't say that they become grandparents. Because a grandparent is something beyond the parent of a parent. A grandparent is a role. Being a grandparent is, anthropologists believe, the reason we live beyond our fertility. We teach our children how to be parents (even if the parent chooses to follow some other expert in this skill) and give our grandchildren a special kind of love.
Grandparents seem to be in the air lately. I have posted about my great-grandmother being raised by her great-grandmother and my own experiences with my grandfather; Jon Carrol has written a column about a day he spent with his granddaughter, Alice at SFGate.com. I found myself e-mailing Jon:
Every child needs at least one adult who the child believes doesn't know that the child ever does anything wrong. And, since children equate chewing with their mouths open with shoplifting on the serious scale, and parents are under such pressure to civilize them, grandparents are a wonderful bet to fill that role. We know that the things they do are not that serious and so we know that they don't do anything really wrong.
And in return, they allow us to return to the world of living in the now. I think we're getting the better of it, but I remember my grandparents and how special and loved they made me feel, and I'm not sure -- that was a wonderful feeling.
Robert Brady, at Pureland Mountain has been writing about the visit of his three young granddaughters since August 3rd. Both Jon and Robert have been saying things that really speak to me and my experience of having a granddaughter.
Then, I was over visiting Lasiter Space and read the following lovely statement that Jay made about me:
Finally, Maya's Granny shares a story about the good old days when she was a wee one at her Grandpa's almond orchard in California. I love granny 'cuz she always has such a sweet and smart and sensitive take on life. Her commentary is laced with love, experience and most of all heart. It makes me miss my grandparents and all the little anecdotes that they had to share.
And suddenly, I realized. I'm the granny!
It isn't just (how could you call the most wonderful experience in the world, just?) that I have a grandchild. It isn't just (how marvelous, not just) that I feel all warm and gooey inside when I see that Maya has my father's feet and cowlick. It isn't just (never just, oh miracle of miracles) that I see my family continue on in her.
It is that I. Am. The. Granny. I am the person who holds that space of total acceptance for Maya. I am the person who writes the stories of her mother's childhood and my life and family history just for her. I am the one who writes poems for her. I am the one who has the "little anecdotes" to share. I am the one who happily listens to her count to 1,000 in Roman Numerals (Ai. Ai-ai. Ai-ai-ai. Ai-vee. Vee. Vee-ai.) while paying long distance charges. I am the one who tells her about when her Uncle Richard was five years old and kept an eggplant in a basket and polished it until it rotted, calling it "that beautiful thing". I am the one who e-mails her every comic strip I see that features a snail (have I told you that Maya loves snails and lets them walk on her?) I am the one whose answering machine message says that I live 1,474 miles from the center of the universe (the distance from my front door to hers) and ends with "Leave a message and Maya's Granny will call you back." I am the one who makes Maya feel like my grandparents made me feel. Like Jay's grandparents made him feel.
I am that wonderful person, a grandmother. Thank you for pointing that out, Jay. Hey, Jon. Hey, Robert. You, too. You are grandfathers. It isn't just that you have these marvelous granddaughters. It is also that you are these marvelous carriers of family history and love and acceptance.