by Paula Neidorf
The word Grandparent – foreign, terrifying, symbolic of something I will never be in my life.
Another empty hole, this one unknown, imagined.
It brings a heaviness and heartache that is indescribable.
I had two sets of grandparents, and I reflect on the joy I had and the special things they did with me as a young child. I know that feeling was reciprocal.
Our only child also had wonderful relationships with his grandparents.
We thought our family of three was the perfect number.
My life was taken away in this subtraction problem.
3 takeaway 1 = 2.
It zeroed out my love, my child, a future, and a legacy.
As my friends were adding to their collection of grandchildren, sporting pictures on cell phones and facebook, boasting of the next event (rightfully so), I somehow suspected I would never be a grandmother.
I expressed that, knowing Kevin was busy living his life, going on adventures without the responsibilities of a family.
Having children, seemed for now, not part of his plan for fulfilling his dream. I was ok with that.
After all, he gets to choose his path, as an adult.
But there were days, moments, and triggers of watching others prepare for occasions I would probably never take part in, that I naturally envied.
At times it bothered me to see and hear about things I might not experience. But I had my son, and the future with grandchildren or not was still uncertain.
Then came tragedy.
Tragedy became complete and utter destruction.
We not only lost a son, we lost our legacy – a continuation of who we are.
Our nuclear family is gone.
Our future has vanished.
Never to become a grandparent represents a concept, a vision, the tip of the iceberg above water level.
It is a secondary loss but is just as destructive.
We, the parents of only children or all our children no longer living, have also expired from devastation and the longevity that would naturally follow.
If to lose your only child or all your children is the most obliterating thing on earth, then to have no one to transfer memories, albums, heirlooms, within what we would call the nuclear family line, is something unexplainable.
We were hoping for that, counting on it. Facebook sites about loss are questioning who now takes the legacy from us; the photos, memoirs, the baby clothes, the first hairbrush, the trophies, the baby teeth we may have saved?
So many of us have no one. Who do we hand the baton to?
Or will the most important essence of our love and memories wind up in a dumpster?
Realistically, even nephews, cousins, nieces, if you are lucky enough to have them, will have their own collection of things to inherit. They do not want our stuff.
My mind repeats words that bounce off walls, reverberates, and deadens me, words like…
These words take on a different emotional meaning when you lose your child/children and have no grandchildren.
Navigating stores with pink and blue baby aisles – another daily reminder.
Playgrounds with swings, moms and grandparents with baby carriages, all trigger the complete emptiness.
Giggles, cuddling, comparing physical looks to personality between our child and their offspring… never to happen, all thoughts erased.
I now have no choice but to alienate myself for self-preservation, while I mourn, from those who continue to flaunt their children and grandchildren in my presence.
Yes, I say flaunt.
They know how I feel. Why then take out the cell phone in front of me to share pictures of their precious grandchildren?
Can you not wait till I walk away?
Holding their grandchild does not make me feel better.
Being substitute grandmother does not work for me, at least not now.
A friend posted on Facebook:
“When the child you love
Has a child you love
With all that is
Within you, only then
Will you know just how
Grand being a grandparent
I will never have this experience.
I can only imagine.
I can only unfriend these people, hide their posts, and distance myself.
I want them to understand that I sincerely wish them:
*only good fortune
*a long and healthy prosperous life filled with many healthy and happy grandchildren
However, please keep it to yourself.
I cannot deal with it..
Please understand this is about me, not you.
Do not be angry if I cannot attend your baby showers, hold your new grandchild, hear your stories, or view your cell phone pictures.
This doesn’t bring me peace, just angst and intense emptiness.
It is just too painful to accept that I will never have that warm, loving embrace, the cooing and the giggles of my own flesh and blood, or from an adoptive child I might have raised.
I could accept no grandchild if I still had my son, but not now.
This is a double whammy. No remaining children, no grandchildren, the worst possible place for any parent to be.
I am just trying to survive in a world that takes many things for granted as the “norm,” such as being a grandparent.