This weekend, I had the most fortunate opportunity to keep my granddaughter for a few days. One day, during our time together, I was pumping gas into the car, and looked into the back windshield, I could not see any part of her, not even the top of her head, only a single tiny hand held up, pointing to things outside the window. I remember looing at that tiny hand, and thinking of my son’s hand, on the day he told me they were expecting her. I remember that day so clearly, and as my son asked me to sit down and explained that he needed to talk to me, I remember throughout all his words, I kept looking at his hands. He was holding his hands in a most curious and unnatural manner. Which, as the conversation continued, I realized, his hands were that way because he was nervous, telling me that they were pregnant. I understand that is a very scary and exciting time all together, and it seemed to make sense in that moment.
The news of my first grandchild came on the heels of a time that was nothing short of an emotional rollercoaster. I was going through a divorce, having to move out of our home, my son was moving out on his own for the first time, I was going to have to stay with my mother, and my daughter was going to be living with her friends, as her family had graciously agreed to let her stay there since there was not room for both of us at my mother’s house. Facing the idea of being an “empty nester” all alone, and with no place to call home was, to say the least, devastating. I was excited about the news of a new baby, but scared if I would have anything to offer her- I was a failure myself and my life was a wreck, what could I possibly have to add to the quality of her life? Just before I first learned of my soon to be granddaughter, I had been going to a church. I had reached out to my “pastoral” staff at one point, as I had felt my life spiraling out of control and contacted them to explain my current situation and told them how I was feeling suicidal at that point, and I really needed help. Ironically, not one single member from the “church” reached out to me, to even acknowledge my cry for help, or to offer resources for help. I felt let down and very betrayed by the church that I had poured my heart and soul into, so at that moment, I turned my back on church and religion, just as they had done me.
Shortly after my granddaughter was born, I managed to find a house to rent for me and my daughter. We got settled in and I spent a lot of time going by my son’s house to help out with the baby. His place was on the way from and to work, so it was very convenient to stop by there through the week, and still close enough for going down on the weekends. However, after a while I noticed that my son never really let my granddaughter come to my house to stay, and they rarely came up to visit themselves. This went on for some time, and the more it seemed obvious, the more I felt hurt by this. I knew I had made a mess of my life, but I was trying so hard to put things back together to be the grandmother that she needed me to be.
It was quite some time before I was privy to the real reason she was not allowed to stay with me at my home. And in retrospect, I understand the decision. I had a neighbor at my new house, who I had come to befriend, and while I either failed or refused to see it for myself at the time, this friendship became extremely toxic. He became very influential over me and as a result, I had managed to seclude myself from family and friends. He would do things like, berate me for making plans with my friends in my car group to join them in an outing. He would tell me how juvenile being part of the car group was and he would tease me mercilessly about my friends in the group and even make up condescending nicknames for them. I would feel so guilty and shamed for making plans with the car group, that I would back out at the last minute. He would call or text me constantly and if I did not answer, he would cuss and shame me for not being there for him when he needed to talk and then give me the cold shoulder for days at a time. Over time, I came to realize that my “friend” was a narcissist and he was using the technique gaslighting as a form of mental control over me and secluding me from my family and friends was the way he was able to maintain that control. One evening my son had come up to visit with me and my daughter, and I had mentioned to my daughter in law that I notice that my granddaughter was never allowed to come to my house and spend time with me. She told me then that my son did not want her there because of my neighbor. I initially became very hurt and defended myself, saying that they should know I would never allow anything or anyone to hurt her. My son told me that he did know that but did not trust my neighbor and did not want her to be around him at all. From that point, I had started trying to restrict the amount of time that he spent at my home, but he was very intrusive to me and my daughter. He would come to our house, uninvited or when we informed him that we had plans, and usually try to start a fight with one or both of us. It became very clear at that point just how toxic of a friend he was. I later started dating, it was not something I had planned or even thought about doing, but I had thought that maybe with a male being around, he would eventually go on about his way. I was wrong. He seemed very threatened by my dating, and he tried to sabotage my relationship by always being very condescending toward my boyfriend. As time went on, things took a more serious turn such as finding doors opened in the morning, as if someone had been in the house during the night, or things out of place or missing after returning home. At that point, I realized my son had been justified in his concern about him, and I made the decision to move.
After moving, things began to fall more into place. And soon, my son began allowing my granddaughter to come to my house to spend the day and even the nights, on occasion with me. I began to develop a beautiful relationship with her. She became my whole world. We would have so much fun going to places like the science museum, the beach, and out for ice cream. She adored my boyfriend, and he absolutely adored her as well. My life began to have purpose and meaning again. I was always making plans around places I wanted to take her and things I wanted to do with her. She loves to explore and I enjoy seeing how excited she gets over learning something new or experiencing a new place for the first time. She seems to love rocks, and she collects one everywhere we go, which is very ironic, as I have always done the same. I even had a pet rock when I was a child, so I find her obsession with rocks some connection that we have together. She has truly become my best little friend.
She has a baby sister now, and I truly lover her as well, and I cannot wait to get to start making memories and building a relationship with her too. But, I feel like the bond that I have with my first granddaughter is, and will always be, a little different. Not that I am playing favorites, maybe just that natural difference in the relationship one has with their own children from the first born, to the baby- who seems to be the one that stays with you until later in life. Or perhaps, it is because she is the one that changed everything for me. Yes, as I stood there looking at her tiny hand held up in the window, and thinking of her daddy’s hand, I wished that could have gone back in time, at that moment, and told him that he had absolutely nothing to be nervous about. You see, son, the birth of that beautiful little girl, saved my life.