My mom’s own mom died young, just after I was born. She died so shortly after my birth there are only a handful of pictures of the two of us together. For most of my life this piece of family history—my grandmother’s early death—was just part of the catalog of things I knew but didn’t spend a lot of time contemplating.
Only in the last year of raising my own girls have I started to consider the impact of becoming motherless at 18, as my mom did.
I don’t know what my grandmother was doing while my mom was in labor with me, but she was probably too ill with cancer to do as my mom did, which was to keep vigil on the first floor of the hospital after I kicked everyone out of the laboring room. Several states away she wasn’t able to post a handmade Welcome Home sign for her granddaughter. Those things really mattered to me, as did learning how unexpected and unique and different and indescribable my mother’s love as a grandmother was.
I can’t imagine being a mother without having my mother a phone call away.
I can’t imagine not sharing Josie stories and Georgia laughs.
I can’t imagine not seeing my mom sprinkle leaves on Georgia’s head, comb Josie’s hair, dole-out ice cubes at their request.
How did my mom do it without her mom? How is my mom such a capable, loving, admirable, and show-stopping mother? I don’t know, but I am so glad to have her with me.
I wish I could give my mom more time with her own mom, so my grandma could see what a fantastic mom and grandma her daughter turned out to be.
Of this photo of me, my mom, her mom, and her mom’s mom, my mom says:
Why did we only take one photo? Gabrielle is howling and Gramma is looking sideways, concerned. Only my mom and I are looking dead on at the camera. It is February, 1976; Gabrielle is just born, two months old. My Gramma, Josephine, always said she was the year plus nine, so she is 85. I shared a room with her until I was 12. My mother was 44 when I was born, and she will be dead in five months. Her mother will live almost two years longer, until 1978. There are four generations on this couch on Prospect Drive, but why did we take only one shot?