51: She Understood

51: She Understood

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

She Understood

A grandma is warm hugs and sweet memories. She remembers all of your accomplishments and forgets all of your mistakes.

~Barbara Cage

I had been trying to have this conversation with my grandmother for a long time. Four months. Four months since I left the harsh streets of Brooklyn and the unaccepting, neglectful home of my father. Four months since my last period. I was fourteen years old and I didn’t know much about anything, but I knew enough to realize I was pregnant.

I thought that maybe if I just forgot what happened, it would go away. I thought that maybe my belly would stop growing. That maybe I would stop throwing up and be able to eat again.

I had no idea how my grandmother would react. She had always been so loving when I was a young child. There were eleven of us grandchildren at the time but I felt like I had always been her favorite.

She had become a mother at the age of fifteen and I knew she always wanted so much more for me. So when I started to tell her, the words wouldn’t come out. All I could do was cry. I ran from the small living room of the two-bedroom trailer that housed seven people, through the screen door and out on to the wooden front porch. It was an October night in North Carolina. It was cold out. Cold, now that was something I was used to.

I stood there crying and shaking. I stared out into the black sky; the stars looked blurred through my tears. I heard the screen door creak open behind me. My grandmother stood beside me and placed her hand on my shoulder. She looked down at my bare feet, my toes purple from the chill of the night air, and asked, “Are you pregnant, honey?”

My anguish and terror spilled out in sobs as I muttered, “yes” over and over again. When I found enough courage to look into my grandmother’s face, her brown eyes were glowing with warmth. She was smiling. She took my hand and guided me back inside. “You certainly can’t be out in this cold with no shoes on your feet, dear. How about I run you a bath?”

My fears all melted away in that bath. It was the most peaceful place I had ever found myself. Afterward, my grandmother wrapped me inside her bathrobe. I had always loved that robe. Grandmother would wear it in the early mornings as she cooked breakfast and read the newspaper. I am not sure of the material, but it was fabulously soft.

It felt as though I was wrapped in warm clouds. I rubbed my arms, hugging myself, and began to look deep into the baby pink fabric of the robe. I was studying it so closely and for the first time since I realized the truth of my situation, I had a pleasant thought. I was thinking about what color my baby would wear.

My grandmother knew what I was thinking. She smiled and said, “Maybe we’ll have us a baby girl.”

I smiled back. “Maybe.” That night my grandmother told me stories of pregnancy and birth. We laughed, we planned, and we figured out what my next steps should be. We talked about everything from prenatal vitamins to college funds for the baby. My grandmother told me the story of my birth and the first time she saw me in the bassinet through the glass window in the nursery. I had heard that story many times before, but tonight it was even more special.

I have often been told that being a parent does not come with a book of instructions. Well, for those of us who are lucky, we can find many answers in the words and actions of the women who came before us.

That October night in North Carolina was a pivotal moment that shaped my future. Grandmother’s strength, acceptance, and guidance in that moment have always served as a motivating force in my life. There is nothing quite like a mother’s love, except perhaps for one thing: the love of a grandmother.

~Patricia Dublin

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