8: Good News, Bad News

8: Good News, Bad News

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grand and Great

Good News, Bad News

Babies are such a nice way to start people.

~Don Herrold

Hi Mom, get Dad on the phone, too.” John seldom called from his temporary New Zealand home.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, then frantically motioned to Bob and mouthed, “It’s John!” My breathing quickened.

John waited until his dad greeted him then asked, “Are you sitting down?” I slumped on the bed in our dark room. My mother’s intuition kicked in. Something was wrong.

“I have some good news and some bad news,” John said. I held my breath.

“I’ll give you the good news first. You’re going to be grandparents.” A long moment of silence deafened our connection.

“Are you there?” he asked.

I voiced the bad news. “John, you’re not married.”

But John ignored my comment and continued, “Do we have any twins in our family? Cathy’s family does. You’re going to be grandparents of twins.”

We’d learned about Cathy earlier in the year. From the way John talked, we knew in our hearts that she was his true love.

I don’t remember how Bob and I got through the conversation. After we hung up, I sensed John’s worry of being forced into a situation he hadn’t planned and couldn’t control, much less afford on his teacher’s salary. I didn’t sleep much that night. Yet, my tears refused to flow.

In the morning, I attended a meeting in body, but not in mind. On the way home, the dam broke; tears blurred my vision. I struggled to see where I was going. As I passed our church my car seemed to turn into the parking lot on its own.

Once inside, I asked the secretary if I might speak to the parish priest.

“He takes Mondays off.” She stared at my tear-stained face, then added, “You can call him at home.”

“No, I won’t bother him.” Embarrassed, I rushed to my car. But at home, I recognized the need to talk to someone other than Bob, dialed the church and asked for Father’s number.

“Don’t push them into a marriage. Two wrongs don’t make a right,” my priest consoled calmly. “This doesn’t have to be bad news. But let them make their own decision.”

So Bob and I refrained from submitting advice. After Christmas, we received another call. “I gave Cathy a ring. We’ve decided since you’re coming to New Zealand in March, we’ll wait until you arrive to get married. The babies will be born in May.”

Elated by the wedding news, we looked forward to meeting and getting to know Cathy, if only for a few days. When we arrived, we could see her Western Samoan heritage contributed to her outer as well as inner beauty. She proved to be all we’d hoped John might find in a partner.

Although disappointed we wouldn’t be present for the birth of our first grandchildren, we returned to the United States. The knowledge that John, Cathy and the babies would follow within the year and call Colorado home appeased us.

At last we waited at Denver International. I stared through the large windows at the gate. Another plane filled the space where John, Cathy and our eight-month-old granddaughters would eventually arrive.

Departing passengers occupied all the seats in the gate area. I leaned against a pillar afraid to talk to Bob for fear of crying, not from sadness but joy. I’d never been so nervous. How long before the babies would accept us? Could we hold back and give them the space and time they needed? Out of necessity, their family would share our home. Could we make it work?

I wrung my hands and wiped them on my skirt.

“I can’t do this. I’m shaking inside and out,” I blurted. “Why are planes always late?”

Bob draped his arm around my shoulders and squeezed. “You can do it,” he assured me.

I laid my head against his arm and fought the tears that stung my eyes. Had it only been a little over a year since we’d lamented about our having four granddogs and two grandhorses rather than grandchildren? How quickly things change.

A voice screeched from the speaker over our head. “The flight from L.A. has landed and will wait for the gate to empty. It won’t be long. Thank you for your patience.”

I walked away from the gate and paced back and forth. My thoughts turned to the Christmas lights on the cul-de-sac still adorning our neighbors’ homes. Usually, they take their decorations down the day after New Year’s. But this time, they agreed to wait until January 5th so the lights might illuminate a warm welcome for our family.

At last one plane backed away and another took its place. Arriving passengers hurried through the doorway. We waited. My heart thumped in my ears. More people exited. We waited. Several times I gulped air and released it with a heavy sigh. We waited until no other passengers stepped through the doorway.

When a flight attendant appeared, I grabbed Bob’s arm. My knees weakened. My stomach churned. I stammered, “Maybe they missed the connection in L.A.”

Hand in hand we rushed to the attendant. “Is anyone else on the plane?” Bob’s voice quaked. “A family with twin babies?”

I looked around. Passengers waiting to depart watched us, curiosity evident on their faces.

“Yes.” The attendant smiled. “We misplaced their stroller. They’ll be out in a minute.”

Then John sauntered through the doorway with one baby in a large pack on his back. He stepped aside. Cathy shyly walked toward me cuddling the second baby. Tears gathered in my eyes.

Several flight attendants surrounded our family. “We wanted to see your reaction to these precious babies,” one offered. “If you don’t want them, we do!”

My hands quivered, and my legs felt like cement. I slowly moved toward Cathy and hugged her. I touched the dark hair of her baby. Black eyes questioned as they looked at me. I turned to John. From around one side of John’s head and then the other, black eyes, a carbon copy of her sister’s, peered at me. The beginning of a shy smile sparkled from her beautiful olive-skinned face. Her plump little hand stretched toward me.

I threw my arms around both John and baby and sobbed. Sobs so loud they echoed through the terminal. I stretched to include Cathy. I couldn’t hold all of them close enough.

“I’m so sorry,” I stuttered. “I’m sorry to embarrass you this way.” Hiding my face in John’s chest, my body shook uncontrollably.

After the embrace, John placed his hands on my shoulders and pushed me away enough to look into my eyes. He smiled. “Mom, you should see all the people behind you. They’re crying, too.”

I returned John’s gaze and remembered when he’d called to share his “good news and bad news.” As I hugged my son, my daughter-in-law and my grandbabies, I realized it was all good news.

~Linda Osmundson
Chicken Soup for the Grandparent’s Soul

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