Love at First Sight

Love at First Sight

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

Love at First Sight

In praising and loving a child, we love and praise not that which is, but that which we hope for.

Goethe

Renee was four years old when we adopted her. Cute, tiny, talkative and strong-willed are all words I used to describe our new daughter. “Prodigal” was not in my vocabulary.

But as the years passed, it became apparent that Renee had an insurmountable problem bonding. Her first four years of neglect had changed her irreversibly. I often wished I could have held her as a baby, rocking and singing her lullabies. Certainly she would know how to return love if she had been given love as a baby.

I often wondered what she had looked like as an infant. I knew she was an extremely tiny preemie, but did she have her same dark hair and olive complexion? I had no way to know; there were no pictures.

Most of all, I wondered how to cope with her refusal of our love, year after year after year. As a teenager Renee rebelled against all authority and eventually left home, calling only when she got into desperate trouble. Finally, I could no longer handle the pain of her coming and going, and our communication ceased.

So it was a surprise when Renee contacted me one December. She was married. She had a baby girl. She wanted to come home. How could I say no? Yet, knowing my daughter and our painful, tumultuous history, how could I say yes? I couldn’t bear having a grandchild ripped from my heart, too, when Renee, tired of her present situation, would move on—her pattern of many years.

I tried to resist the urge to see her and the baby, feeling it was best for all of us, but something stirred in my heart. Maybe it was the Christmas spirit. Maybe it was my desire to hold the new baby. Maybe I just wanted to see my daughter again. All I know is I found myself telling Renee that she and the baby could come for a visit.

On the day they were to arrive, I grew apprehensive. What if she doesn’t come? That wouldn’t be a shock by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it was the norm for Renee. Then I wondered, What if she does come? What will I do? Will we have anything to talk about? Anything in common? The hours stretched by, and I kept myself busy with the multitudes of things I needed to do before Christmas.

Then the doorbell rang.

I opened the door. Renee stepped inside, clutching a wrapped bundle in her arms. She pulled the soft blanket away from the baby’s face and placed Dyann into my arms. It was love at first sight. This tiny baby—my granddaughter— grabbed my heart, never to let it go. She had dark eyes and a head full of straight, black hair that begged for a lacy headband. In her features I saw her mother’s lips, her cheeks and her slight build, and instantly knew I was looking at an incredible likeness of the baby I was never able to hold—my daughter.

Dyann wiggled and made sweet gurgling sounds as I cuddled her to my heart, knowing she would be there forever, no matter what happened in the future.

In those first years of my granddaughter’s life, I bonded with her in a special way, offering the security and unconditional love that she so desperately needed in her unstable environment. I bought frilly dresses and lacey tights, and I took hundreds of pictures and hours of video of this effervescent child.

Dyann is now thirteen years old, and I cherish her with all my heart. And though her mother eventually deserted her, Dyann still keeps a sweet spirit and visits us often. On those summer and holiday visits I often mistakenly call her by my daughter’s name. Dyann giggles and asks, “Grandmother, why do you keep calling me Renee?” I tell her the words she longs to hear as she snuggles into my embrace. “Because you look just like your mother, and I’ll love you forever.”

Laura Lawson

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