Gramma Jan

Gramma Jan

From Chicken Soup for the Grandparent's Soul

Gramma Jan

When one door of happiness closes, another door opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.

Helen Keller

When I drove into the park, I noticed and recognized Grace right away. She sat on a bench watching the children romp and play. Why did she have to come? I thought. Couldn’t she let me be “Gramma” for the day? I’d waited so long.

When I walked up, Grace looked at me tenderly. “I’ve thought about you so much these last few years.”

She was constantly in my mind, too—the woman who is grandmother to my daughter’s child.

My mind went back to when Amy, just seventeen, told me she was pregnant. I had struggled as a single mom after Amy and Jennifer’s dad left us seven years before, and I thought the worst was behind us until that day.

Amy decided to place the baby for adoption. I agreed it was the right thing for this confused, young girl, and I was touched that she asked me to help her choose the parents through an open adoption process. I was fine until I saw the ultrasound, the life growing inside Amy. Then it hit me. In a few months I would have to let go, say good-bye to my granddaughter.

Leslie, the prospective adoptive mom, assured me, “We want you to be a part of her life.” But what role could I possibly have? Leslie’s mother, Grace, waited sixty-three years to spoil a grandchild. How much would she want me involved?

After little Nicole was born, Amy insisted on bringing her home for a week. “I need time to say good-bye.” Those were special days, days to make memories with her first child, hold her, sing to her, write her a loving letter and then let her go. Yet, I couldn’t even cuddle her as I wanted, fearful that bonding with this child would only increase my sorrow when she left us.

The first time I met Grace, she came to my house for the adoption ceremony. “I know you’ll love her very much,” I said, stiffly, biting my lip as they were about to leave with the baby. Grace said nothing but just hugged me. After everyone left, Amy and Jennifer couldn’t stop crying, and I kept assuring them it was the right thing to do, that blessings would come from it.

Amy’s tears started coming right away when she shared her story with other pregnant girls.

The first year I saw Nikki often, fussing over her like any grandparent does, buying frivolous department store dresses she’d only wear once. Then it happened—the family moved to Florida. What would I do now?

Leslie promised endless pictures and videos of special moments, but what did it matter? I was bonded with Nikki, and they were whisking her away. How would she ever get to know me at three thousand miles away?

The years went by, and as I tore open every letter I ached as I put the photos in an album. Why did Nikki have to look exactly like Amy? Suddenly, I was struck with baby radar, tuning in to every toddler with brown eyes and dark curls, struggling to squash the tears.

Then came the telephone call. The family was coming to California for a visit. Would I like to meet them at the park? Of course! All week I was as anxious as a grasshopper. It had been five years!

As my car sped down the freeway, I wondered, would Grace be there? Was it selfish to hope not? Couldn’t I have Nikki to myself just for a few hours and make believe I was her only grandmother?

Nearing the off ramp, I thought, how will Nikki respond to me? I’m just a stranger to her. Should I hug her or play it cool?

“She knows she’s adopted,” Leslie had told me earlier on the phone. “We’re not sure now much she understands, but to her, you are her Gramma Jan.”

What a delightful, loving child I met that day. We played “hide n’ seek” and fed the ducks. She sat on my lap and let me fuss with her ponytail. Grace didn’t say much. She sat quietly in the background and let me relish those precious hours.

In the afternoon, she nudged my side. “You’ve done better than I thought you would, Jan. I know how hard this must be for you.”

The tears stung. Oh, Grace, this is making me cry.

“She’s a special child, Jan. She’s such a blessing to me.”

It was easy to see. Nikki was secure, adored by her father and thrilled with two little brothers. (Six months after the adoption, Leslie was miraculously pregnant.)

“Please come and see us in Florida when you can,” Keith said as he gave me a big bear hug. It was as if God reached down with comforting arms to say, This day was my gift to you, Jan. She will know you, and you will be an influence in her life. Just be patient.

As Grace said her good-byes to me, she glanced over at Nikki feeding the squirrels. “Thank you,” she said, squeezing my hand.

She was thanking me?

I pondered that for a moment, then I understood. Nikki was a gift to Grace from God, a gift that came directly through me. Sitting back to watch me connect with Nikki was Grace’s way of honoring me.

To think I almost missed the blessing.

That day in the park I finally let go.

As I glanced back at Nikki chasing another squirrel, I put my arm around Grace. “Thank you for having room in your heart to let me be ‘Gramma Jan.’”

Jan Coleman

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