What We Forget


As a grandparent, I am well aware of the fact that I forget a lot of stuff. I forget when I’m supposed to be at the dentist, for example. And I forget why I just walked into the living room.

But that isn’t what’s important.

No. What I think is important, as a grandparent who is completely engaged in the lives of my grandchildren every single day, is that I have forgotten what it feels like to take care of a sick child.

I forgot about the comforting/suffocating smell of Vicks Vaporub wafting through the house. I forgot, for some unexplained reason, how it feels to spread that very same Vicks on my chest, under a clean cloth, so that I can hold a coughing, wheezing child close to my heart. Knowing that the camphor smell would help that child to breathe.

I have forgotten what it feels like to wipe those dripping noses, every two minutes. And what it feels like to smooth a bit of lotion on that red, sore upper lip.

I can guarantee that I have forgotten what it feels like to be stuck in the house with a child or two who can only be soothed by two hours of some TV show that is so unbearably sweet that you actually think about getting yourself some insulin.

Surprisingly, I seem to have forgotten what it feels like to keep water steaming on the stove. And what it feels like to cup my hands and tap, tap, clap, bang against a child’s congested lungs.

I’m reminded of all of that this week, though. Both of my grandkids are down and out with a nasty cold. Both have had the endlessly running nose, the deep cough, the lack of appetite.

Both of them have needed extra hugs, extra rocking and (God help me) extra episodes of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.”

I’ve been running, cleaning, washing, rocking, dosing, cleaning again, listening to lungs, checking ears, rubbing backs, feeding again and cleaning again.

I had forgotten how it feels to be covered head to toe in germ infested snot. I had forgotten how it feels to clean up the choked over and redeposited snacks. I had somehow forgotten how gently one has to wash a red, irritated face as a little one cries.

But you know what?

I had also, somehow, managed to forget how sweet it feels to sit still on a cold winter day with two sick children wrapped in my arms. I had forgotten the heart filling feeling of cuddling a feverish little body in my arms. Of singing the wordless humming tunes that would ease that little one into sleep.

I had forgotten the joyful burst of love that comes in the moment when a sick little baby pulls his head back and looks into your face. I had forgotten how special and how empowering it feels when that baby looks up and sighs and settles his aching head against your heart once again.

I wish everyone a healthy Christmas, with no snots, no wheezes, no fevers. But if you are hit by those illnesses, I wish you a few moments of sweet pleasure as you enfold those hot little bodies in your loving arms.

I don’t feel so good…..

Pulling An All-nighter


When my three beloved babies grew up and moved out, I was devastated. Bereft. Heartbroken.

I told myself that I would spend the rest of my life missing every beautiful moment of motherhood. “Oh, woe is me!” I cried to the universe and my very patient husband, “How I will miss those little moments of mother love!”  I just knew, with every fiber of my overly emotional soul that I would miss EVERY SINGLE THING about spending time with little ones!

I was, of course, completely delusional.

In my grief over missing the hugs, kisses, and bedtime stories, I forgot about the fevers, tantrums and midnight pukies.

But guess what?

Now I remember!

Yesterday my grandkids were here, as they are every weekday while their parents work. Two year old Ellie wasn’t looking so good in the morning, as pale as milk and droopy eyed. She wanted extra hugs and snuggles, though, so I didn’t make too much of it. Her baby brother, the red cheeked, ever grinning Johnny, was as robust as ever.

Then their Mom texted to say she was heading home from work. She was sick herself, so could I keep the kids until the end of the work day? Of course I could! I was happy to watch my beautiful little ones so Momma could get over her norovirus. In fact, I had an inspiration!

“Why don’t we keep Ellie here for the night?” asked the generous and kind Nonni. I pictured us snuggled up under the covers, her arm around my neck. I pictured her eating breakfast and chatting with me and Papa. Visions of happiness danced in my head.

Mom and Dad agreed to my plan, with gratitude, and I cheerfully made dinner for Ellie, Papa and I. We ate, we baked butterscotch cookies. We watched a movie, got our pj’s on, and snuggled into bed.

Perfect. Just absolutely perfect. Right down to the goodnight kisses and that little arm around my neck.

Then reality poked its grimy, nasty head into the room.

The little body next to me turned as hot as a stove. The arm around my neck became a vise. The “I love you, Nonnis” turned into “I want you to walk away RIGHT NOW!”

The next 9 hours consisted of taking her temperature (“OWWWWW!!!! YOU’RE HURTING ME!!!”), giving her Tylenol, (“I want MORE tasty medicine!!!!!”), and trying to decode the meaning of the sob coated screams (“PICK! UP! MY! BLGHRUMNAH!”)

Every once in a while, we’d both fall asleep, and then the neck choking and fever rantings would start again. Ellie would whimper, “I need water…” and I’d fumble around on the bedside table, invariably knocking over the water bottle. Plop myself out of bed, find the water, hand it to her, try to stay upright while she drank, put the water back.

Repeat.

Sometimes it would seem as if we’d been asleep for a while. When Ellie’s whimpers would start again, I’d think to myself, “It’s OK. We’ve probably been asleep for a few hours.” I’d fumble around for the phone and my glasses, and check the time.

“Gah!!! It’s only been 13 minutes!!”

That must have happened at least ten times. There was the time when I had to turn on a light to locate the missing Elmo (hiding from all the noise under the quilt). And the moment when she kicked me in the chin while trying to figure out why she was all turned around.

We made it until morning, when I was awakened by a warm cheek on mine. “Wake up time now, Nonni.”

It was a long and grueling night, that’s for damn sure. But I learned a few things during those uncomfortable hours.

I learned that there are definitely aspects of motherhood that I do not miss.

I learned that the old adage about grandparenting is true; one of the best parts is that you get to send them home.

I learned that taking care of little ones is a young woman’s game.

Now I’m sitting here in my flannel pants with a plate of butterscotch cookies, enjoying the silence and wondering how many naps is too many for one day.