Kathleen Clary Miller has written 300+ columns and stories for periodicals both local and national, and has authored three books (www.amazon.com/author/millerkathleenclary). She lives in the woods of the Ninemile Valley, thirty miles west of Missoula.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it
springs up; do you not perceive it?” -- Isaiah 43:18-19
“Christmas came early for us!” my youngest daughter Kate exclaimed while holding up a Santa Claus onesie at the Missoula airport when she and her husband arrived last holiday. She had taken three pregnancy tests that morning, just before boarding the plane—a trio of positive in result. After a spurt of joyful tears and effusive remarks followed by hugs all around, it began to sink in: My baby is having a baby.
I was a worrier-mother, as was the woman who bore me. Do I tell Kate about the recurring nightmare (to this day, my girls having celebrated their 29th and 28th birthdays I occasionally have it) that baby is tumbling from a balcony and I can’t reach her? I decide
not to; she is basking in that glorious moment, long before you realize your life is irrevocably altered. You will never, ever be the same.
I want her to prepare herself for the intense devotion that will emanate from every pore and consume her—a love so fierce and a heart so full, you feel your chest will explode. She thinks she has loved this way before, but I know better. I know she cannot yet comprehend unstoppable surrender—not even with ample warning—until she lays eyes on her child for the very first time. Only then, and after inch-by-inch growth, first haircut, broken friendship, and every trip to the pediatrician will ferocious devotion strike her to the bone. What she would do to spare her innocent the heartache of life’s hurdles will be a list so long she cannot recite it.
Only when she delivers her child to the classroom door on the first day of school will she realize that she has lost herself entirely to another. When something hurts that innocent heart, that is when will she be ambushed by such desperate tenderness as to dissolve her. After her teenager pulls out of the driveway, car packed to the gills and pointed toward the college dorm she will feel a seizure of irrepressible longing to turn back time and cradle that babe behind the steering wheel. As soon as she watches her little girl skip from the church on the arm of a husband throwing mama a kiss through the rice and confetti, will her soul overflow with future for them both while at the same time feeling—wait a minute—there has been a mistake, an accidental amputation here; my limb that should still be attached… is missing.
It is hard, when you love so hard. Yet, she will never regret this price to pay--the letting go--for creating a life at the cost of her own. Not for one single, solitary second. As for becoming a grandmother? This is the ultimate recovery, the finding of myself again—although not the very same limb I lost, another that can attach and help me walk as if it were my own.
My own mother told me, after accompanying me to the hospital where my oldest daughter, Clary, age two, required the surgical implant of ear tubes to avert excess Eustachian congestion, “I promised myself I would not care like this again.” She’d spilled so much into her own children that by the time I birthed her grandchildren any possible reserves had been sapped. She simply couldn’t imagine finding enough space in the chambers of her brimming heart for such volume, not even one more time. “But here I am,” her voice faltered as she reached to grip my hand in the waiting room, “caring, just the same.”
“I am here,” I tell my Kate. No matter the passage of time that callously ticks off milestones meant to move us forward, I am irrepressibly drawn to look back from whence I came, forever her mother. And yet, every time my soul aches to have it all back again, God whispers to “forget the former things; I am doing a new thing! Do you not perceive it?”
Undiminished simply because I have reached that decade in life where it was fairer weather yesterday than it will likely be tomorrow, I have come to the place where the baby I once bore is her own person, separate and apart from me and soon to become herself a mother. I will hear that whisper and let go of my little girl’s hand in order to touch the fingers of her newborn child, who will move me with promise to look forward.
I will be made something new, all right. Something very, very grand.