Mama-ji: Servantless Grandmother Living Dangerously On the Edge of Sanity. Year One Begins.

And so it does.   On the outskirts of Ft. Lauderdale in a very cramped one-bedroom apartment where by day I am a newly-anointed grandmother-in-residence helping my single daughter and by night, on weekends and in between those fogged out naps and rounds of poop patrol, I’m a writer.


Sounds a little daunting I suppose. Well, you’re right!  It is.  And even though for me this is new ground I’m about to cover, I’m aware to others it’s not new at all.  According to the 2010 Census there were over 2.9 million (yes million) children just in the United States alone being raised by their grandparents and that number was a 60% increase over the 2005 Census. 60%! Can you imagine? That’s an incredible number.  And given the current state of our economy, one where the middle class no longer truly exists, I don’t suppose the 2015 numbers will fare any better.

So before I get into anything else here, I’d like to say right off the bat to all those other Grammies, Nanas and Bubbies (Gramps and Pops too!) out there whose empty nests are no longer empty…I salute you!  I salute you!  I salute you!

Some of you might be asking yourselves: why the hell am I doing this?  That I must be nuts!  I didn’t think it through.  Well, the truth is I might be absolutely insane for signing up for this gig, but I most certainly did think it through.  Yes, I might’ve forgotten what those late-night feedings felt like the next morning or the smell of formula as it sticks to your shirt, your hair, and the oh-so distinctive odor coming from a diaper reminding you within seconds what it was all about and why you were never so happy as you were when your own children finally graduated college.  I think this falls in line with why we have more than one child. You go through the painful process of birth and afterwards vow you’ll never do it again.  Yet you do!

I also think that after raising two children of my own, on my own, not only are there no surprises coming down the pike, but I’m fearless like some sixty-something gladiator in apron and sneakers able to withstand what my daughter cannot. Not yet anyway.

Take for instance Meghan’s umbilical cord and how the heck are we going to clean it. The new rule of thumb is just let it alone.  It’ll heal then fall off fine on its own.  But this alongside getting the baby into a sleeping routine was a subject Carly and I had discussed ahead of time and agreed Q-tip and rubbing alcohol would be applied 3-4 times daily and religiously.  Carly being a bit on the squeamish side, you can imagine those very tentative pokes with which she dabbled away.  That and those God-awful faces she offered up when I suggested using a rectal thermometer when poor cupcake was running a slight fever.

I smile at my daughter. All the time actually because I know I was there once.  And I believe with all my heart what a terrific mom she’s going to be.  She, like the rest of us, just has to get past that feeling her baby will break, that and those bloody shins and dangling umbilical scab will eventually heal and learn how to tune out those demanding “pick-me-up-all-the-time-or-else” squeals and everything, I mean everything else after that is cake.

Well that’s what I keep telling her. Now I only hope she believes me. Because if not Lord help us all…this is going to be one helluva bumpy fucking ride.

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Newest Member of The ‘Hood

When they say life couldn’t get any better than this, I think “they” were referring to grandparenthood. In fact I’m certain of it. And as far as I’m concerned it’s the best club in town to which I am now a bona fide member. It does seem incredulous. The whole thing actually. But almost two weeks have gone by since I joined and here I am still on cloud nine and still kvelling (that’s Yiddish-speak for bursting at the seams with pride and joy) over this beautiful six-pound bundle of pure energy wrapped snugly in my arms with no intention of ever letting her go.

Yes, I’m bone-tired. And forget that my legs haven’t seen a razor in weeks. But oddly as I rock Meghan in my arms, all those things seem completely irrelevant to the bigger picture. This lovely little girl. What I want to share with her, what I want to tell her and above all else what I hope to teach her.

As a young mother when my children were born it seemed natural for me to have these same thoughts, same desires. But now from a grandmother’s perspective, someone who’s been there, done that and survived the good, the bad and the ugly to tell the tale, I can honestly say these essential life lessons take on a whole new meaning for me. A sort of legacy that I hope will guide her along in this wonderful journey she’s about to embark on.

And so I say to you my dear sweet girl….

     You are a woman first and last proud. Equal to all those around you in every way.

     Love who you are, exactly as you are, and others will too. If not—screw them!

     Be present. Live each day in the moment. And hold yourself accountable.

     Please yourself first before others.

     Don’t waste your time on those things that don’t make sense or people who do not love you or want the best for you.

     Look beyond the worst in others—the hypocrisy, the arrogance, the dishonesty, the petty gossiping—because not all hearts and minds are small.

     Be kind to animals.

     Help those that cannot help themselves.

     Know life isn’t a box of chocolates. But it’s your box. Own it. And what really matters most in the end has nothing whatsoever to do with what’s inside but what you do with it.

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Would a Rose By Any Other Name Smell So Sweet?

When we say “I love you” does it truly express the feeling?  The experience of that emotion, at that second, to its absolute fullest?  No, of course it doesn’t.  In fact I find those three, very, important words rather uninspiring and most of all ill-used in its application.

In Italian, if you want to say “I love you” to your children, your parents, your sweetheart you simply say: “Ti Amo.”  In Japanese: “Aishiteru.” German: “Ich liebe dich.”  This confuses me.  How can it apply to all?  Do you feel the same towards your children as you do to the person you share your bed with?  Again, of course not!  Then why does it seem to me that our language has fallen so short, lost its punch, its passion, its beauty in expressing all the voluminous ways that our hearts could possibly bloom and explode, sing and dance telling that someone very special: without you I would die?

heart leaf

A mere translation, yes.  But does it have to be?  Take for instance the Mojave language.  When a mother wants to express her feelings toward her child she uses the word wakavar.  And when she wants to say I love you to her lover she doesn’t use the same word.  Instead she says nyen nyen.  The word for hummingbird.  Yet she’s not referring to the word itself rather the action of its tiny body moving compactly in and out of the flower.  In essence she’s using their word for sex.

Can you imagine a more interesting way of sparking someone’s interest than with a visual of wings fluttering rapidly, heart beating 1,260 beats per minute dipping with driving force into that flesh of flower and sweet, syrupy nectar?  Ahem…of course not!


In fact I suspect if you try this method of dialogue on some willing participant and not someone’s grandfather, you might even get yourself a little lucky!

I don’t know…maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I’m the only one spinning my wheels here and none of this matters to anyone else—but me.  I only know when I sit down to write I bring all the power of a language, because as a writer that’s what we do, and I only hope that somewhere in between all that I say, its meaning and I live happily ever after.

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