Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On Grandmothers

Jake's grandmother, Linda, was born to be a grandmother. She was a southern woman, from Louisiana, to be exact. Made all sorts of baked breads, and cookies. These amazing chocolate tiny things with powered sugar.

Oh, and there were the pecan pies. And the homemade macaroni and cheese. And the stories about her childhood, being raised as a girl of the south who lived in the shadow of the Civil War, her family never really getting over the loss of aristocracy. She was also ridiculously smart, had a Master's Degree in English, and never missed a single day of the New York Times crossword puzzle. When Linda died of cancer two years ago, I grieved for Cason and his father. But also for Jake. God, I wanted him to know her.

He has my mother, thankfully. The two of them, their curly-headed mess intersecting each other like they were a twisted rope impossible to untie.

Jake is my mother's baby. I was scolded for giving my own son a time out once. "You're being too hard on him and I don't like that," she told me.

"Mom, you already had the opportunity to screw up two children. Now it's my turn," I said.

But for reals. He talks to her until he's blue in the face, and she listens with wonderment and fascination. My kid ate a book and she insisted, "He's going to be a scholar." That's a Jewish grandmother for you.

Step-grandparent wasn't ever a word I had to define, so I was unsure of how to approach it with Andy's parents. Jake was immediately taken under Andy's family's wing - but there's pressure in that too. As in: Here you go, love. Meet your new aunt and uncle. Meet your new grandmother. Then there was my anxiety. Would they love him as they did their own biological grandchildren? I was worried. Insecure. It was new to all of us.

As time passed, they got to know each other. This is so important when blending families, because we all just want things to be fine. We're all so happy! We're all so normal! The divorce didn't affect us! But it takes time for children and adults to forge a new relationship, especially if everyone has expectations of what that relationship is supposed to look like. (Uh, like me.)

Andy's mom has three sons, yet she's not exactly an expert on video games. Still, she rocked out her best driving stunts on Mario Kart Wii. And Lego's. And monopoly. And then soon, the title of grandma became not so significant, because really... what the hell is a title, anyway? We're still going back and forth between grandma and her first name. Not sure where the ball will land.

So it was shame on Saturday when Andy's parents came to babysit because we had plans to see God of Carnage (if you're in New York - run to see it), and I completely messed up the visitation schedule. Jake was with his dad. I didn't even bother to tell Jake that Andy's parents were going to be at the house watching Elke for fear of him feeling left out. Cason, being Cason, offered to bring Jake over for a few hours, but I knew he wouldn't want to leave once being back home.

Me, I always miss him when he's with his father, but I believe Andy's mom missed him as well -- which I was glad to see. "You couldn't switch the days, huh?" she said at lunch, a little glum. No, but next time, I'll be more understanding that her relationship with Jake matters. And that this is still a developing time for them. I think of Linda often, and I think that she'd be happy to know that her grandson is learning how to love a woman who is entirely different from his southern-born nana.

I'd really love to hear if anyone reading this has experience with step-grandparents -- or more specifically, step-grandmothers -- and how they, or their children have developed relationships with them.

* * *

Oh, Nana. If you could see us now... she's got beautiful blue eyes and he swims just like Grandpa.

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