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Happiness from past fleeting for old woman
OF KIDS AND NATURE, BY HERTHA BINDER
Happiness from past fleeting for old woman
By now, I'm a really old woman, stooped from severe arthritis of the spine, often in pain. I'm taken care of by my husband, who, although of the same age, is in much better physical shape. We have a cleaning lady who comes once a week and does the major cleaning, but he does all the daily work. He goes grocery shopping, cooks, cleans, does the wash and also tries to keep my spirits up. He takes care of me better than anyone in a nursing home could. Without him, I could not live.
The only real joy I have is remembering my "former life," as I call the nearly 80 years I had been a well-functioning human being. Of course, my parents' care and graduate studies are far in the past.
My husband and I had shared an office for decades and helped quite a few people with their troubles. I am proud of that, although I rarely think of it. I raised more or less successfully three sons (rather less). And then there came the grandson. Although his parents hadn't planned him so soon, he was highly welcome.
My son, as well as his wife's mother, a nurse, had beseeched me to be present at the C-section.
"Please, Hertha," she claimed. "Everything here goes so much better while you are present. The nurses are friendlier and more attentive; they really look at the monitor."
"Please, Mom, I'm afraid for her and the baby when you are not here."
So I stayed. The obstetrician-surgeon did not mind, so, dressed in scrubs, I was allowed to stand right at the surgical table. Jeff was sitting beside the mother's head. Never having seen a C-section, I was impressed. But I realized that my presence was valuable. When the baby was lifted out, the little guy was all blue, and an expression of shock was on the young father's face. But I gave him a sign of assurance that everything was OK. After all, the baby was still connected to the umbilical cord.
But why had no one, not the obstetrician nor the instructor in prenatal class, explained to the young parents that a baby comes out cyanotic? All right, there came the first cry, and, within a few minutes, the baby was rosy.
It was a pleasant surprise to me that the baby strongly resembled Jeff's older brother, Peter, who had been killed in an accident a few years earlier. But I kept my mouth shut. A few minutes later, when a nurse had wiped the baby clean, wrapped him in a blanket and put him in the young father's arms, Jeff looked at him and said, "Looks like Pete." No other comment.
When the baby was 11 days old, his parents brought him for the first time to spend a few hours with the new grandma. It was exciting and pure joy. From then on, little Chuck stayed regularly half a day every week with us.
A few weeks later, Grandpa was whistling as he entertained the baby for a while. Afterward, Tom reported that the little guy enjoyed Mozart best, the bouncy melodies. Puccini's flowing rhythms were not to his liking.
As he grew older, our home was part of his living space, as familiar to him as his own. He was fascinated with a Lazy Susan in the kitchen and screamed wildly when he pinched his finger on it the first time. Years later he reported that he had hurt himself three more times with it but didn't cry, so he could play with it some more. Interesting in a kid 1-year-old.
There was a time when I put some lukewarm water into the roasting pan, set it on the lawn and let little Chuck sit where every Thanksgiving a turkey had met his afterlife. The kid splashed happily and excited, called it "Pool, pool!" A few weeks later, we were in a boat on Lake Erie, and Chuck called that also, "Pool, pool."
A year or so later, we got an above-ground swimming pool in the back yard. I let Chuck, equipped with all kinds of life preservers, float in it without a diaper. The kid was delighted and shouted, "No di, no di," as long as he was in the pool.
Then I dwelled on memories about all the outdoor fun I had with the kids and years later with Chuck. I was the one who taught Chuck to ski, went down the slope at Alpine Valley with the kid between my legs till my back hurt as if it were breaking apart. At times, Jeff had time, and Chuck skied with him the same way. I still remember Jeff's, "Does my back hurt!"
I had to laugh when, a season later, Chuck maneuvered down by himself, and often yelled, "Grandma, Grandma!" To hear kids call out, "Dad!" or, "Mommy!" is so common at a beginners hill that no one pays attention, but "Grandma" made lots of people stop and look. I thought that was funny.
When Chuck was in his teens, I was several times with him skiing in the Rockies. What beautiful days, and how I enjoyed it when he slowed down a bit so I could catch up with him. How he often looked out for me, giving me an encouraging smile. What happy role reversal.
And when I gave in to some weird plans of Chuck, like dog sledding, to which I had agreed only to keep the kid happy, it turned out to be one of the most beautiful days in the Colorado back country. Without him, I'd have missed that. How wonderful that sons and grandson enjoyed what I had liked.
Memories, memories, they floated through my mind. Of course, there had been less cheerful times, but they are readily forgotten, and to include all summer events took many more hours of daydreaming.
The only trouble is that all these happy events are years in the past. When Tom sees me with a happy, faraway expression, he nods, obviously thinking, "Good, she's recycling her past. Now I can do what I want," and he is happy too.
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