Lists and a lullaby are this grandmother's lifeline
I am a creature of lists. So, no sooner had the word “baby” emerged from my daughter’s mouth than every lobe, cortex, cord and lined 8 1/2-by-11 page of my brain was imprinted with bullet points:
Shop for cute baby clothes
Pray for mom, dad and baby
Stay mum until alerted otherwise
Check out what’s new in nursery items
Buy primer on baby care since it’s been a while
Amass baby books and stuffed animals
Dust off rocking horse in storage
Move closer to my daughter/son in law
Throw a baby shower
Be with daughter at birth (if asked)
Visit baby at the hospital (if asked)
Visit baby at home (when invited)
Be a better grandmother than I was a mother (apply lessons learned from past mistakes)
The first batch of bullets I blasted through without mishap. Two weeks prior to Yves’s birth, however — yes, it’s a boy! — I met my match.
But, Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
I quote this verse from Robert Burn’s “To a Mouse” because my partner Gary and I have long referred to me as “the mouse.”
“What happened to the cantaloupe?” Gary will ask.
“That darn mouse!” A lick of my chops. “Must have been at it again.”
These days, that darn mouse is decidedly not licking her chops. Her best-laid schemes have ganged aft agley, and, frankly, she’s got indigestion and it sucks.
It sucks that I wasn’t able to accompany my daughter during any phase of her hospital journey.
It sucks that, although I now live only 5 minutes away, I can’t drop by to ooh, ah, and pitch in. Gary is a hospice nurse; we run higher risks of becoming infectious.
It sucks that I can’t sneak in a visit as long as I show no symptoms because COVID-19 is crafty.
It sucks that infants have died of CV.
It sucks that I have yet to cradle Yves. To hold his tiny hand, kiss his cheek, burp him, rock him, sniff him, sing to him.
“I feel so sad for you,” a friend texted.
“Don’t be sad,” I replied. “I’m not.”
I’m not lying, lionhearted or in denial. After decades wallowing in self-pity over anything from a broken nail to a decimated marriage, I’m sort of enlightened. I follow the gospel according to Paul.
I let it be.
No amount of persuasion on Paul’s part could change John/George/Ringo’s minds about disbanding. No amount of brooding over wet markets or why Cuomo isn’t president will get me through my daughter’s door any sooner. Sometimes we just have to slap our moody, moonstruck selves and “get over it.”
Resistance equals “grief an’ pain”
Acceptance equals “promis’d joy”
For me, the key to the secret garden of growth and promis’d joy is to heed the advice of sages from Epictetus to Oprah. Focus on gratitude. Daily, I read this list of silver bullets. Aloud.
Yves and his parents are close by. In a crisis, I can get to them.
Thank you, Alexander Graham Bell, Steve Jobs and Team Apple
Thank you, Neil Papworth, for inventing texting
Thank you, Philippe Kahn, for the camera phone
Thank you, Roberto Garcia, for FaceTime
Thank you, Eric Yuan, for Zoom
Thank you, Father Time and the worldwide medical community. This plague will end!
Meanwhile, until COVID-19 is confined within the pages of history, I visualize. Like a skater envisioning a perfect quadruple jump the night before a competition, I close my eyes and summon Yves from photos into my arms
Don’t you cry.
Go to sleep, my little baby.
When you wake, you shall have
All the pretty little horses.
Blacks and bays, dapples and grays,
Coach and six-a-little horses
Why this lullaby? Well, I like the tune.
But I sensed there was more to it. (Yves’s nursery sports an African savannah theme — not a dapple or gray in sight.) So I did some research.
The hairs on the back of my neck lifted when I learned an African slave may have sung this lullaby to her master’s child. This new grandmother is “enslaved,” too.
Yet horses symbolize freedom. Power. Travel. Movement. Desire.
Lullabies soothe. When Yves and I — and the world — awaken from this nightmare, we shall indeed “have all the pretty little horses.”
We shall indeed gain “power” over the virus.
We shall indeed “travel” outside our doors, beyond the pandemic.
We shall indeed re-experience and relish the “movement” we once so took for granted.
And we’ll never take this freedom for granted again, right?
So I “desire.” So I pray.
Jenine Baines is a retired arts publicist who now focuses on publicizing the wondrous, beautiful and inspiring spiritual works of art in the world. Email 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Sally McKirgan at email@example.com.