A car pulled up alongside us at the light, windows down in the afternoon Albuquerque heat. Instead of the typical, big-bass thump, I heard just a single radio phrase from out of the car before green sent him accelerating. “Oh, Baby. . .” the singer crooned.
It was Mother’s Day, the streets were nearly deserted, the sky a high New Mexico blue you don’t see up north in Colorado. We had just left University Hospital, mothers and babies wing, where our second grandchild, Lily, held court at just a few hours old. She yawned and stretched her newly freed limbs while Grandma and Grandpa and brother Alexander cooed their approval.
Actually, Alex was only mildly interested. Nurses had given him a couple of far more fascinating helium balloons. And there were grapes, and French fries, and strange doors to open and close, and a Star Trek bed with buttons to power up and down. . .
Things had been different for Alex’s birth 19 months ago. Cloe and Adam had wanted us to be present for Mr. Z’s coming out. They called, we dashed south along with Cloe’s sister Cecily, and all of us hovered for hours, helping as we could—with cool washcloths and held legs—through a long labor, to behold the emergence finally of grandbaby number one—the wonderment, for Ellen and me, of our baby having a baby.
This time around, Grandma and Grandpa were called upon to baby-sit Alex while Cloe and Adam brought Lily into the world. We were happy to do it, though the timing was tricky. We needed to get there ahead of time but not so soon we were all sitting around waiting.
Lilly didn’t make the calculations any easier. She had been active all along, kicking and rolling around inside with unusual vigor right up until term. A week before her due date she was head down in Cloe’s pelvis properly aligned for a normal birth. But then she flipped. Cloe’s midwife pronounced Lily “breech,” and the worrying began.
Would Cloe need a cesarean section? Would Lily flip again? Cloe and the midwife hatched a plan wherein if Cloe felt the baby change position, she should come in to the hospital and they would induce labor immediately, assuming Lily was head-down again.
And this is precisely the way it went. Cloe felt Lily flip during the night Friday, they packed off to the city the next day, and Ellen and I were left alone for the first time ever with Mr. Z.
Let me say straight up that he has been a delight. A sweeter child has never played endless chase around the living room couch, little legs churning, arms swept back, shrieks of glee all but piercing the taller eardrums running behind. It’s just that we’re not used to this sort of constant rigor anymore. There is the two-man tag-team alligator wrestling that constitutes a diaper change. There are the tiny socks and shoes. The sussing out of the magic suppertime formula: Horton Hears A Who must be playing on the big screen; there must be a toy (the electric toothbrush Ellen brought has been a favorite); and the fork must come in fully loaded from about 240 degrees west southwest.
As I write, E and I have been two nights with Mr. Z. (Momma and Dadda and their tiny pink package are due home this afternoon.) Lily is barely 24 hours old. And E and I wonder, collapsed on the couch as Alex takes a nap, how in the world we did it with two babies of our own.
We were much younger, Ellen points out helpfully. “You do everything with one hand and one hip.”
The constant attention is what exhausts me. The attention Alex demands with his burgeoning desire to communicate, his wonder filled curiosity, his superhuman capacity for repetition. And hilarity! And, I must add, one wants desperately, biologically, willingly to give him all the attention one tired grandpa can give.
If life is understanding the truth behind the clichés, I guess we’re learning the one about grandparents having their cake and eating it too. We get to drop in on their lives, sample the thrill of parenting again, and then go back to the (relative) peace of our empty nest. It’s only going to get wilder, and more fun. Cecily is pregnant, too.
Oh, baby, baby, baby.