How the news I'd be a grandma broke my heart

BubbyI’m continually enthralled by the videos on Facebook and YouTube of moms and dads getting the news from their adult children they will soon be grandparents. They’re always thrilled beyond words, often whooping and hollering for lack of any other way of expressing their joy.

For me, the experience was different. In fact, my heart unexpectedly broke into a thousand pieces when my daughter and son-in-law announced they were pregnant, that I would soon become a grandmother.

Megan and Preston chose to share the good news during a Thanksgiving visit. On their first night in town for the holiday, as our family gathered at a local restaurant, my daughter handed my husband a small, wrapped gift then handed a similar one to me.

“How sweet,” I thought, figuring they’d given us new pictures to hang in the house we’d just moved into a week before.

It was pictures, all right—ultrasound pictures in photo frames personalized for each: “Grandpa’s pride and joy” for my husband; “Grandma’s pride and joy” for me.

The unexpected gift threw me off for a minute, then it sunk in. And I began to cry, right there, in public, with dozens of restaurant patrons watching the scene as my husband and I passed our photo frames to our two other daughters as an explanation for the tears, whoops, hollers, and hugs.

Preston and BubbyI was overjoyed. And heartbroken. At the same time. Two feelings I never knew could co-exist—just the first of many “firsts” in my transition from mother to grandmother.

I was overjoyed for obvious reasons. I’M A GRANDMA! I wanted to shout to the room. The heartbreak, though? My heart was broken in a million pieces amidst the joy because nowhere was there mention that my daughter and son-in-law, who lived 819 miles away, would be relocating to be near me—Grandma.

Throughout the holiday weekend, the news was shared with extended family, always with a bittersweet tinge to my tune of happy tidings. Yes! Hallelujah! I was to be a grandma! But how very, very sad that I’d be a long-distance grandma.

I couldn’t be the only long-distance grandma, I consoled myself again and again that holiday weekend and beyond. But how do they survive? How can they function with huge chunks of their hearts living miles upon miles away?

MacI imagined my daughter, upon giving birth, would change her mind and want to move closer to Mom, to Grandma. I figured she’d convince her husband relocation was required and that idea tided me over for the many months of heartache and worry and yearning.

Then came the birth of my grandson. Labor wasn’t scheduled—though I now understand the advantages of doing so…for Grandma’s sake, of course—so booking a flight that would perfectly coincide with the big day was a gamble. A gamble I lost. My daughter and son-in-law managed to get through the delivery of my sweet grandson, though, and I arrived a week later.

The thrill upon meeting my grandson gives me goose bumps and throat lumps to this day. I cried the moment I saw him and took him in my arms. For a week, his little bundle of a body took turns being passed from Mommy to me. Every once in a while we’d share with others—reluctantly, for sure.

Then came time for me to return home. My husband and I headed to the airport with tear-filled eyes and empty arms. Oh, how the longing overtook my being. I didn’t recall ever feeling so lonesome for someone I’d known for such a short time. For someone I’d known ever, for I’d never before had to be apart from those I love the very most.

The word lonesome didn’t come even close to capturing the desolation I felt for weeks after. I thought again and again that there must be something wrong with other long-distance grandmas because they seemed so normal, so functioning, so accepting of the situation.

Megan and MacI railed against the distance far more than my daughter wanted to hear. She and her husband made their home far away, that was where they would stay, and I would just have to deal. Her words, her sentiments. My challenge.

I accepted the challenge as well as possible, with my mouth shut and my feelings to myself as much as I could bear. My daughter and I agreed to visiting, at a minimum, every other month. Either she and the baby would fly to the mountains, or I would fly to the desert. I was fortunate, I told myself; it’s better than some long-distance grandmas get.

After each visit, each extended period of hugging, touching, squeezing, and loving on my grandson, my arms would physically ache to hold him again. At such times I understood the phantom pains of amputees who had lost important, essential parts of their being.

I couldn’t imagine years of such yearning and hoped my daughter and son-in-law would eventually realize what was best for their son—meaning a grandma who lived locally. I was selfish in wanting that, expecting that, justifying my selfishness by pretending my grandson wanted me as much as I wanted him.

I was crazy. I now know that. Crazy in love—an unrequited love—with my grandson. I needed to get a grip.

Slowly I did.

Little by little the distance became easier. Okay, the distance didn’t become any easier, but my acceptance of the circumstances made the distance easier to bear. I stopped focusing on the times we spent apart and looked forward to the times we’d have together. I learned to keep a strong connection with my grandson—and now my second grandson, brother to the first, too—by whatever means I can find: telephone, Internet, postal service.

And I give thanks for the good fortune of being able to visit with my grandsons often, at either my place or theirs.

When you have no other choice, you do your best with what you've been given. Doing your best heals your broken heart.

Today's question:

How did you get the news you'd be a grandparent? If not a grandparent, how did you share the news with your parents?