A few weeks ago I spent some time in Charlotte NC visiting my 94 year old grandmother who was very ill. She's also been suffering from dementia for some time now, so I knew upon arrival that she would likely be confused. As I sat by her side in the hospital I rubbed her leg to let her know that I was there. She gave an audible "that feels good"-type sigh, so I decided to try giving her a gentle massage. She immediately mumbled that it felt wonderful so I continued.... happy to hopefully help her feel more comfortable. As I carefully worked my way around her frail legs, feet, chest, and shoulders I thought to myself, "when was the last time someone touched her body lovingly? Aside from maybe a hug or a hand-hold? When was the last time her legs or feet or shoulders were rubbed, or that someone held the space for her body to release pain?". It made me sad imagining her inner child just wanting to be loved and held. At the same time it felt really special for me...that her offspring's offspring was able to return some of the love that she had given for so many years.
The room was quiet, it was late, and her breathing (through oxygen) was labored. She closed her eyes and slept and often sighed out in that same "that feels great" way, occasionally saying it as well along with many "thank-you's" in her true southern fashion. As I worked, I reflected on how her body and skin had changed over the years. Thinking back to what she looked like when she was a young woman to now, I began to reflect in that circle-of-life-way that we so rarely stop to recognize. Her frail hands were bony and her joints knotted. Her spotted skin was soft in some areas, but had dry patches in others and was so paper thin that I felt the need to proceed with caution. I softly ran my fingers through her grey curly hair and noticed that it was much more course than it used to be. But somehow all of it was beautiful. She was beautiful, even in her most tired and lousy-feeling state. Something about this special moment that we were sharing together sort of stopped time for me, and I saw a glimpse of how much she has truly lived. I wanted to soak in everything about that moment... as I didn't know when or if I'd get to see her again before she makes her eventual trip to heaven.
When I cuddled Beau that next morning I just needed some extra hugs and squeezes. I couldn't help but think about life and our bodies and minds and how we grow and learn so much, and then at some point along the way we peak... I guess at our "best" and then start to go in the other direction. Some would call it "down hill" but I had to wonder... is it really? Yes, I guess our minds start to slip and our bodies don't want to work the way they used to, but the skin we wear also seems to be such a beautiful sort of badge- showing how much we've really experienced through our lives and all the wisdom that we've collected along the way. My grandmother was born in 1918. Thinking of all the things in history that she's witnessed amazes me! Then I looked at Beau. That sweet, soft amazing skin. So fresh and so new. A blank slate in this world... so far just pure innocence, pure love. As he looked up at me that morning and smiled that huge toothless smile, I thought of how he knows nothing yet of growing old, or illness, or death, and how all I want to do is shield him from all of it.
Feeling sad, I started to try and focus on the beauty of it all. There's so much we don't understand about life, and never will, but I guess it's the yin and the yang. The balance. How can we appreciate or understand life if we don't have death? How can we feel the good if we don't have bad? How do we appreciate health if we don't have illness? (Though I'd like to think I could appreciate all of those things without life's less desired counterparts). Even thinking back to my grandmother's skin.... How can we appreciate that pure, sweet, soft, perfect skin of a baby- so filled with dreams and love and happiness and faith in all things good, if we don't have those with aged skin that have seen more than their fair share of beauty and pain and love and heartbreak along the way?
Not to be a Debbie Downer, but mortality is something of which I've become acutely aware as a mother (ok, even more so than before). Knowing that I won't always be here for Beau (that is if nature runs it's course the way that it's hopefully supposed to) breaks my heart. I worry even more than I did pre-motherhood about dying. I worry about something horrible happening to Beau, or Andy, or me, and it's much harder for me to come up for air and settle my fears than it used to be. But I try. I try to stay present in my life and continue to thank God for all these blessings that surround me right now.
So one of the ways that I try to stay present is to fling that effing hamster off the never-ending-wheel-of-thoughts and to focus on the adorableness that is my baby beau. So I hold him as he nurses or snoozes in my arms and I stare at him (which I could seriously do forever and be content). I take in every little part of him with awe and thank my lucky stars for the opportunity to be this little person's mommy. I touch his perfect, pure, sweet, soft skin and think about how I love to kiss and nibble those chubby cheeks, hold those tiny hands, kiss those little feet, pretend that I'm eating those itty bitty fingers and toes (one of his favorites) while he laughs, raspberry that belly, nuzzle into that sweet neck, and did I mention the part about nibbling those chubby cheeks?! I love LOVE LOVE the smell of that baby. I love his breath, I love his soft hair, and yes, I even sort of love the smell of breast milk poop! :) I love those big blue eyes and that smile that melts my heart, and the way he squeals and laughs in a way that fills me with more joy than I can even articulate. I love that he has a fresh start in this world and I pray to God that he has many more joys than sorrows in his lifetime.
The rate at which he is changing is so crazy fast that I'm obsessed with capturing every moment that I can on camera. As he wraps those tiny hands around my one finger I think about how one day his hands will be larger and stronger than mine. Those cheeks will one day be course with hair and that little baby squeal will one day be the deep voice of a man. To a child, if I remember correctly, life moves at a snails pace while all they want is to be grown. As an adult, I've come to realize, life flies by while we desperately try to stop time and savor the beautiful moments of our youth. Today I just try to take a moment and be thankful for this day, this skin, and its' story right now. Lord knows it will already be different tomorrow...