The day she was born Alicia had been in labor for two and a half days. She was in a special room with intensive prenatal care, but the birth was still physically stressful. The doctor on duty was an intern who weighed maybe a hundred pounds if she was soaking wet and I couldn’t stand her inefficiency and rude manners. After she was born the nurse in charge pronounced she had “terminal merc” as if none of us knew what that meant. I began praying in tongues as eleven specialists rushed into the room and tried to get the new baby to breathe.
That day changed my life.
It was September 27, 2009. That was the day Harmony Janet-Suzanne Vosburg entered our world, and after awhile she found her breath and her voice and started nursing from my baby girl, Alicia.
I went to find a hotel because we had all been up for a few days, but it didn’t work out and I ended up coming back to the expansive birthing room to sleep in a chair. The night nurse was taking vitals on the new baby and Mama and Daddy were asleep, so I watched and marvelled. After she was finished she wrapped her in a receiving blanket and placed her in her plastic cot.
“Can I hold her?” I asked the nurse, a short woman a little younger than myself.
“Well, okay,” she said, eyeing me suspiciously. “Keep her head above her feet.” With this piece of advice she showed me how to cradle my granddaughter in my arms as if I had never held a baby.
An adventure in grandparenting 101 – you have ceased to know anything and now you know nothing. You are treated this way by many people, who claim to know more than you. Those are the people that don’t understand the depth and breadth of a woman’s heart. Your heart that has loved too much...loved the parent of this new baby so much you have endured nights of tears and prayers and ache and joy that no person should have to endure. Your heart that knows that your own child is now beginning a journey that will make them understand this love. In a way, your grandchildren are not only a reward, but a comeuppance for your children – a chance for them to understand you more.
Harmony has beauty, like her mother. In fact her expressions and manners are so similar it’s scary. She is a light and a joy with a desire to experience everything, no matter how dangerous it is. She sits for hours, reading book after book. She nurtures her stuffed animals as if they are real and breathing. In her world, Harmony is center-stage- always performing for a dazzled audience.
The last time I was there it was Alannah’s first birthday. The visit was also during a move where my daughter went from an apartment to a cute duplex with a side yard – during the hottest week of the year. A lot happened that week and in the busyness and fury of activity I was given the absolute joy and privilege of watching the girls.
I had a room at the local hotel- a Best Western with two beds that the girls loved jumping on. They had food I was instructed to buy “Lots of fruit, Grandma!” I watched Sponge Bob, read books, played puzzles, went for walks – all while Alicia and Brian and Yaya (the other grandma, Suzanne)moved homes and readied the property for a new renter.
I was in heaven.
Harmony lives 10428.4 miles away from us. That’s 16782.9 kilometers away from the city we live in today, Johannesburg. It is no distance at all when it comes to the heart and some of you who are separated from kids and grandkids know what I am talking about. On Sunday she will have a jungle birthday party and I will call her but she will be distracted by the fun and the noise and her mom will be, as well.
Still, she glows in my heart, burning out a place I didn’t know I had. A place that is raw and tender and filled with more crazy, stupid love than I could have ever imagined.
On the last day I was there in August I was bathing both girls in their new bathtub. Harmony, I noticed, had a scratch on her leg.
“Where did you get that, Harmony?” I asked, pointing to a neat line that was pink and new across her leg.
“See that, Grandma?” she said, pointing to her scratch. “I got that in AFRICA!”
She seemed to think that our hotel across town was where I lived - Africa. As if I was too lazy all these months to drive across town and see her and be in her world.
The thought still makes me smile...and cry.
Happy Birthday, Baby. You are the Harmony of all that is good in this world.