In Sammy’s Broken Leg (Oh, No!) and the Amazing Cast That Fixed It, Sammy’s grandmother gets one mention (as a bringer of treats) and one appearance (crying happy tears when Sammy shows off her ability to walk again).
Yet, my real-life grandmother’s heart is on every page, just as it was present every minute in my granddaughter’s real life. My heart thumped when I saw my granddaughter’s inability to walk, for reasons unknown. My heart went on alert when I heard she broke her femur (thigh bone). My heart ached as I tried to calm her when she came home from the hospital, sweaty and scared in her humongous purple fiberglass cast. My heart agonized to fix the muscle spasms that made her cry.
My heart wept each time I visited and beheld our vigorous little girl growing evermore wan and scrawny.
I couldn’t do the “heavy lifting” (figurative and literal). My daughter and son-in-law became the undisputed potty care experts. They’re the ones who got up in the middle of the night to turn the child, or soothe her. And so much more.
I helped around the edges: scouring stores for clothes to fit over the cast; taking care of another granddaughter, a months-old infant blissfully unaware of her sister’s plight; and, yes, bringing treats or games to engage my “beached whale” granddaughter.
Still, my heart ached, big-time.
One day, I remembered an email I got when a friend became a grandmother: “My baby had a baby!” exulted the subject line. With that memory came an explanation for my outsized heartache. My heart hurt for what my granddaughter was going through — and my heart hurt for what her mother, my baby, was going through. My heart was doubly hurt.
My daughter found consolation in early days, as she looked around the children’s hospital Emergency Room. “It could be so much worse,” she told me. I remembered that. And my heartache eased, a bit.
And More: In Leslie Stahl’s recent book, Becoming Grandma: The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting, she talks about her heart turning to mush when she beheld her grandchild. To which I add: a mushy heart is a vulnerable heart.