A New Use of Small

If you read my blog posts regularly, you’ve seen that I have written very irregularly for the past months. Stephen and I were in France, where, for the very first time, everything seemed to go wrong. First, Stephen’s 95-year-old father became gravely ill a week after we arrived. Several years ago, he was diagnosed with dementia, which had been progressing slowly but persistently. And in the past year, he had been plagued by periods of extremely low blood pressure. But when we visited two days before our departure, he appeared to holding his own, still able to joke in the moment and eating his meals with gusto.

Then, a week into our absence, Saint Paul’s Towers had him taken to the hospital because he seemed to be failing: his blood pressure was lower than ever and he was incoherent. Then began the tug-of-war between “Should we stay in France, or return to Berkeley?” Flights back to the States were completely booked, airport security lines snaked around for hours, flights were all delayed and uncertain. And maybe his father would recover.

He did—for one day. He began eating and speaking coherently again, and Stephen and I heaved two huge sighs of relief. He would bounce back enough that we could spend time with him once we returned. Two days later, he died.

A week after his father’s death, Stephen tested positive for Covid. Nine days later, my eyeballs heart and I was positive. Neither of us was terribly ill, but we were both forced to isolate, imprisoned inside our house by temperatures in the low hundreds, and humidity in the sixties.

Once we landed back home, with relief, our sixteen-month-old twin grandson ended up in the hospital with a bad eye infection. Was this chain of grief and anxiety every going to end?

During these months of uninterrupted tension and sadness, it was difficult to practice small. It had too much competition from all our troubles and tribulations. But I did find a strategy for offering myself some relief: I selected one powerful, joyful moment from my life to return to again and again.

That moment was when I first saw my first grandchild, Amelie, nearly 11 years ago, at Roosevelt hospital in New York City. The birth had become tension-filled at the last minute, when Amelie refused to drop. I was ordered out of the room and stood in the waiting room, where a nurse comforted me while l wept. As soon as I received Jonah’s text, “She’s here,” I rushed back, and when I gazed into the cart, I saw a baby who looked, to my mother’s eyes, just like newborn Jonah!

At that moment, I thought I had never felt happier. Amelie was fine, a beautiful baby girl, eyes wide open, who looked exactly like her papa. And I was connected intimately to both of them, through blood and DNA—and love. Time had evaporated.: I lived in that moment, September 6, 2011, and at the same time, in the moment of Jonah’s birth, July 5, 1975. Two new, miraculous lives within my life.

And even more: I saw myself in the future, carrying this beautiful child, my first grandchild and Jonah’s first child, her legs wrapped around my waist, arms encircling my neck.

Someday, I will tell Amelie all of this. But today, I am telling you.

In Marrakech

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