She never got to be the grandmother she wanted to be.
My mum never got to be the kind of grandma she wanted to be, but she was the mum I needed her to be.
“I ordered you a sun dress. You’ll love it! I wore sun dresses the whole time I was pregnant with you and your brother,” my mum said. She proudly spoke of her mythic low weight-gain pregnancies. “I walked right out of the hospital in one.”
I bristled. My first instinct was to reject the gift, unseen, arguing many of my mum’s unasked-for favours. The irony was, her hope that I wouldn’t pack on too much pregnancy weight was right there with me.
The women in my family aren’t good dieters — daily deprivation of favourite foods is a sure-fire hit off the madness pipe — so I’d never take off the excess pounds.
I bit back my worries and my protest, but I’m sure I had an edge in my voice when I asked if the dress was returnable. They say you always hurt the ones you love, and I’m pretty sure the phrase originated with mothers and daughters.
I didn’t want stress; I was finally pregnant past the seventh week, heartbeat heard and all. Two years of trying and two early miscarriages led to finally deciding that if I wasn’t meant to carry a kid, we’d adopt one or my husband and I would be child-free people who went to Hawaii all the time and had really nice furniture.
It was my mum who helped me make peace after the second miscarriage when I cryingly drove to work. She told me, “If it doesn’t happen, so what? You can still have joy.” She didn’t say how I’d do that or why she believed it, but it was enough for me.
She wasn’t an optimist, my mum, so her more positive pronouncements were the ones I took the most seriously.
For a non-religious, superstitious person like me, pregnancy after some false starts is a weird thing. Every tic, every twinge, every lack of tic, every lack of twinge had to mean something. I was so wrapped up in waiting for something to go wrong, I didn’t notice when it did.
Things changed so suddenly, and like most curve balls life throws you, I wasn't sure how to deal.
I should have sensed something was off on my dad’s birthday. My parents were in Las Vegas for a quick getaway, and I called to wish my dad a happy birthday. Afterward, my mum got on the phone and told me, “I forgot your father’s birthday, I feel so bad. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
The casinos were cold and hard to walk through, and she was getting out of breath. I thought she was making some kind of excuse for forgetting her husband’s birthday, but I should have known this was much more than absent-mindedness; this was a woman who prided herself on giving great gifts.