May 05 2020 For My Granddaughter who is Two and ¾’s During the Pandemic
The granddaughter to whom this poem is dedicated is my 6th grandchild and 4th granddaughter. She is my daughter’s 2ndchild. When she was born, I was the first person to hold her. Her mom had a planned C-section and for medical reasons had general anesthesia. It is a family joke that her father does “not do blood,” so both mom and dad asked me to be in the operating room, and to then take her and hold her skin to skin until her mother was conscious and able to hold her. For two hours, I held this newborn and played surrogate for my daughter, while mom and dad were in recovery together.
At first, I ping-ponged from the present to 35 years earlier when I had held her mother immediately after birth. But her tiny, warm body pulled me insistently to the present. Grandchildren give us that special blessing—the chance to be wholly present. So we settled in to breathe together. I matched my inhalations and exhalations to hers, marveled at the touch of her velvety skin and the miniscule fingernail on her right pinky finger, the miraculous gift of life’s continuity. I whispered a Shehechiyanu, kissed the top of her head and sang her “Summertime” for the first time.
I have been matching my breath to hers ever since and “Summertime” is her favorite song. She is named after me and her father’s mother.
For My Granddaughter who is Two and ¾’s During the Pandemic
I miss the storm door that never closes behind me.
I miss the squeal of delight that greets me when I hang my keys on the rack in your hall.
I miss the little hands that grab for my coat and reach for my shoes.
“Gromzy, you have to take these off.”
If I don’t, I may not stay long enough for a story, a walk down the street, bath time, a snack.
I miss your toddler seduction.
“Do you want to see my baby, my princess drawing, my sleeping bag?”
“Oh yes, I do.”
I miss the way time falls away when I am with you.
I miss disengaging with “I have to go home now to feed the dogs.”
I miss your smile as we chant the familiar excuse together.
I miss miss miss it all with a deep ache.
The pandemic, a rude, uninvited bully, has taken over our playground,
And shoved us—made us fall away from one another.
You dislike the digital proxies even more than I do.
FaceTime does not have a key rack.
Caribu has no place for my shoes or a way to hold you in my lap when we read a story.
Zoom does not let my hand cup your head for Shabbat blessings.
I will remember everything about this time and tell you stories about it.
I hope you will only remember that your Gromzy always loves you,
Your mother is a wonderful teacher,
Your father delights in you,
And that once upon a time, your brother became your best friend.
Lee M. Hendler is the Co-Founder and President of the Jewish Grandparents Network