July 26, 2008

In my post about my mother, I mentioned a beloved grandmother. She died a few years ago, but I think of her often. She actually was my husband’s paternal grandmother, not mine, but I was very close to her — closer than I am to my own grandparents. My husband was even closer to her, of course, much closer to her than to his own mother. Frankly, his grandmother did a lot more to raise him than his mother. Also frankly, I am very glad he takes after his grandmother (and his father and grandfather and other grandparents and the dog) more than his mother.

[The benefit of a secret anonymous blog is that you can tell the truth about your mother-in-law.]

Thinking about his grandmother is one of the saddest parts about infertility. With all of my heart, I wish that I could have had a baby years ago. Not just because infertility has been awful, but because I wish that his grandmother could have been alive to meet the baby. Just imagining the warmth in her smile, her eyes dancing, with the baby in her arms, makes me cry. I have photos of her with my husband as a baby, and she always looks like her heart is going to burst with love for him. I know it would have been just the same for my baby, maybe even moreso, because her beloved grandson would have a baby of his own, and she would have loved us all, so so much.

A few months before she died, she and I had a quiet, intimate conversation. I asked her permission, if we ever had a son, to name the child after her late husband. She said, so gently, “I have thought about that, many times. That would make me very happy.” I cannot convey to you the warmth of her smile when she said that.

A month before she died, she and I had a long conversation about family. We talked about a cousin I had just seen, whom I hadn’t seen since we were little kids. She asked me if I planned to keep in contact with the cousin. I didn’t. She urged me to maintain contact. “You know that for me, family is the most important thing.” I said, “I know,” but that I was selective about which family I stay in contact with, that this cousin and I had never been close and didn’t have much in common. She said, “To me, none of that matters. They are all your family.”

DH and I have had baby names picked out for years, even before TTC. A girl’s name that we’ve loved from the beginning, and a boy’s middle name after his late maternal grandfather. After his late paternal grandfather died, we figured out a first name for a boy that derives from that grandfather’s name. But, because his grandmothers both outlived his grandfathers (the other grandmother is still alive, and very spunky for a woman in her late 90’s), and DH’s cultural tradition is not to name a child after a living person, we hadn’t picked out any names to honor his grandmother. But the more I keep thinking about it, the more I know that we have to name a baby girl, if we have one, after his grandmother. We haven’t settled on a name yet, and until I’m finally pregnant for more than a couple of weeks I don’t think we’ll break out the baby name books to start narrowing it down. But we’ll find something lovely.

His grandmother was one of the gentlest, yet strongest, people I have ever known. She survived the WWII concentration camps and the loss of her entire family. She lived with a chronic illness for 60 years that resulted from her time in the camps. She escaped her home country with her husband and little boy in the midst of a violent revolution. When her husband died, she learned to be independent, learning to do basic tasks like use the ATM. She held so strongly to her faith, trying to teach by example but never telling her children or grandchildren how to live their lives. She loved animals, and over 50 years later still cried about the dog that she’d had to leave behind when she fled her homeland. She accepted and loved her granddaughter-in-law from a different background, even though her culture said she shouldn’t. She never let us come over without eating “just a little piece of fruit,” and she never let us leave her house without some candy. She knew the score, but unlike every other person in the family she never said a bad word about anyone.

When you name a child after someone, you are trying to honor that person. When you name a child after yourself, well frankly I don’t know what you’re doing because I would never do that, so I really have no idea what the motivations are. But when you name a child after someone else, someone that you love and respect, often you hope that the child will take after that person in some way, that you will draw some of that person’s qualities to the child.

My future daughter, if I have one, will never get a chance to meet her great-grandmother, but her middle name will always remind her of how much this incredible woman loved her, even before she existed. Her middle name will remind her of all that her great-grandparents sacrificed for her grandfather, for her father, for her. I would love for my little girl to be gentle yet strong, brave, kind to animals, and never say a bad word about anyone. My daughter couldn’t possibly have a better namesake.

8 Responses to “Grandmother”

  1. shawna Says:

    Hi from ICLW,

    What a lovely way to honor his grandmother and her memory.

  2. mrsamymarie Says:

    That is a wonderful post about your grandmother. Our husbands are similar in the fact that my husband’s grandparents took a big role in raising him. I am so very thankful for that. I can’t imagine him being like either his mother or father. Quite honestly I would have never married him if he was.

    Returning your comment: No my cat is not big at all. She is actually very little. It just looks that way because my computer screen is very far back on the desk and she is at the front of the desk. If you look closely you can see that the keyboard is behind her.


  3. Nity Says:

    Sounds like an amazing lady. I just finished the book The Amethyst Heart by Penelope J. Stokes and feel in many ways that could be written about your grandmother — a lady who lived by example, someone you greatly admire, lived through many various things (hers was integration in the south) that were trying and difficult… and the concept of honor in the name. I love the idea of naming your child after someone you admire, love and respect. My husband wants to name our child after a Sesame Street character. Hmm.

  4. mamasoon Says:

    Wow. That was such a beautiful story. I love it.
    (Thanks for the ICLW comment on my blog. I hope I don’t fill up the huge sharps box too!)

  5. nh Says:

    I think that’s one of the worse things about infertility – it breaks my heart that my grandad will never meet any children that I may have. Soon after he died I was talking to my gran and told her we had always planned that should we ever have a son he would have his name; because it was name of one of husbands grandfathers too it means a lot to both of us.

  6. M Says:

    Your husband’s late grandmother sounds like such a wonderful woman. I am glad for you that you got to be so close to her.

    I’m sure she would be more than honored to have your name your daughter after her, and I think your daughter (if that’s what you have) would be honored to share her name.

    What a wonderful sentiment.

  7. liddy Says:

    It amazes me how amazing grandmothers are, I just wish I remembered mine more. Thank you for reminding me, however, about the wonderful blessing of grandmas.

  8. Kathy Says:

    What a great post. I love that you had such a special relationship with your grandmother-in-law and that your future daughter’s middle name will be after her. I really like when naming has such special meaning and I guess that is one of the things you “get” to do with IF is have lots of time to choose names that are right for you and your husband to bestow on your future child(ren).

    Our baby girl Molly Marie’s (that was born and died on 4/17) middle name is both for my husband’s paternal grandmother’s first name and my middle name. Our four year old son Sean Owen’s middle name is both for my husband’s paternal grandfather’s first name and my husband’s middle name.

    If and when we have another boy someday his middle name will be after my husband’s maternal grandfather and my father’s middle name Howard. If we were to ever have another daughter I lean towards also giving her the middle name Marie in honor and memory of her sister, as well as her great grandmother and my middle name.

    I was very close to my grandmother’s both of whom died the year we were married. I have always wished that my maternal grandmother got to meet my son, but at least now I believe that she in Heaven with my daughter helping to care for her for me. My husband’s paternal grandmother did get to know and see our son before she died two years ago. My husband’s maternal grandmother is still living and like you, I have grown to have a very special relationship with my grandmother-in-law.

    Okay, sorry to go on and on. Like your grandmother-in-law family is so important to me, especially grandparents and and your post apparently struck a chord with me.

    Thank you for visiting my blog and for your thoughtful words and support. I appreciate your perspective on my post about questions and answers.


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