Opening windows, cleaning closets, and tossing out the old stuff to make room for the new has always been a ritual of mine in the early spring. I was so ready for the fresh air of new bright life coming forth after being cooped up in the cold, dark winter months. I was excited and feeling fairly peppy when I started pulling out the clothes tucked away haphazardly in the late fall months. I felt good just thinking about the change of seasons. I was not prepared for what I would find in my haste to clean the closet, but kept yanking at the pile on the top shelf.
Underneath the pile of summer clothes I never hung up was a hand-knitted, blue and white baby’s blanket. I grabbed the blanket, holding it tightly to my chest against my quickly beating heart. Instantly, my mood changed from perky to melancholy. I reminisced about the little piece of treasure that reminded me of my grandson’s “infant” life. My sister had knitted the blanket for me as part of a “grandma’s baby bag” of things I would need for whenever my new grandson would visit. As I held the blanket closely to myself, I remembered whom it truly was meant for and tears began to leak from my closed eyes. I pictured him softy wrapped in blue and white. He was a special gift of love that charmed me right from his birth. I had awaited his arrival with anticipation.
I never imagined he would mean so much to me, but I have to say being a grandmother is one of the most special roles any woman could ever experience. I believe the blessing is even dearer when one loses the child through an untimely death, whatever the age. A child is the offspring of generations that have gone before and those yet to come. Many people, including myself, have to deal with the unfortunate reality of what appears to be an unnatural order when infant death occurs. The time frame is out of our control. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the quick end.
My grandson was only nineteen months when he died suddenly from a heart condition he had been born with. He had been operated on once and was due for another less evasive one, but never made it to his second surgery. He lived for only a short time. Somehow, I knew from his birth that joy and pain would be mixed in this precious bundle of love. Like the ying-yang of the Chinese philosophy, I too, would experience sweet and sour as a grandmother. The sweetness of watching him develop and the sourness of not knowing for how long he would live was not a palatable taste in my mouth.
The blue and white blanket that was tucked away the past year after his death was a very vivid reminder of that life I had come to adore with an everlasting love. Blue represented how I felt the instant I touched the blanket, knowing he was gone. Saddened by my loss, a memory flooded into view of the reality of what had transpired in my past with this little grandson. White represented the bleakness of a future without my grandchild. There is no image of color to help me deal with the pain I still experience at times when I think of him. The wound is still quite raw and I’m not sure how long it will take to heal. Only time will let me know.
Meanwhile, the blanket that held such hope for new beginnings has been transformed into a wonderful memory of the baby it was knitted for. My older sister had already been a grandmother, so knew what I would need to fill the role and she happily provided it for me. I was blessed with her helpfulness beyond what I could ever imagine at the time. The “grandmother bag” she made for me was filled with all sorts of objects for a newborn. Even the bag was decorated carefully to greet the newcomer to a family tradition of hope. “Grandma’s Baby Bag” was written on the front to let the world know the special role I had been cast in. I used up most of the contents, but the blanket still held the same fascination for me as it did then. Maybe, it was just the most fantastic feeling to be a grandmother so I kept it. Maybe, it was the whole process of creation that made me think, “if only he had been knitted together without a flaw like the blanket, he would still be here and I would be so much happier.” Or, maybe, I would have been able to tell him someday, “this baby blanket was made just for you and it came in a “grandma’s bag.” But, I can’t tell that story, because he’s not around in a tangible way.
As I was holding the blanket, still crying, I happened to look out the window. The sky was as blue as the blanket. White puffy clouds floated within sight. Seeing this ethereal appearance confirmed my faith that the spirit of my grandson lives on in a different aura, not the one I had come accustomed to in tangible form. Viewing the sky after visiting the memory of my past in the form of an infant’s blanket helped me grieve his loss for that moment. As the white puffs of clouds moved on, so did my grief gradually decrease that day? As I held the beauty of that moment, I felt better. Grief is like that. It comes in like the clouds, at will, but eventually moves away, leaving behind a brighter blue sky.
As I continued cleaning, I thought about the fact that I do have the memories, as well as the joy I experienced while he was in my life. Whenever I see other little ones, I feel the same awe and wonder I felt with my grandson. It’s as though he is there within each one of them, in some odd supernatural way. Their little “babbles” talk to my soul and refresh me. Watching them crawl, walk, or point fingers is so pleasurable. It’s sort of like the opening of windows in the early spring. The new fresh air is stimulating, while brimming with new beginnings. I feel good again. I feel alive again. I feel refreshed.
About the Author------
Mary J.Nowyj has a degree from Syracuse University, MA in Communication Skills. She taught at Onondaga Community College. Mary is the previous Historian for the town of Onondaga, where she has resided for forty-two years.
She enjoys exploring/traveling, theater, and writing. She is also a volunteer at Hope For Bereaved Center in Syracuse, New York.