Our son Joel was born June 17, 1986.
This is a picture of my mother, Grandma Lucille, holding him. Joel was only a few weeks old and Mom was sixty-six.
When Mom and Dad came up to the hospital to see me after Joel was born, I remember Mom holding Joel and fighting back happy tears.
"I never thought I'd say this, but I'm in love," Mom said as she carefully cuddled the precious bundle. "He's just perfect."
I know how Mom felt; it was the same way I felt after Audrey was born; she is so tiny, so perfect. Mom's emotions brought tears to my eyes then, thirty years ago. When I was growing up, my parents never told me they loved me. I knew they did, but it wasn't said out loud. When Mom decreed she was in love with my newborn son, I was deeply touched, this was not a word she ever used lightly.
I went on to parent my sons much differently, and I told them I loved them every day. Mom was always a little uncomfortable, "Don't you think you're using that word a little too much?"
Mom was referring to the four letter 'L' word, of course.
My reply was, "No, I don't think a child can ever hear they are loved too often."
"My parents never told me that," she said. "If you had a roof over your head and food on the table, you were supposed to know they cared about you. They didn't have to say it all the time."
Mom's (and my late father's) generations came through extremely hard times; both of my parents had childhoods worse than any Dickens novel ever written. They had to grow up quickly and leave tender accoutrements behind for there was no place in their lives for feelings. There were only the facts, life was hard and you had to toughen up to survive.
Being raised on a farm a child learns early the animals are not pets; there is life and the stark reality of death, these facts remain unaltered. Tears don't help anything, best to leave them unshed for they only show weakness.
My father was tough and hated what he called 'bawling', but at times scenes on television shows would touch some unguarded emotions in him. I was stunned a few times to see tears trickling down his sunburned face at the dinner table. I felt uncomfortable then, as if I'd intruded on him in a very private moment. I'd quickly avert my gaze when his hard-calloused hand wiped the tell-tale tears away.
My mother was tougher; indeed, I've only see her cry twice in my life. I, on the other hand, was weak, so weak. I cried easily as a little child and have yet to overcome the tendency. Apparently the Tear-less Gene skipped a generation or something.
On Sunday, Abby and Joel brought baby Audrey to meet Great Grandma Lucille, now almost 96 years old.
And with a sense of deja vu, I heard what she said.
"She's perfect, so beautiful, I'm in love." I could tell Mom was crying.
I was supposed to be taking pictures, and I tried, but I had to leave the room for a bit.
It's hard to focus a camera when you're crying happy tears.