A Perfect Love

When I found out I was going to be a grandmother at the age of 49, I thought life as I knew it would be over. I was in shock. Horrified really. Grandmothers are supposed to be old, knit things, bake stuff, and smell like lavender or other field flowers. I certainly didn’t look the part. I looked 39. I’d spent the latter half of my life trying my best to defy the aging process and I thought I was doing a pretty good job. Grandmother was not a title I was ready for. How could this be happening?

My 22-year-old daughter wasn’t the kind of girl who daydreamed about getting married and having babies. At school she would have been voted ‘least likely to conform to anything remotely traditional’, or at the very least she’d settle down much later in life after her career aspirations had been fully and successfully met. She was still at Uni doing a Bachelor of Social Science Degree. She wanted to be a counsellor or a psychologist and help bring solace to troubled minds. Pregnant was not in her game plan. Yet she decided to have the baby and put her degree on hold. I was silently devastated.

I had just married my second husband after a very short dating period. He is seven years younger than I am. My husband would become a grandfather aged 42. If he’d run for the hills I wouldn’t have blamed him. I wanted to run too — far, far away — and pretend it was all a bad dream.

What a shit mother. I felt like the worst person in the world. How could I feel that way about my only child, my beloved daughter’s pregnancy? I mean she wasn’t 16, she was no teen mum, but I still felt she was too young, she wasn’t ready. I knew what she was in for — I still remembered. I just wasn’t sure she’d be able to cope. God knows I couldn’t. Being pregnant, and those first newborn months were some of the worst times in my life. I don’t use those words lightly, trust me. If you read my book Every Shitty Thing you’ll see just how much shit one person can endure and still live.

I was terrified my daughter would feel the same way, go through the same things. The thought depressed me, even though we aren’t alike in many ways. She was so strong, so confident, compared to me at that age. I had her when I was 27 and I still wasn’t ready! She wasn’t planned. My plan was to travel the world and live like a gypsy. That didn’t happen.

I couldn’t have done it without my mother’s support. She played a huge role in the birth of my daughter and those critical first few months. In fact, my mum was more like the mother in my daughter’s young life. Their bond was so profound I wondered how it was possible.

“You’ll understand one day, love. It’s different being the grandparent. The love you feel for that child, well, there’s nothing on this earth like it,” Mum would say.

She might as well have been talking Klingon. I had no idea what she was on about.

Clearly, I was missing the maternal gene. I’d never felt more inadequate in my life. Eventually, when my daughter was three months old, I fell deeply in love with her. I couldn’t imagine then how on earth I could love anyone more. Still, my mother’s connection with my daughter fascinated me, and I was grateful for it. It gave me peace and comfort. Accepting motherhood was a constant mind game that I’m still not sure I’ve mastered. My daughter tells me otherwise… that’s a relief. But my mother saved me on some of the stormiest days of young motherhood. Without her, I would have been screwed. I couldn’t do it again — give my daughter a sibling. Too hard. I take my hat off, bow down and kiss the feet of every woman who has ever done it more than once. You are either insanely brave or crazy!

Mum was 51 the year my daughter was born, and she looked 61. She knitted, and she always smelt like roses. She already had two granddaughters. Mum was the epitome of grandmother. She died at 66, when my daughter was 15 and her heart still aches at the loss of her nanna.

And there I was, about to become a nanna and expected to fill my mother’s shoes. I felt doomed. It seemed an impossible task. I’d look in the mirror and say out loud “Hello, Nan…” I just couldn’t make those words roll off my tongue. What a shit grandmother.

But that was then.

I met my granddaughter when she was three months old. Long story — it’s in the book. And from the moment I laid eyes on her and she smiled up at me, I felt my heart swell with a joy I’d never felt before. It was beyond love, if there is such a thing. There was an intense, resounding sensation, an energy that I could almost see, connecting us. I thought of Mum and understood for the first time what she meant.

Five years on, and the bond I share with my granddaughter still deepens. It’s very special and everyone recognizes it, especially my daughter. She remembers. She’s pregnant with her second child, a boy. I’m going to be a grandmother again, well, a Moo Moo — my granddaughter calls me that – it’s an old nickname. I couldn’t totally conform — grandma…nanna…no way!

Marcia Abboud