I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Meeting a new relative

Waking up today, this Sunday, I know that I will be traveling back home from Alexandria, Virginia on the East Coast all the way to Bellingham, Washington on the West Coast. it will be long and hard, but every bit of this trip has been worth the effort. You see, I was introduced to my niece Allison's daughter Lexie, who is two months old, born June 18. My sister Norma Jean, Lexie's grandmother, and Pete, Lexie's grandfather, and I have all been together with Lexie for five days now. Totally different from my quiet and well-ordered life at home.

Lexie is an IVF baby, with a sperm donor father. Allison has a 25-page biography about this man, and when she is old enough Lexie will be given the opportunity to meet her biological father, if she chooses to. Allison paid extra for this feature because she felt it would have been hard to explain to Lexie later why she didn't give her that option. She will know about her heritage, all of it, from the time she's old enough to care.

Allison is now a Lt. Colonel in the Army, with a career in operations research. She is very good at her job, and for the past few months has been home on maternity leave. She goes back to work after Labor Day, but since Lexie was born Allison has devoted every moment of her life to nurturing her newborn. Allison is good at everything she does, and Lexie is no exception. I am totally and completely in love with this beautiful child.
When Allison decided to have a baby as an unmarried mother, I was at first unsure of the wisdom of the action, but now I cannot imagine a world without this child. She is perfect in every way and of course at this point in her life she spends it drinking breast milk, pooping said breast milk out, sleeping and even spending a bit of time awake, and I was gifted with three beautiful smiles yesterday as I held her, cooing to her. I am amazed at how fantastically beautiful a newborn is, I had forgotten.

This whole experience has also awakened feelings in me about the passage of time. I thought I had dealt with all of that during the period when I read Biocentrism and wrote about it here. I look at my sister, two years younger than me, and as I see her through my mental lens, she still looks the same to my eyes, but now she has gray in her hair (not as much as me). Pete is suffering from COPD (chronic pulmonary obstructive disease) from decades of smoking. He still sneaks a puff now and then, and gets grief from both Allison and Norma Jean when he walks back in from the back yard. I know it's because they love him but I also know he's never been able to completely break the cycle of addiction to nicotine, even though he's dying from the disease.

I don't know if I'll ever see Pete again, and I think that each time I see him, so my heart strings are pretty darn sore from these five days. He's much worse now and fights for each breath. Very limited in what he can do now, he is still totally engaged in life through the wonders of the Internet. I helped him fix up a blog and I hope, really hope, that he uses it to leave Lexie some of his writing, his thoughts, because he's a really good writer and Lexie will never know him any other way; he won't be around.

This made me realize that I won't either, and I don't suffer from COPD. I'm almost 68 now, and by the time she will be an adult, the chances of my being around are slim. I'm just not sure I'm interested in living to 90. Having mobility and a decent mental capacity are my whole life. I don't know very many sharp and energetic 90-year-olds. Or any, actually.

The interaction between the parents and Allison fills me with awe. It never changes, really, as most family dynamics don't, but there is an undercurrent of cherished shared time together and the realization that there won't be many more like this. And then there is Lexie. Everyone centers their love for each other around this new life, this new hope for the future. Me too.

Because of today's electronic wonders, and because Lexie already has videos and lots of pictures available on Allison's Facebook page, I will watch her development from afar and will try hard to keep myself from becoming that doting great-aunt who shows all her friends the new baby in her life. But then again, most of those friends and family are also on Facebook. It's a new era of virtual connectivity, so in many ways now that I have held her, smelled her precious babyness and fallen in love with her, I will hold her in my heart forever. I will cry over her trials, and I will celebrate her accomplishments.

There will never be this moment again, but I have captured it here and I am sharing it with you, and I too can come back and visit as I pore over the pictures and exclaim as she grows from an infant to a toddler. I wish I could keep her safe from all that she will endure in life, but it's a lament that everyone who has ever loved a child understands. Now that my heart is full to bursting, I'd better stop here.


Linda said...

What a beautiful post. My youngest grandchild was born June 6, and she, along with the rest of the kids, will never know me except as an old woman. I hope they will feel my love and prayers for them as they live their lives. I am also almost 68, but with the family history of the women, 90 isn't impossible!

Gigi said...

Absolutely beautiful post and Lexie is gorgeous! So glad you got to see her and hold her. Babies are amazing and can totally captivate you in a matter of minutes.

CiCi said...

The picture of you holding Lexie is really great. Lexie is indeed a beautiful baby. I like it so much that some day she will have the choice to meet her biological father. Hope you have a safe and uneventful trip home so you can continue in the realm of baby love and family.

Anonymous said...

Yes, grandkids are great! I love my two little people, ages 2-1/2 years and 6 months. Babysitting the younger one twice a week is icing on the cake. He's so cute and loveable and not fussy at all. So easy to care for.

You should enlarge that photo of you and your grand niece and display it somewhere in plain view. Lovely pic!

Linda Myers said...

Lovely post. Thanks for your candor.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I'm so glad you got the opportunity to spend time with Allison, Lexie, Pete, and Norma Jean. I think our bodies are rather time-bound, even if our spirits are not.It's uplifting to be with a baby, watching life renew itself. And the tiny ones don't mind that we are old as long as we engage with them.

#1Nana said...

Congratulations on the newest addition to your family. I just spent a weekend with family that I hadn't seen in ages...and was surprised to find everyone older. In my mind they are still kids. It's great that you are capturing the moments.

Whitney Lee said...

Babies are incredible, aren't they? I've found that, as stressful as babies sometimes can be, it's impossible for me to be unhappy when I am holding a sleeping infant.

It's wonderful that you all took this opportunity to see Allison and Lexie and to participate in her promotion. I am certain it means a lot to Allison.

I know a bit about what you mean about being aware of the passage of time. It strikes me often because I so want my parents to get to watch my children grow, but I know they aren't going to be around forever. My husband, having lost his mother quite some time ago, is rather sensitive to this fact, and takes every opportunity to have the kids around his dad. I often mourn the fact that my dad is so far away from us; although he and I talk daily, he's only seen Jordan twice and has yet to meet Connor. It does make a person cherish those shared moments though.

That's really sad about Pete. I understand how tough it is to quit smoking and am thankful I quit before it did irreparable damage. My husband is in the middle of quitting. I've been on his case since I quit a few years ago so I'm really cheering him on (and trying keep him busy). Hopefully Pete will use the blog you've set up for him. At least you know that Lexie will one day have the opportunity to know you better through all you've written.

I hope you had a safe trip home and that you'll take the time to rest a bit!

Stella Jones said...

The baby has brought out your tenderist side D-Jan and I think it will be the same for me when my new grandchild comes along. It's nice that we can share the enjoyment of these new lives together and discuss how the children are growing, both of us knowing that time is running out, slowly but surely.
Blessings, Star

Donna B. said...

Oh DJan...your post made me cry. The picture of Lexi asleep on your chest is so very precious. What a treasure she is! I get all mushie with babies...and with the upcoming birth of my grand son, I feel those protective, loving feelings and adness from the distance living in a different state...

Remembering your posts of your past, I can only imagine the thoughts and feelings running through you. Babies always bring forth love. Just holding that little pink bundle transports us to all kinds of places...

I am sending you a huge hug and thanking technology for phones, the internet and facebook. Thank you so much for sharing her with us. ((( HUUUUUGGGG )))

Far Side of Fifty said...

Well I am certain that you will be her favorite Great Aunt! What a lovely photo..she is a much loved and wanted child..in the end that is what will matter the most! :)

CrazyCris said...

I can't remember the last time I browsed through this blog DJan... I came over on a link from one of your other posts when you mentioned Lexie's "special" conception. I thought it might be this and I was curious, since it's something I've been considering myself this past year, although I haven't mentioned it to my family yet... I think your niece must be very strong to have chosen this, and I admire her courage!

As for 90 year-old active people... you'd be surprised! I know a couple of them who, well don't jump out of airplanes, but do go travelling all over the world any chance they get! And I don't see why you wouldn't be the same! ;o)