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Becoming the Grown-Up

Becoming the Grown-Up

Beads of sweat sprung up along my hairline and raced down my spine. I didn't know whether I was hot flashing, or panicking.

Evie, my granddaughter, was screaming. SCREAMING.

Zoe entered the bedroom. "I think it's time for us to go home," she said, sweeping up her daughter.

"I don't know what happened," I said. "She was fine in the bathtub. Fine." I fumbled with a diaper.

"Mom. Let me do it." She expertly secured the diaper,  and pulled a clean onesie over her baby's head.

Tom popped his head in, stating the obvious. "Oh, no.  Someone's unhappy."

I paced the room, the way Shelby, our golden retriever does when it's storming. There was something terribly wrong with the baby. She would need a doctor. An expert. The best. "Let me hold her a minute," I begged. "Maybe I can calm her down."

The baby arched her back and screamed even louder when I pulled her from Zoe's arms.

"Please, Mom," Zoe said, retrieving her child. "She's just had a long day. Dad. Would you get my diaper bag and purse?"

In an instant, she and the baby were out of the bedroom, down the hall, and gone.

Gone.

The house fell quiet.

My own mother hated goodbyes. When I married at 23, my new husband Tom and I moved across the state of Missouri to St. Louis, just a four-hour drive from my home town of Kansas City. The distance was short enough to allow for weekend visits, and long enough to make them infrequent.  My mother cried every time our visits ended, which upset and confused my children.

"Please, Mom," I whispered once. "I need you to be the grown-up here."

Bravery was not my mother's strongest suit. She did well when circumstances were pleasant but enter a negative emotion, hers or anyone else's—fear, sadness, loss, anger—and she didn't know what to do with it.

She was happy when I was happy. She freaked when I was sad. My anger, she took personally. My loneliness, she just couldn't tolerate. Therefore, I grew up believing  that uncomfortable feelings were scary, and to be avoid at all costs.

Tom stepped back into the house after helping Zoe and Evie out to their car.

"Was she still crying?" I asked.

"Screaming her head off," Tom affirmed. Humming, he began clearing the dinner dishes.

I need you to be the grown-up. I need you to remain calm. I need you to separate yourself from me, stand on your own two feet, and allow me to stand on mine.

For the rest of the evening, I overcame the temptation to text Zoe every hour to see how the baby was doing. The baby was fine. If she wasn't, Zoe was smart enough to figure it out.

I need you to summon up courage, and show me, through your words and actions, that life is not to be feared.

Tom and I enjoyed a few games of Parcheesi, crawled into bed, and with our feet intertwined, read until we became too drowsy to continue.

I need you to be the grown-up.

Then, I set my book aside, my reading glasses on top of it, and drifted off to sleep, confident in tomorrow.

***

 

 



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Categories: essays

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