Days sometimes drag even as time flies by. Living from the inside out, the changes in ourselves — minds, bodies, spirits — are imperceptible, and yet much can shift in the course of a year.
More than a year ago we watched and waited as our daughter Leigh and her husband, Nohé, prepared for the birth of their first child. Leigh’s last ultrasound, at 29 weeks, was unnerving to me: a baby with huge eyes — could they be that large, or was I imagining what I saw? — looked out from her cosmic capsule. It was as if she could see us in the world beyond hers.
Anissa was born Sept. 24, 2016. Our first glimpse of her was in a 10-second video when she was two hours old. She looked like an ancient soul, weary in the wake of her transition from one life to the next.
In the days that followed it became clear that she was an observer. Anissa gazed at her new world, alert yet calm, and we in turn gazed upon her in wonder.
When we were raising our four children we were so mired in the hectic pace of a busy home that I failed to notice the subtle changes young children experience every day. A grandchild is different.
Watching Anissa grow in this past year has been like seeing a flower open in time-lapse photography: the serious newborn, a tightly closed bud unfolding, long limbs quivering; now colour peeling back at the edges — rolling, reaching, crawling; then petals expanding — standing, pointing, legs churning, charging ahead, fully blossomed in the time it takes to blink.
A few weeks after Anissa was born, Leigh said to me that what struck her with force was the realization that her fierce love for her newborn daughter was also the fierce love Russ and I must have had, and do have, for her, for all our children. As parents, the love we have for our children is the same as breathing. Life does not exist without it. Watching our own children parent is the same: we witness the immeasurable love and delight in their little one.
Of the many photos we see of Anissa in any given day, there was one recently that in a brief flash reminded me of one of my own baby pictures. Seeing myself in Anissa, however slight the resemblance, was a reminder of something I’d lost sight of — that I was once small too, and that my parents had the same I would walk through fire for you love.
As older people we run the risk of becoming jaded. Love is fine for the young! For us grownups it is superfluous. Or that’s what we tell ourselves when the hardships of life wear us thin and forget that we, too, are still worthy of the same love we were shown as infants, when our very being was cherished.
We just celebrated Anissa’s first birthday. She is fresh and joyful. She dances to music whenever she hears it, reaches with gusto for her morsels of peanut butter toast in the morning, leans forward into the autumn breeze. Anissa squeals with excitement as she walks behind her push toy, not quite ready to let go, but confident to explore knowing without looking that her parents are there when she needs them.
It can be difficult for we who have many years behind us to capture that sense of joy for ourselves. Sometimes it takes a child to help us to remember, and imagine now, being held, tenderly carried, if not by our parents, then by that Spirit of love that infuses all life.
Anissa plays with her toys and babbles to herself. Her favourite line is “goodgoodgood.” I don’t know if she understands the words, or just like the way the sounds roll off her tongue. But I feel it expresses what is at the core of her very being. Life, indeed, is goodgoodgood.