Hello, Lita! That’s me, short for grandmother in Spanish.
My retirement coincided with me becoming the go-to grandmother for my grandkids, Angela (age 9), and her infant brother Matthew. My son Hans and his wife Sandra, a native of Colombia, moved from New York City to Connecticut to live near me.
I’d never imagined becoming a grandmother. I was a feminist, someone who cherished her independence. The promise as I saw it was to choose how I wanted to spend my time, my days, myself.
In Sandra’s eyes, I detected a different version of my role, me embedded in daily life, the way it was in her Latin family.
Would I live up to expectations? Or flounder under resentments and a sense of life short-circuited? Would it be the best of times? Or the worst?
There is a joke among the Ukrainians that children are brought up by same sex parents: the mother and the grandmother.
So it had been with my granddaughter Angela in Colombia in her first years with her Abuela and her mama Sandra.
And so it became for Matthew in Connecticut, shared for most hours of his infant and toddler years with his mama and his Yankee grandma.
ONCE UPON A TIME OF CATASTROPHE
RAISING OUR YOUNG FOR AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
The obsession with cataclysms got started with Matthew’s love of dinosaurs, and his creations of behemoth-like T-Rexes from tree limbs piled on my deck. Tales about the ferocity of dinosaur life poured out of him at ages five, six, and seven.
Things got more ferocious when Matthew’s awareness of catastrophes—hurricanes, fires, gun shootings—happening in the real world infiltrated his imagined calamities.
What haunted me and set off my fears? That when my grandchildren reached my age, they would face planet crises that would make their survival impossible.
I listened ever more carefully to Matthew as he plunged from one tale of violence to another, even recording our games and conversations, attempting to siphon off some of his confidence and creativity for myself. I stacked his displays of resilience against my anxieties, searching for what it meant to be a good/helpful/supportive grandmother in current times.
What the two of us did together, said together, lived through together during Matthew’s year in second grade is the story I’ve had the satisfaction of transferring to print, scene after scene of our antics, our tensions, our stand-offs, up close and personal.
I looked for possibilities to support, inspire, reassure both my grandchildren and their parents. The wonder is that I found them, over time, through close companionships with all the family. Being Lita became as satisfying and wondrous as any chapter of my life.
Now in complete draft, my memoir of family life is under review for publication.