My granddaughter is going to spend the weekend with me. I need it. As tired as I know I'm going to be running after a 5-year old with non-stop energy, I need to spend a few days with her. You see, last Sunday, she called me something she had never called me before. It wasn't a bad name, it just wasn't the name she dubbed me. During a phone conversation with her, Peanut called me (cue music) -- "Grandma". GASP!
I've been "Gamma" for about four years. When Peanut was learning to call her mom "mommy" and her dad "daddy", she referred to me as "Gamma" and I've been Gamma ever since. There's something about the name your first grandchild gives you that is special beyond special. My daughter was my mom's first grandchild, and dubbed her "Nanny". My mom has 10 grandchildren now (including two step-grandchildren ... of another race .. but that's another story) and every last one of them refer to her as Nanny. It's an honor the first grandchild gets to bestow and most grandparents cherish the moniker and try to live up to it with every fiber of their being. I have vivid memories of my daughter ready to fight her cousin when cousin called my mom Nanny. Looking back, I can say it was my daughter's first "oh hell naw" moment. My daughter and all of her five year-old self explained to cousin that this is "my Nanny" and you are not allowed to call her Nanny. I remember telling daughter that as the first grandchild, it was up to her to teach the cousins who Nanny was and what her name was. She was cool with being the "first" as long as cousins recognized. Needless to say, they learned to recognize and there was peace amongst the cousins.
When I heard Peanut call me "Grandma", I knew it was time for some quality time. It reminded me of that moment in an adult relationship when you stop referring to your partner by the nickname he/she has always been and calling them something ordinary that doesn't convey the specialness that is your relationship. That moment that usually signifies a subtle shift when things start to go downhill. When the love of my life and I started drifting apart, I can almost pinpoint the day because he was no longer "Pet Nickname" but "First Name". It didn't seem like a big deal when it happened but in hindsight, it was a huge signal that something was off.
Now I don't mean to imply that a 5-year old calling me "Grandma" is a sign of something on the scale of a marriage or relationship ending, but it did jolt me out of my own head. I don't have the scientific evidence to back it up, but my gut says it's pretty easy to slip into yourself and have an all out pity party when faced with a serious illness. Especially if you're prone to episodes of depression anyway. But it's not the time for a pity party. It's the time to embrace life fully (which we should all be doing anyway). It's the time to really focus on what's important -- getting healthy and making sure your relationships aren't focusing on the dumb stuff. And if your relationship are all about the dumb stuff, then it's time to build new relationships. I realize I've been caught up in my own health drama (which is understandable). I've been wallowing in my own self-pity and not giving too much thought to how those closest to me are affected. I've pulled inside my own little bubble, determined to get through this on my own and refusing to allow those that love me to give me the strength that is their love.
My goal these next couple of days with Peanut is to become her Gamma again. I've built an online identity around that moniker so it's important that I keep it (just kidding but not). Seriously, I'm going to let my family and friends "in" and accept the encouragement and hope that is their love. So when Peanut wants to see my scar and asks me if the doctors fixed me, I want to hold her on my lap and tell her they've given me something that will make me feel better and then commence to coloring or writing notes to her mommy. I won't sink into my "woe is me world" and put in a Scooby Doo video for her. I'll just be her Gamma.
It's all in the name.