Sharon Randall: Gliding through life

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 16, 2011

In the past several days, I have spent a lot of time thinking and singing and gliding with Henry.
Not that Iím complaining.
Henry is my new grandson. He is 5 days old. Six, if I donít finish writing this by midnight.
I wish you could see him.
He has thick black hair that curls like feathers at the nape of his neck; long spidery fingers that clamp around my thumb; and deep blue eyes that look into mine in a way that makes me think he knows things about me, likes me anyway, and can be trusted to keep a secret.
Everybody says he looks just like his daddy, and I quite agree. But I also see in him his mama ó her hair, her eyes, her nose, her lips, her long second toe ó the baby girl who changed my world some 30 years ago, who grew up to be not just my daughter, but the kind of friend you can count on to know what you need to hear and never hesitates to say it.
Henry likes his mama a lot better than he likes me.
Canít blame him for that. She is beautiful and smart and she talks to him in a buttery purr that sounds, I think, like Catwoman on ěBatman.î
It also doesnít hurt, of course, that she is his sole food supply.
I was once that for her.
Being someoneís food supply is no small thing, a fact of which I often remind her.
ěI fed you like that,î I say. She looks up from nursing Henry, smiles and rolls her eyes.
Sometimes Henry tolerates a ěsupplementalî bottle from his dad or me to give his mom a chance to sleep five minutes, if sheís lucky. But ěsupplementalî is not the same as ěsole supply.î
Itís not even close.
He needs his mama to keep him happy and healthy. He needs his daddy to help keep his mama sane. But he doesnít need me for anything, really.
Except maybe to glide.
We are good at gliding together, Henry and I. We sit in a chair that his mama found on Craigslist. It looks like the old rocker where I sat to nurse my babies, but instead of rocking, it glides back and forth, smooth as the skin on Henryís bottom.
While we glide, Henry sleeps bundled up like a burrito in my arms, with his fingers in his mouth and his head on my chest and his ear pressed against the happy beating of my heart.
I sing for him all the old songs I once sang for his mama and his uncles: ěAll Things Bright and Beautiful,î ěYou Are My Sunshine,î ěJesus Loves Me,î ěI Shot the Sheriff.î
He seems to like reggae especially. (ěDonít worry about a thing, ícause every little thing gonna be all right.î)
I listen to the sounds he makes ó little scratchy noises, like a chicken roosting ó and try to understand what heís trying so hard to tell me.
I study his face, memorize his expressions and hope that he can see in my eyes how glad I am, how lucky I feel, that he found his way to us.
Gliding gives you a lot of time to think. I think about the kind of world Henry will grow up in ó a vastly different place in ways both good and bad from the one I knew as a child.
The best thing about my childhood was this: When life got rough, as life will do, my grandmothers were always there to smooth my path ó to comfort and encourage and cheer me on.
I didnít need them to feed me (though they did, of course, every chance they got). I didnít need them to take me in and give me a home (though at times, they did that, too).
I just needed them to believe in me and help me keep gliding.
That is what they did for me, and what I hope to do for Henry and his cousins, however many they may number.
Maybe, if I am lucky, theyíll keep me gliding, too.

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