Last night, I spent a very long night at the hospital with my stepdaughter, Beth. We were hoping (in vain, it turned out) to transform that very large bump in her midsection into a very small child we could hand around and coo over and share the burden of carrying. Being pregnant when it's 93 degrees at 6 p.m. is no picnic, even without the contractions and odd compulsion to clean.
With Beth, Beth's husband Shawn and me all at the hospital, my 18-year-old stepson and 14-year-old daughter stepped up to take care of Andrew, Beth and Shawn's older child (older being a relative term that sounds a little silly when applied to a 2-year-old).
They did a great job, and even managed to get him calmed down to sleep in a strange hotel room with mom and dad both away. And that's when my life retrospective unexpectedly began.
As I sat in the hospital thinking about Beth at five, playing mother to her younger brother, and listening to the heartbeat of her second child, Tori sent me a text message. It said, "I don't know how Beth ever sleeps. I think I would just look at Andrew all the time. He's so beautiful."
I couldn't argue with that, but I have to admit that my beautiful grandson didn't have my full attention. Because in that moment I was transported back to Valentine's Day of 1996. At daybreak, my little sister tiptoed into my bedroom, looked at my 37-hour-old daughter and said, "Have you slept at all, or do you just look at her?"
My sister was 23 that morning. She wore silver shorts that zipped all the way around and had her new boyfriend in tow; his rainbow-snow-cone tinted hair was covered by a red velvet hat and although he insists to this day that it was a crooked smile he had painted on his face, I know that it was a fishhook coming out of the corner of his mouth.
Today, my sister is a 36-year-old librarian at a Catholic College. I haven't seen the silver shorts in years, and she's handed off her fishnets.
The infant she joined me in gazing upon that morning has become the babysitter, sitting up late at night watching her nephew sleep.
And the boy who trailed into my bedroom behind my sister in the early-morning hours, carrying a black rose, is married and about to become a father himself.
And, of course, that baby my daughter sat up watching last night is just days--or even hours--from becoming the big brother. And after that, the babysitter...the bridegroom...the expectant father himself. It may seem strange to think that far ahead--to look at a toddler and see new generations--but it would have seemed just as strange to think about the four-year-old wishing on a star at the drive-in as the mother, or the little boy whose "best birthday ever" happened at Chuck E. Cheese in July of 1997 as the 18-year-old babysitter, or my own infant daughter as the teenager who would get out of bed to comfort her nephew when he missed his mother in the middle of the night.