Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Literary Mama Rewind: Grandparents

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Welcome to Literary Mama Rewind!  Every few weeks we'll round up some of our favorite essays, stories, poems, columns, and reviews from the Literary Mama Archives relating to a particular theme.  This week we're looking at the Grandparents in our lives. All you have to do is click and read....

"Hurry and rinse the shampoo out of your hair, sweetie," I urge -- she's been in there a long time and the steam from the hot water fills the bathroom like a cloud. "There's nothing worse than a cold shower!"

"Yes, there IS!" my kindergartner emphatically corrects me. "Having your mom die is."

Well, yeah, she's got me there.

  • Diagnosis by Sybil Lockhart from the Column "Mama in the Middle"

One morning in 2001, I became a Mama in the Middle. My relationship with my mom had changed over the years, but my role as her caretaker was formalized in one 20-minute doctor's appointment.

None of us is prepared for my youthful mom to be sick. My grandparents, in their nineties, are just now starting to slow down. The notion of my mom being ill just doesn't sink in until I see her in her hospital gown, terrified. They wheel her into surgery.

One in, one out. I sometimes think of their souls, wheeling in and out of this world through a revolving door. My mother's soul breezing out just as my son's took shape and contour. I imagine that the souls are translucent like tendrils of smoke or scratches on glass, that they whisper in greeting to one another as they pass by.

"That cat of yours is scared of her own shadow," my mother says.

I stand up and shake myself off. My mother wrinkles her nose. "All this cat hair, it's making me itchy all over. When are you going to get rid of that thing?"

"Don't say stuff like that." I frown. "I love her. She's my baby."

My mother retorts, "How about a real baby? Am I ever going to be a grandmother?"

When Michael Messner was a boy growing up in Northern California, annual hunting trips with his father and grandfather offered a ritual of connection and sport infused with symbol and meaning.

The midwife tells my daughter to send me home. Mothers can slow down labor.

But, I wanted more, I had told myself, the comfort of a good funeral and to feel mortality in the traditional, explicit way. Certainly I had loved the uncle. But also, his death, though expected, was the first in his generation and landed the surviving family members on the respective cusps of new and older age groupings. This shift was a thing I thought I wanted to view from its onset, to see if I could read the faces of relatives, watch their skin wrinkle, their hands start to shake. I wanted to be there for the exact moment we all grew older.


Amanda Jaros is a freelance writer and blogger, focusing on nature and science stories. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and magazines including Terrain.org, Newfound, Life in the Finger Lakes Magazine, Highlights for Children, and Cargo Literary. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Chatham University.


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