I can’t speak for every great-grandmother, but I can tell you what I have been thinking about and doing after I learned of Sullivan John Liley’s arrival on August 18, 2021.

The day after I assumed my new role, while I was searching the bookcase downstairs for a book I needed for writing my second memoir, my eye spotted a book by Madeleine L’ Engle: The Summer of the Great-Grandmother.  I was so surprised!

I yanked it from the shelf and knelt down quickly to peek inside. When I learned the great-grandmother featured was ninety, I stood up. Still standing, I read the next phrase: “the summer of the swift descent.” I ran upstairs and shut the book.

When I started to read L’Engle in earnest several days later, the yellowing pages started coming away from the spine. It is a sobering book. I’m reading it very slowly.  

Still celebrating my new status, I returned to reading about psychoanalysis where I encountered the psychoanalytic idea that because we now know the vulnerability of children, we need to develop a new respect for the needs of childhood. This means that while in former times, food, clothing, and shelter were seen as an adequate list of life’s basic requirements, today there needs to be a new list of essentials.

Ken Eisold, the author of What You Don’t Know You Know, suggests that today’s parents consider this updated list: the need for protection, the need for love, the need for recognition and understanding, the need for security, for predictability, for hope.

I will keep reading L’Engle and Eisold and keep you posted as I discover more about living life to the fullest. And as a newly appointed great-grandmother, I will continue my yearning to hold Sullivan in my arms.

Thanks for reading and commenting if you feel the urge. Do you remember your great-grandparents?

The image is of the tallest zinnias reaching out to the Guardian early one morning.


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