I have yogurt crusted in my hair
and strawberry stickiness plastered on my skin.
I'm not a awkward, clumsy slob of an adult -
I have an enthusiastic nearly 9-month-old baby girl
who "shares" her lunch with her mama.
When I look at this beautiful baby,
I see her coy, teasing smile.
I ache for her long, dark eyelashes.
I touch the soft, chubby bracelets
of baby fat around her wrists.
I feel her giggles with my entire heart.
And I sense my grandma's spirit in her.
My maternal grandmother, Irene,
passed away last month
after a swift decline in health.
In 2010, she'd been independent
and fairly healthy, a sassy 82 years old.
In 2011, she was robbed
of that independence and health,
stolen by an infection and a stroke.
Grandma and I were always close - we had a lot in common.
We shared connections to journalism,
a love of crafting
and a talent for decorating cakes
(her's far greater than mine).
We also share a name - my middle name is Irene,
something that remained a part of me
even after marriage changed my maiden name.
It wasn't hard for my husband and I
to pick a name for our daughter.
In our pre-pregnancy
"when we have kids" conversations,
the first name was always, always Elizabeth.
Classic, with plenty of opportunity
for variations and nicknames as her personality evolved.
We'd gone back and forth
between middle names for a bit,
though - we liked "Grace"
because it was simple,
elegant, sounded good with Elizabeth.
"Anne" was another name we liked,
one with familial ties.
But "Irene" was always the leader
in the clubhouse
because of the deep meaning it carried.
After we found out
our first child was going to be a girl,
it didn't take long to decide
(especially because the deciding vote
was cast by the one
who carried around 30+ pounds
of baby in July in Florida).
Our daughter was going to be named
Elizabeth ("Elle") Irene.
For the last five years,
I've lived 1,000 miles away from Grandma.
We saw each other once or twice a year
but kept in touch with cards and phone calls.
When she found out I was pregnant with a little girl -
one of two great-granddaughters born in 2010 -
she squealed with excitement.
She came to my baby shower and hugged me and my bump.
Grandma met Elle when she was just 10 weeks old.
I watched Grandma coo at her,
rock her to sleep and do "tummy time" with her.
Those memories are priceless now,
as are the stories I will tell Elle
about her great-grandmother.
About how she was a loving,
courageous, strong woman
who would have done anything
and everything for her three sons
and their families.
Her six grandchildren.
Her two great-granddaughters.
About how she always told us
to "Go with God."
About how she never let anyone
leave her home hungry
or without a plate or three of leftovers.
About how she was an amazing person
who I am grateful to have had in my life
for as long as I did.
Grandma sent me
my first Mother's Day card ever -
last year, when I was about 6.5 months pregnant.
It brings me comfort
to know that we "had" that holiday together
since she isn't physically here this year,
but as I look at Elle,
marveling in the fact
that I'm this little person's mother,
I know that Grandma will always be with us.
to read more
of her beautiful writing
and family life.