When Rebecca was one years old, my son and his wife had a son, Aiden. For a long time during the pregnancy, I was worried about whether I could love another child as much as Rebecca. Worried too, that I wouldn’t be able to hide it and everyone would know, including the baby. I vaguely remember thinking the same thing when I was pregnant with my second child. Is it possible to love someone else this much?
He was a tiny stranger that I couldn’t connect with at first. When he was a newborn, I’d hold him and sing to him. His eyes would watch me, but I had a hard time getting him to smile. It seems odd now because one of Aiden’s nicest features is his sense of humor. He has a great laugh and loves it when words sound weird to him. He’ll laugh really hard, then bring up the word again, and start laughing all over again.
After he was a couple of months old, for the rest of his first year of his life, whenever I went over to baby-sit he would scream his head off. I know they say that a child doesn’t have fear of strangers before 6 months or so, but he knew his mom and dad were out. He would scream like I had just stuck him with a pin. He would scream so hard my ears would hurt. It didn’t matter whether he was at his house or mine. Same thing. I would walk with him and rock him or just put him in his crib. It didn’t matter.
One day when he was just starting to crawl, I stuck out my toes and I tickled his little toes with mine. He gave me a big smile, he laughed, and he put his tiny hand on my toes and tickled me back. That did it. We were friends for life. He never cried with me again unless he hurt himself or dropped his pacifier or wanted to get up from his nap.
He began as a redhead, but now is a mixture of blond and red. His eyes are a grayish light blue just like my father’s eyes. He had a really big smile and a sweet dimple on his left cheek that just knocks me out. To me, he looks like a little Norwegian child, but sometimes looks very Irish. He is fastidious and loves to clean. Give him a spray bottle of water and a wad of paper towels and he’s a happy guy. He’ll dry mop the whole condo. He has asked Santa for a vacuum. When I took him to Target, we had to look at each one very carefully before we could move on.
He is smart and funny and very shy. Strangers will try to talk to him because he’s so handsome, but he is not in the least interested. Aiden will hide behind my legs. He’s the kind of kid you need to coax into trying new things, like getting into a pool or trying a piece of equipment at the park. He is an introvert, without guile, a sweetheart of a boy. He can be heartbreakingly compliant, then refusing to do even simple things. If I get tough with him about his behavior, he’ll smile and hug me. Or he'll say with a sly little smile, "You mad at me, Gramma?" Aside from cleaning supplies, he loves his blue blankie and his pacifier the best. Give him those two items and he will slide into sleep in seconds.
Last summer I had a few hours with him at the beach, just he and I. The only way I could get him into the ocean was by filling up buckets of water for our sandcastle. Finally he got wet, but I never got him in past his knees. Maybe next summer.
We have a standing date to go to the library. Lots of times he is dressed and ready to go, standing outside, looking down for my car. When I open my car door I can hear him yelling, "Gramma! Gramma!" If I yell up to him on the patio, "Hello, Darling Boy," he will answer, "Hello, Darling!" This is our routine. We sing our way to the library with "The Wheels on the Bus," and "Puff the Magic Dragon," all the while looking for red-tailed hawks in the sky. When we arrive at the library, I take out the roll of pennies I've picked up so we can throw them into the fountain outside the little cafe at the entrance. Sometimes he'll throw 1, or sometimes, 20 pennies at once. We go to the cafe. He drinks a smoothie, whileI have tea. He shares my bagel, but also wants a peanut butter cookie.
We ride the elevator, all the while Aiden is pushing the right button for the library, then the handicapped button that opens the entrance door. I let him pick as many books as I can carry generally about 10. He always gets a couple of Curious George's because he recognizes the yellow covers. We are both lovers of books.
On our way to the check out desk, Aiden rushes over to get the stool so he can hand the librarian his stack of book choices. Then we do everything again in reverse, handicapped door opener, but he pushes the "Garage" button this time. He loves garages and insists that we park under the building.
Aiden is going to have a new baby sister this summer. I’m really glad he is not going to be an only child.
Learning to love a new person stretches you, makes your work harder to know them. He'll be a great big brother, protective and tough with anyone who might hurt her, but he'll teach her to laugh, to love books, to wrestle, and I'm willing to bet, to clean. When I look at him, I love him so much it makes my heart ache.