Walking through life with Gracie
Today, Oct. 6, is my granddaughter Gracie’s birthday.
She is four years old and adorable, with soft, light brown hair (normally in a ponytail with a big bow), chubby cheeks and twinkling, chocolate eyes. She walks with a determined march, she orders her big brothers around, she adores make-up and baking with Mama and she loves carrots dunked in peanut butter (although she mostly uses the carrots as handy spoons).
Her father calls her “the tiny terrorist,” but she just knows exactly what she likes, and she expects to get what she wants when she wants it ... not that she’s spoiled or anything.
But the most wonderful thing about Gracie is her hugs.
At the slightest request, she will wrap her legs around my waist, her arms tightly encircle my neck and her head will rest on my shoulder, and this will last as long as I want it. The girl knows how to hug.
I think an angel must have taught her ... right after God anointed her with Down Syndrome.
I say “anointed” because, after all, He knows what he’s doing. We may not understand it. (My daughter, when the doctor told her, “just wanted to run away ... to disconnect my womb somehow and just run.”)
We may argue and fight and rail, and cry out ... and cry. But, in the end, it’s His choice to make, not ours. And, He has made our Gracie the most wonderful blessing we could have imagined four years ago today.
Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2009, 9 a.m., the doctors discovered that the baby, who was in breech position the day before, had turned all by herself – my first inkling that she was gifted. To deliver her quickly, so she wouldn’t turn again, Louise was given something to intensify her contractions, and so began the birth of my third grandchild.
As y’all know, I have two extremely adorable, brilliant grandsons already: Charlie, now 9, and Georgie, who just turned 8.
Chuck was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma six months after Georgie’s emergency birth and surgery, and had undergone a year of chemotherapy and radiation. So, Louise and Chuck thought they would never have the little girl they’d wanted back when they had no idea how harsh and unrelenting this world can be.
When Louise learned she was pregnant, they were both stunned… and once again believing in miracles.
So, the three of us labored away (and by “the three of us” I mean…well…Louise). Chuck was awesome, as always, and I administered back massages, cool compresses and excellent one-liners throughout the day.
But it was Louise who was strong ... and brave and beautiful and funny and determined and the best – the very best – of mothers.
After the longest, hardest day, Grace Victoria (yes, you heard right!) was delivered at 11:34 p.m., and she was absolutely exquisite: 8 pounds, 3 ounces, dark hair, chestnut eyes and a cry that could peel paint off the walls. She was utterly furious to have been so rudely plucked from her cozy berth and, by God, she let us know it. (Her Apgar score was a perfect 9. I told you – gifted.)
Seven days before Gracie came, Chuck learned he had leukemia. They’ve already been through so much. My only prayer for months was “Why?” I don’t think I’d ever been so angry with God, but there was never a question in anyone’s mind about whether Louise would have Gracie at all.
You know, you can spend years spouting your beliefs, but when it comes to actually living the consequences of your moral or spiritual choices, well, that’s when the rubber meets the road, my friend.
When you discover whether you truly believe what you’ve been preaching.
Miraculously – and thrillingly – we did: so, we’d learn, and prepare, and remember that He is sending her for a reason – a very special one.
Yesterday was the annual Walk for Down Syndrome in Charlotte, and this year Gracie definitely did NOT want to be in the stroller. Her grandmother definitely did, but, hey, it’s not about me. So, we all walked, hand in hand, around the pond at Freedom Park. Gracie thought the hundreds of walkers were there for her birthday, which delighted her.
Now, every time I see my daughter hold hers in a tight embrace - Louise’s eyes shining with tears, her smile pure, blissful, fulfilled - I whisper a thank you for this perfectly beautiful little girl, who is such a gift, and who is, unbelievably, four years old today.
I pray for them every night, and despite my previous railing, I know Gracie and her daddy - and all of them - are in the palm of His hand.
“I really love my little sister, even if she can’t ride a bike yet or anything. She makes me better. When I see her, I just love everybody!” Georgie, 8.