When my oldest grandchild, Penina Bracha, was born three years ago on Yom Kippur, the fact that there was now a third generation in the family – two after me, didn’t really have any major impact on how I viewed myself. I, of course, was delighted for my son and his wife who were now parents – and I marveled over the fact that they were “all grown up.” However, I was the same – just now I had a baby to play with – a new and possibly improved replace-ment to my own “babies” who were now too old – and too tall to qualify as such.
No – I was still me, the same person I had been for decades. Sure, I was a tiny bit heavier, and maybe a tiny bit slower when I’d sprint up/down the stairs to catch the train – but my “hey – I’m still just a kid myself” perception hadn’t changed.
No, not until that fateful day Penina called me “Bubby” for the first time.
Up to that moment, she was of course the baby granddaughter who I would visit and often care for. She would come running to me when she saw me – but that was something she did to most of the visit-ing relatives and friends who crossed her path. She’d babble something cute but unintelligible and open her arms for a hug.
However, the first time she toddled to me and uttered the word, “Bubby” – differentiating me from everyone else – an immediate shockwave tore through my psyche as the image of who I was shat-tered like a falling pane of glass.
The fantasy fountain of youth that I had so blissfully been frolicking in was abruptly shut off.
Penina’s out-loud pronouncement of what I intellectually knew was my status in the family brought to the fore what I had buried away deep in the recesses of my heart; I was the senior female member of the family. The matriarch.
In this undeniable context, I had to soberly ac-knowledge that it was me who now was the one standing closest to the precipice on the mountain of life that all living things eventually fall off of, hurtling into the unknown.
I who once upon a time was much further down the line, was now in the forefront.
I have many friends who are grandparents – but quite a few still have a living parent – some are even blessed to have both. (I even know a few fortunate bubbies who are still someone’s grandchild!)
But unlike them, I do not. I have no mother and father standing ahead of me, whose strong, protective presence is a buffer, a shield, hiding the edge from my view.
I am now the comforting buffer for the generations behind me. For I am Bubby. I am the ancestress.
I scratch my head and marvel and ask myself, “How did this happen . . . and when?” For it seems to me my own kids were learning to walk . . . yesterday. I blinked – for just a moment – and suddenly they were grown. As for me, I was climbing fences with my twin brother and throwing mud balls . . . just the other day.
The years have become like dollars. They just disappear in front of you.
The days of our lives are like individual snowflakes that bind to each other each, gaining momentum and speed with each passing, week, month and year until there is an unstoppable avalanche of time that one day knocks each living thing off that cliff – sooner for some, later for others.
I have no doubt that as we “fall,” we will be scooped up on the wings of an “eagle” where we will be transported to a magical place where we will be reunited at long last with our beloved ones who stood first at the edge.
But until that day, I will daily thank Hashem for allowing me the opportunity to be part of the fu-ture as I participate, as Bubby, in my grandchildren’s lives – and through them truly become young again.