July 11
by Betty Smith

One morning at five o clock my husband, Leland, woke me with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face. “We have a grandson. His name is Adam” he said.

“But he’s not due until next month. Is he ok? Is Beth ok?”
“They’re both fine. The phone rang about four with their news.”
I never wondered what it would feel like being a grand mom. So, I didn’t know what to expect when I became one. I drove seventeen hours from Houston, Texas to Knoxville, TN to help my daughter-in-law whose mother could only stay one week. In order to stay awake I played Sousa marches on the tape deck, turned on the cruise control, and marched with my feet in the car down the highway. Excitement also helped keep me awake.
On the first day of helping, when I sat in a rocking chair holding him, a five pound yellow-skinned preemie (jaundice, my daughter-in-law said) with a tiny stocking cap on his head, and a bruised face, I looked at this amazing miracle with awe. He was alive. He was so tiny. He looked so helpless and pitiful. Baby powder and lotion tickled my nose. He was wrapped tightly in a soft blanket and sound asleep since he had just been fed. I rocked him gently as I held him close. Then I wondered, would I spoil him by holding him the whole time his mother rested? My next thought was, I don’t care. I began to giggle, feeling like a young girl holding my doll. After all, I’m a grand mom and I can spoil all I want. I’m not responsible. It’s his parent’s responsibility to train and worry about spoiling. I can enjoy this little baby. I giggled some more and rocked with enthusiasm.
Leland called me each night and listened attentively to every detail. I worked at preparing good food for my daughter-in-law that week. She needed nourishment to feed her baby, and neither of us wanted her to eat anything that might cause the baby to feel digestive pain. We researched and experimented with foods. A busy week passed quickly.
My introduction to grand mom time seemed much easier than becoming a parent. I took pictures of his tiny gas smiles, his frowns, his yawns, and a few photographs with his eyes actually open. It seemed so unreal to think this little baby, a human person, was related to me because he was the son of my son. I felt more love for his mother than ever before. I prayed for this new family, and I wondered how I could be a helpful part of his life.
As a result I bored my friends with stacks of pictures. Their patience looking at my photographs never occurred to me. My husband and I returned several times to Knoxville since we had to see for ourselves the growth progress of our grandson. We did not feel silly sitting on the floor, cooing, taking pictures, making faces, and entertaining a baby. He reciprocated by responding to our attention with smiles, gurgle sounds, kicking his legs, and twisting his body as he lay on a floor pallet. He liked attention. When we moved to Atlanta, GA in 1983, we were even closer and could make trips to see him often.
When he was just under two years old, his ill mom needed someone to keep him for a short time. I jumped at the opportunity and dropped other plans. One day during his time with me, I buckled him in the baby seat in the back seat of my car for a shopping trip. I realized I had forgotten my purse and needed to return to the kitchen to get it. I turned and said, “ I’ll be right back.” His eyes twinkled. I thought, I’ve seen that expression before. His plan was evident: lock the doors on me so I could not get back in the car. My son’s eyes had twinkled just the same way when he planned naughty things as a little boy. I laughed. This little boy inherited facial expressions that were not new.
As he grew, my son and daughter-in-law allowed him to spend a week with me most summers. I called it camp grandmom week. On several of those camp times, I rode roller coasters, dropped from the Six Flags parachute jump seven times (it was his favorite) and climbed on top of the jungle gym at Chastain Park to rescue him when he was stuck. As he grew, we saw Disney movies together and lots of children’s videos. I introduced him to golf lessons and went on some of the water rides at White Water adventures in Atlanta. He also liked to hike. We climbed the back side of Stone Mountain several times. We yawned repeatedly after looking at the stars at the planetarium and I improved my photography skills and read lots and lots of children’s books aloud.
Then came my