“Gena, do you have something to tellllll meeeeee?” my grandmother asks through the phone, drawing out the end of the sentence as if to tease me.
Of course, I know where she’s going with this question.
“Nanny, I’m pregnant!” I say.
“How come you didn’t tell me!” she asks, slightly teasing, but slightly confused. I feel like she’s trying to figure out if we’ve had this conversation before, like it’s starting to sound familiar but she doesn’t know why.
“Ma,” I hear my grandfather chime in from somewhere in their house. “You already knew that.” Thank goodness I don’t have to say it. I hate admitting to her we’ve already had this same conversation many times in the last six months.
“Oh, Gena, I’m so happy for you. When are you due?”
“Ooooh! Maybe you’ll have the baby—“
On our anniversary, I mouth into the phone, as she says it too.
“I know, Nanny, then we’ll have two things to celebrate that day.”
“Did you know my mom had fifteen pregnancies? Can you imagine being pregnant fifteen times?”
“No, Nanny. Once is enough for now!” I say with a smile.
“…So, Gena, when are you due?”
“January 8th, Nanny,” I say. I hear my exasperated grandfather say it, too. He’s probably fielded this question more than I have. “Right around the time of your anniversary.”
“Oh Gena, I’m so happy for you.”
My grandmother, my Nanny, has Alzheimer’s. It’s been a reality for our family for a while now and, while she’s still in the early stages, it’s been a hard diagnosis to accept. My grandmother, who never forgot a birthday, now can’t remember to clean her house, when she once lived by a weekly schedule to manage her spotless little bungalow. It’s my grandfather who sends the birthday cards now.
Nanny knows, or at least suspects, she is losing some of her memory. Back when my husband and I were trying to get pregnant, as we were awaiting the start of our IVF cycle, she would say to me, “You know, Gena, Nanny isn’t getting any younger. I’d really like another great-grandchild.” “I know, Nanny,” I’d say. “We’re working on it.” She was about the one person I could tolerate that request from. I hated when others would ask when we were having kids, but from her it was okay. She was asking out of love, excitement. Concern, even, in her own way, as if she sensed something was not quite right. I felt she was rooting for us, not being nosy. My grandmother can do no wrong, anyways. Not in my eyes.
Then, we got pregnant. I was so excited to tell her the news she had waited so long to hear. But, the first time I went to visit her, after telling her the news over the phone, she caught a glimpse of my brand new baby bump. She pulled me aside and whispered, “Gena, are you pregnant?” “Yes, Nanny,” I said. “Remember I told you?” “No, I don’t,” she said, disappointed in herself. “I caught a glimpse of your belly when you turned to the side and thought you might be, but I didn’t want to say anything in front of everyone.”
It’s like this every time I see her or talk to her on the phone. I get to share our good news over and over again with her, for the first time. I’m happy that it makes her happy, and I get to celebrate my hard-earned victory with quite possibly my number one fan. After the twelve-week ultra sound, I brought the photos to my grandparents’ house and left them one for their refrigerator, hoping it would help my grandmother remember. I suspect my grandfather has proudly confiscated the photo for his own wallet, but no matter. I’ll happily continue to tell and re-tell the news to my Nanny. I can’t wait to see her face when she sees her newest great-grandchild in a few months, only this time in person, again for the first time.