Early Lessons in Becoming a Grandmother

Kathryn Betts Adams, MSW, PhD
The Memoirist
Published in
4 min readFeb 11

Author’s own photo

Lesson 1: Turning 65 is Not a Big Deal — Or is it?

As we await the birth of my first grandchild, my birthday lands with a thud: 65 years old, an age that is heavily symbolic of reaching “older adulthood.” Certainly, by this age, I am allowed to be a grandmother, just as I’ve let my hair (mostly) go into its natural silver.

Nowadays, at 65, you may not seem old-old, but you can’t exactly claim middle age anymore. It’s an age that still confers the status of older. It’s the age for Medicare, the age research studies use to denote older adults. It’s an age when you can no longer pretend you’re not getting old.

I’m not complaining, but I feel it. I’m thinking more about my obvious place in the generations of my family, the circle of life.

Hurry up, little one, I’m eager to greet you!

Lesson 2: Falling in Love

At last, my new grandson is here. For the past two days, he and his mother have been through the ordeal of birth, with his dad alongside. The fresh baby, though full-term, has to stay in the NICU for 24 hours of observation.

My son leads me into the NICU where the nurse asks if I have washed my hands, and I have, as I was told. The NICU is just a long room designated as such, crowded with many empty and a few full baby bassinets and incubators. And like seeing a celebrity I’ve longed to meet, I’m almost overcome with happy weakness as I first see him there in the bassinet, fully swaddled in flannel baby blankets and a little hat, the same kind his father wore 32 years ago.

When close enough, I gently reach under the little knitted hat to see and feel his hair. The rumors are true — it’s wavy and a reddish brown. He’s not bald and blonde like my own two babies from three decades ago.

The NICU nurse says “He’s full and happy now, so he’ll be sleepy.” Indeed, his eyes are only half open. I want to hold this little solid body, tightly wrapped like a bread loaf, but decide I shouldn’t ask. Instead, I lean in and talk in my sweetest voice. And the dark eyes open a bit farther and follow the sound, looking at me. I feel tears in my eyes as I say his name, just for a moment. My son has named him after “the first…

Kathryn Betts Adams, MSW, PhD
The Memoirist

Gerontologist. Baby Boomer. OnlyDaughter. Mom of two. Writing on aging, health, family relationships, mental health. Find me at https://KathrynBettsAdams.com