I remember thinking that we’d be bringing this precious bundle home in a couple of days, only to have those expectations dashed. It seems that Alyssa had inhaled some amniotic fluid, endangering her to pneumonia. We gathered around Laura as they wheeled our granddaughter to the ICN (Intensive Care Nursery). I wrote about this in my article seven years ago: “It is at moments like this that our faith in God becomes critical. We prayed together, placing this little one in the Lord’s hands.”I well remember visiting Alyssa every day in the ICN. I would enter this secure area, scrub my hands thoroughly, don a mask and then settle into a chair by her incubator. The nurse would carefully lift her out of her small sleeping area and hand her to me. I wanted to squeeze her and let her know everything was going to be all right, but she had an IV in her little hand, another in her foot, and various monitors, probes and tubes, all of which made it a challenge to even hold her comfortably. The weather had changed in recent days to more of a wintery feel, so I was wearing my Marine Corps black leather jacket. It had that leather smell still, so I would nestle Alyssa into my arms and snuggle her into my open jacket. She would sleep there peacefully for an hour or two before I would have to surrender her to the nurses for some follow-up examination or another.
After nine days in the ICN the medical staff declared her ready to go home. There was a huge blend of relief and joy. I wrote back then that once released we’d go home and “We’ll make cookies on Friday nights like I did with her mother and auntie. We’ll prepare a family breakfast on Saturday mornings which is still my tradition, to include pancakes, waffles, bacon, an omelet and various other goodies. We’ll make crepes one evening, and perhaps an Orange Julius. Won’t we have fun!”
Well, during the intervening seven years much has happened. Alyssa is a First Grader at Colony Oak Elementary School and has lots of friends. If you are a regular reader of my column then you know Alyssa is becoming quite the little golfer. I pick her up on Fridays when school lets out. We then drive a half mile to the golf club where we have a bite to eat, and then hit some balls before heading for the first tee.
Watching her grow, learning to read, make friends, try new things, and the whole experience of finding out what this world has to offer has been as equally enriching to me as I believe it is to her. She loves going to church, especially on Wednesday nights for the kids program. The pastor who succeeded me has two daughters, Jade and Lillie, little girls that he and his wife Jenny, adopted from China. They are best buds with Alyssa.
Alyssa and her cousin, Brookie (now six and a half), will frequently stay overnight at our home. The evening is not complete unless the girls come to me and say, “Granddaddy, we want you to play Tickle Monster with us!” Well, how can I say no to that? And we still do what I had done with their moms. Friday nights we make something decadent, like chocolate chip cookies. And on Saturday mornings they assist me in putting together a breakfast fit for a king. My home made waffles are a hit, and so are the pancakes. We also cook up bacon, a puffy omelet, juice, fresh fruit and whatever else we can find to enhance the meal. I allow them to dive into my collection of cookie cutters to use in creating their own designs from the pancakes we make. It’s loads of fun!
I know most parents and grandparents go through this emotional phase where they simply cannot imagine life without this little one. That’s me – permanently stuck in that mode. Since Alyssa arrived seven years ago, two more babies were added to our brood. Jenny and hubby Josh had Brooklyn Paige five months after Alyssa, and then Colson Charles three years ago this January. Isaura and I are ready for more of these gifts from God, but it’s not looking very promising at this point. Regardless, we have been blessed beyond measure.
Now that I am retired from both the Navy Reserve and church ministry, and Isaura is retired from her social work with foster kids, we both are spending a lot more time with our grandbabies. Just this morning, Alyssa’s class had an assembly for the school focusing on the theme of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving! Yes, it is a wonderful time of the year. But I am thankful every day for God’s gracious gift of life – especially the life he breathed into Alyssa, Brooklyn and Colson. Thank you, Jesus!