I’m anxiously awaiting the results of my daughter’s ultrasound. Last night,she dropped off our two grandsons so she and her husband wouldn’t be late for the early morning test. Rather than call us with the news, she will tie a pink or blue balloon to the mailbox. At seven and four years of age, the boys will soon learn whether they’ll have a brother or sister.
As I pack salami sandwiches and juice boxes for a picnic lunch at the lake, I tell myself that it doesn’t matter, boy or girl, as long as the baby’s healthy. Okay, okay. A granddaughter would be nice. If I have to baby-sit a third boy, I’ll have to start pumping iron, buy new running shoes and brace myself for more toilet jokes.
A heavy thought bullies its way into my mind. The ultrasound will also show any anomalies that the fetus may have. Not simply the gender. I dismiss my worries as I picture Molly juggling probabilities of cancer and incapacity for Mike.
Molly is waiting for the results of her husband’s bone scan. A week ago, Mike had a new pain. His doctor thinks it could be bone metastasis from the prostate cancer he was treated for five years ago. Mike was assured that he would get the results on Monday morning. He got through the anxiety of waiting over the weekend by clearing out thirty years of treasures from the garage.
Molly and I, friends for over thirty years, now live in different states. We email each other often with updates of our separate lives. We share the burden of waiting. When we were younger we waited while we decided what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives. Waited for our children to make friends, do well in school, find employment and a life partner, give us grandchildren. Waited while our husbands struggled with jobs, midlife crises and aging. Both of us know waiting doesn’t get easier with age.
Before we leave, I check email. Molly has written. I hesitate opening the message. Like Molly, I think good news but expect bad. Mike’s bone scan is negative. Now the doctor wants to do a chest x-ray. More waiting.
At the lake the August sun stifles us. I grease the two wiggling boys with sunscreen after I unload the pail, shovels and a dump truck onto a Superman beach towel. My husband trots off to the picnic area dotted with tall shade trees, a lawn chair in one hand and the morning newspaper in the other. He doesn’t know how to swim.
The boys and I splash in the turbid water. A few yards away, a group of girls surround a grandmotherly woman. The oldest girl gently holds the smallest child afloat while the two middle girls swim about. The grandmother glides waist deep in the water, her arms skimming the surface. The large brim on her straw hat shades her face as her body weaves among her granddaughters.
I’m reviewing the pros and cons of having all boy versus all girl grandchildren when a torrent of water hits my back. “Get grandma.” I widen my stance as each boy grabs an arm and tries to submerge me. I swing in a circle. They laugh loudly and one at a time each boy’s grip loosens and he hits the water with a splash. My wet hair plasters my face but I’m still standing. After I push my hair off my eyes, I watch the other grandmother float about. Her hat still squarely on her head.
By mid afternoon, we round the boys up. They drag their feet in the sand. “Get a move on.” I’m impatient to see the color of the balloon.
I fidget during the slow-motion ride to my daughter’s house. The little one surrenders to sleep. A block from the house we turn the corner and head up a hill. The seven year old has his hands over his eyes to boost the surprise. The hill obstructs the view of the mailbox and the sun glints off the windshield. As our car edges down the hill, I search for the balloon. The wind has pushed it behind the mailbox. I watch the balloon twist and rise and circle in the breeze.
In the driveway, the seven year old, curiosity satisfied, runs into the house. My daughter hugs her father, then me. She releases her hold and stares into my eyes. I swallow disappointment that I didn’t know I had.
My daughter tells us the ultrasound showed no deformities or potential problems. Thank goodness, I think. Then she reaches inside the car, unbuckles the little one and gathers him into her arms. He lifts his head off her shoulder, rubs his eyes and remembers about the balloon. “Do I have a brother or sister?
“Where is he?” he asks, looking about. We three grown-ups stand immobile. Who would have guessed that he thought the baby would be waiting for him?
“The baby’s still in my tummy,” my daughter says softly. He cries.
Later, I will tell him waiting isn’t easy. Molly would agree.
P.S. Mike is doing just fine.