By: Kristi Rizzo
My initial reaction was, “Oh, this isn’t good news.” My fiancé and I had just purchased our first home and we were planning a wedding for August of the following year. This wasn’t the order in which events were supposed to happen. As the oldest of the three girls, I was supposed to get married and have babies first. But, every now and then in life, something happens to remind me that I am not in charge and all the plans in the world sometimes don’t matter. This was one of those times.
My parents also had a certain idea about the order of events and weren’t thrilled when they heard the news. What parent would be happy when their daughter’s life takes a turn that will make things more difficult – for her and for them? But, as families do, we came together and set out on this unplanned path, discovering things about ourselves and our new roles along the way. Even though it was unexpected and not ideal, we realized that our family needed this. This was a way for us to get back part of what we lost a few years before.
Our family fell apart a little bit when we lost Mammy, my grandmother. She had always been a constant in our lives. When my parents married, they moved right in with my father’s mother. In the end, my mother spent more years living with my grandmother, her mother-in-law, than she did with her own mother. My sisters and I never a knew a life without a live-in grandmother. And, as our only living grandparent and we her only grandchildren, it was a special relationship for all of us. She was our Mammy and we were her girls. Her Skipper’s girls. So, when she passed away in 1998, it was a huge loss for all of us.
We continued to try to adjust to this new way of life without Mammy while dealing with the aforementioned detour. We thought things were moving along. There was wedding planning for me, Army life for my younger sister, and finishing high school for the youngest of the three of us. My parents adjusted to life as their house emptied. But there was a change for us coming in April of 2000. We readied ourselves to take on new roles to ‘fill-in’ where the roles of granddaughters, son, and daughter-in-law had been lost with Mammy’s passing.
We were afforded a few months of anticipation and preparation and during a few rainy spring days, the time had come. I naively thought the event would be quicker than it was. After a full night in the hospital, it still wasn’t time. We waited another long day and an even longer night that finally ended with the doctor looking at me and saying in accented English, “Call your dad.” It was the early morning hours when I called and told him to come right away. We were all ready for this new chapter to start.
Over the next few hours, I had what is still one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I had a front row seat, so to speak, as my baby sister, only 18 years old, gave birth to a perfect baby girl. For weeks after, I was struck by the sheer amazement of the miracle I witnessed. Now, 19 years later, almost to the day, I continue to be amazed.
What I had initially thought of as bad news was a turning point for our family. We were ready for new roles that turned us into aunties, grandparents, and mothers…the same roles that Mammy had filled with such grace. And that beautiful, curious baby girl who was sent to fill a space in our hearts was just what our family needed. Happy Birthday, Maya Elizabeth. Being your auntie is one of my greatest joys and privileges.