I Know How the Virgin Mary Felt

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Life in the Third Degree.

My grandfather has just personally delivered some truly shocking news. Most people would think it quite shocking enough to know that Granddaddy died nine years, ten months, and 29 days ago at the age of 90.

Working Through Grief

Oh, but it just gets better.

I’ve been working hard on my spiritual self, on letting go and letting God and letting right now. I’ve gotten to the point of just being, just letting things happen, not planning every moment, not controlling every outcome to make it good and perfect and right so we can all be happy. And now this.

Jeaneen and I had planned a ritual for Mother Earth on a Saturday night in a sacred circle in the middle of nowhere on her farm in the middle of nowhere. Just the two of us under the night’s bowl of heaven, with the neighbor’s dogs and car alarms going nuts in the distance but not enough to distract us from the moment at hand.

With the moon void of course while we waited by the little bonfire we’d made, Jeaneen suggested we bring out one of her Ouija boards. Her farm is on the Old Spanish Trail, the major path for centuries between St. Augustine and Pensacola, and on the site of a bloody Civil War battle, so the entities we encounter there range from Indian to Spanish to British settlers to escaped slaves to French to dwellers of an ancient Lemurian outpost. Not to mention the Government helicopters that buzz her house whenever we play with energy. I can only imagine what must show up on their instrument panels.

On this night, we set up the board, sat in the dirt and grass near the fire, and began. Bana came to us, and it wasn’t long before we realized he was a child of 13. It’s sad how many children’s spirits roam among us, and we probably encounter them more than any other type, possibly because we’re two alpha female moms and children seem to like us. But Bana was killed in 1525 by a man name Poama. We chatted with him for a little while, then sent him to the Light. Almost 500 years is long time to hang out in the woods and watch the generations travel by while you unkindly remember the man responsible for your death.

Then my hands suddenly clamped down on the board.

“Whoa,” Jeaneen said. “You just pressed down heavy on my knee through the board. Did you mean to do that?”

“No, I didn’t mean to! The thought just struck me to call in my guides, and my hands pressed down.” In fact, I could feel a throbbing weight in them like the blood had turned to lead.

“That’s exactly what I was thinking. Okay, let’s call in one of Lorna’s guides.”

So we called in my guides, but a strong presence was already there and the night air around us was heavy, like twenty crayons trying to crowd into a box meant for twelve. My guides generally have been reluctant to give me a name to call them, but Jeaneen, as always, asked for the guide to give a name.

The planchette swirled under our fingers as we barely touched it. Each entity has a different style of planchette penmanship. Some go direct to the next letter. Some move in flourishes. Others make circles or figure eights. I’ve been on the boards often enough now that I’ve gotten the feel for it.

A-L-V-A, spelled the board.

“Alva?” Jeaneen questioned. “Do you know an Alva?”

“James Alva Johnson.” I beamed. He always used his middle name or sometimes his initials. “It’s Granddaddy. He’s been hanging out in my house on a regular basis since my ex moved out, and more than one person has seen him at the threshold of my house or standing at a window.”

Jeaneen nodded and continued. “Does Alva have a message for Lorna?”

The planchette barely paused before spelling “B-A-B-Y.”

I stared at the board and burst into nervous laughter while Jeaneen just raised her eyebrows as if I’d forgotten to tell her something. “No, no, no,” I told her. “There’s no way. Jeaneen, I’m 43, sexless, and I don’t see any Wise Men coming from the East.”

Hmmm, was this how the Virgin Mary felt when an angel appeared unto her with tidings of great joy?

We talked to Granddaddy a while longer before I pushed away and got up, numb from more than just sitting cross-legged for 45 minutes. I’d heard enough. I’d heard way too much to process. Especially for someone who was just getting used to living one day at a time.

Granddaddy had seemed excited on the board, as if he couldn’t wait to tell me this news. Then my eyes and nose stung as I remembered something he’d said in the last month of his life. My older daughter, Shannon, had been an adoring five-year-old at the time and he’d been reasonably sure she would remember him. But he’d fretted about my younger daughter, only two at the time, that she was too young to remember. That made us both very sad. But I could so see him being tickled at this news, especially since men of his generation placed such a premium on baby boys.

I hadn’t thought about a baby in years, but suddenly all my old traumas and joys rose to the surface. When my daughters came into the world, especially Shannon 15 years ago, I’d felt incredibly inadequate as a mother. I had not been raised with babies around, had never spent any Saturday nights babysitting away my teen years, had rarely held even my best friends’ babies from college and my early career. My own husband, now my ex, had told me in no uncertain terms that he thought I’d make a lousy mother, something I’d repressed until Jim Carrey’s character said the same to his girlfriend, Clementine, in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It wasn’t until my pregnancy with my second daughter that my mother-in-law expressed her surprise to me that I’d been a good mother after all when she’d expected me to be “cold” since, unlike her, I worked outside the home while raising a family.

No wonder I’d felt inadequate as a mother. Not only did I not know what I was doing and couldn’t find the manual on parenting that everyone else professed to have, but my spouse and family had serious doubts as to whether I could be both a mom and a businesswoman. It was years before I realized I was not only a good mom, but a great mom. That was news that came to me directly from my daughters, not from my in-laws or husband, at least not until the last day of our marriage when my ex’s lawyer made the statement to me that I was an excellent mother. Too bad I hadn’t heard it from my husband through the years.

As I grew more confident as a mother, there were times enough when I wanted to spend time at home with the girls instead of in airplanes to a defense contractor’s plant. At one time, the plan was to get the younger daughter into kindergarten and then I’d stay home and write my novels and be there when the girls came home from school and when their dad came home from work. But my little girl went off to kindergarten and later to middle school and the dream never came to pass. I never knew what it was like to spend an extended time at home with my children. Money and keeping up our lifestyle was more important, and we couldn’t afford for me to take a break in income.

If I had a child on my own, I wonder if I would resent the father’s absence. But then it strikes me that I never really resented my ex’s lesser involvement in our daughters’ lives. He spends more time with them now—every other weekend and one three-hour stretch every Wednesday night—than ever before in their lives. Although I sometimes needed time to myself and often worked on my novels after the girls were asleep or napping, I always enjoyed my time with them. Still do. I not only love them, but like them, too.

But the fact is, it’s just not very likely that I’d have another child. Premature Ovarian Failure runs in my family, and even my younger daughter was a surprise 13 years ago. Now I’m at the age of statistics that say I have a 1-5% chance of having a baby. My guess is even less, considering I’m celibate and not currently doing anything more than lunch with any men in my life. That makes me an unlikely long-term partner for the childless 30-somethings I date and no chance of a long-term partner for any of the childless 40-somethings I date.

As one of my colleagues said when I refused to lie about my age, “I thought you were about 35 or I wouldn’t have even considered us getting together.” He went on to say he’d waited too long to settle down and start a family and he couldn’t afford to focus his time and energy on women who wouldn’t be able to start a family with him in the next few years. I couldn’t offer him the one thing he wanted most—children. Which is why he dates women only in the 25 to 35 age range. is why I think he’d make a lousy date, not to mention a lousy husband to the first woman who takes the bait.

There’s an inherent unfairness to biology. When I was younger, I thought how unfair that women got pregnant and their idiot boyfriends didn’t. Now, I see that men my age have the opportunity for something most women my age don’t: a second family. If men in their 40’s botched their first marriage and alienated their kids, they can start over. If the new, younger, second wife wants a baby, so be it, because they now have the money to fund a family. If they spent their 20’s and 30’s playing the field and decide it’s time to settle down, they can, even into their 50’s without too much worry that they’ll be putting their social security checks directly into the local college’s coffers.

Women my age don’t generally get a second family. Or if they do, it was a second family after being a teen mom. It’s not now. Biology doesn’t favor it. Even if they’re starting over with a new man and want a family of their own. Even if she can finally afford a child. Even if she finally has the desire to be a full-time mom. So for independent women like me who are also nurturing and loving mamas, it’s too late.

It’s just as well. A few days of thinking about babies after all these years and about what might have been or what might could be, and I get news from another friend who often talks directly to my grandfather.

“It’s not literal,” she tells me. “Don’t think of the baby as literal.”

“But he said—”

“He was having trouble finding the right words. What he was trying to tell you was that you and the next man in your life, well, you two are the baby. Your relationship is the baby. Neither of you know what it’s like to be in a relationship that isn’t abusive. You both have to take baby steps and grow.”

It’s good news, and yet, how strange that I feel a little let down that there’ll be no “second family” for me. It’s the first time I’ve ever really thought about my biological clock.