My little sister and her guy are having a baby. She’s 42. This is what the medical community refers to as a “geriatric pregnancy.” And yet it has been the most run-of-the-mill, boring, uneventful pregnancy, which is a good thing.
I think the family had its doubts that my sister would ever have kids. I think my sister had her doubts too. For so long she has been the little sister, the awesome globetrotting aunt , the single sibling with the upward career trajectory.
While my brother and I found love, marriage and parenthood in our twenties and thirties, our sister was climbing mountains and hiking hundreds of kilometers across the world,learning how to speak Spanish when she wasn’t writing government policy at her day job, and nurturing an enviable circle of loyal and devoted friends who she treats as an extension of her family.
Her circle of friends has always been an object of envy for me from the time we were in high school. She cultivated her friendships with such care. Boyfriends, however, were rarely, if ever, part of the picture.
For all her accomplishments there was clearly something missing in her life that she couldn’t, or wouldn’t articulate, until our father died.
In the absence of a significant other, my father filled a void in my sister’s life that is not so easily filled.
He made sure she was never lonely.
He was her sounding board and voice of reason.
He gave her advice, even when it was unsolicited.
He was as happy tagging along to do home decor shopping as he was going to a movie or catching a bite to eat at a new restaurant that got great reviews.
He gladly accepted her invitation to meet in Europe for a walk along the Camino in Spain or a visit to Italy where they sipped Barolo and ate big bowls of pasta.
He was her single malt scotch drinking buddy.
He was her rock.
When he died three years ago, my sister was shaken to the core.
There she stood, a woman, wholly independent, intelligent, and confident. Her diminutive stature belied her strength of character. And yet this watershed moment in her life reduced her to a child who simply longed for the company of her dad. She couldn’t bear the thought of a world without him.
Shortly after my dad died, my sister started talking about wanting to have a baby. She had a boyfriend at the time, but it was clear her desires were not compatible with his ambitions and the relationship ended shortly thereafter.
She was back to being single and planning her next hiking trip–this time, Everest Basecamp in memory of dad, raising money for cancer research.
My sister is nothing if not ambitious.
Fast forward just over a year after my father’s death and she meets a guy who is in absolute awe of her. He, like us, sees her talent, her fortitude and determination. Her beauty.
He is falling in love with her, and she with him. I have never witnessed my sister in this state of being. She is beaming with joy and I love watching it.
Talk of having a child soon resurfaces and I try to remain nonchalant while inside I am jumping up and down with excitement at the possibility, the chance, however slim it seemed at the time.
I cast back in my memory to the days when my sons were born and my sister’s absolute fear at the suggestion of holding them as newborns, as if they were the most fragile objects.
I find it amazing that she could climb the most iconic mountain in the world, but she was fearful of cradling a newborn in her arms.
Despite her reservations about holding those tiny bundles, she had such unconditional love for her nephews, it was almost palpable.
In the absence of having her own children, the space in her heart for love grew as her nephews grew.
And then it happened. She was pregnant. Carrying a child our father would never know.
Like everything else she has accomplished in her life, pregnancy has been a journey she has handled with determination, steadfastness and a pragmatism she definitely got from our father.
She researched and educated herself about her health, the baby’s health and the life she would bring into this world.
At nearly 7 months gestation, the baby went on its first nine-day hike through Portugal and Spain.
As my sister’s belly grew so did our excitement and the surrealness of it all faded away. Her baby boy arrived early on a Monday morning after a long labour.
They named him Perrin after our father, Peter.
Perrin is a diminutive of Perre or Pierre, or the French forms of the Greek Petros, meaning the rock.
Now Perrin is my sister’s rock.
He will buoy her in ways she could not have imagined. Her heart will grow even more and she will come to define what a strong woman looks like for her little boy.
Her heart will always ache for my father and the bittersweet knowledge that he never got to celebrate her latest accomplishment: motherhood.
But I know she will bring her son’s grandfather to life through such vivid stories that it will be as though he knew him.