Valentine's Day came early for me this year with the arrival of
triplet grandsons two weeks ago. With their big, dark eyes and tiny,
helpless bodies, these three miracle babies inspire the deepest kind of
love, not the sentimental stuff of greeting cards.
It's been interesting to gauge the response of people when I
tell them about the triplets. One group offers unqualified congratulations,
often remarking what a blessing my family has received. The other group,
after a quick "best wishes," launches into a series of commiserations.
"How will the parents -- poor things -- possibly manage?" they
ask. It's a fair question, especially since my son David and daughter-in-law
Sandi have two other children, a 6-year-old girl and a 14-month-old boy.
"With love," might be the simplest answer. Not just the
instinctive, parental variety that transforms every funny-looking, wrinkled
newborn into a Botticelli angel, but the love of family, friends, church and
community that bonds us humans to one another. Countless people have
extended this kind of love over the last few months, without which these
babies might never have been born the big, healthy boys they are.
My daughter-in-law's parents, though suffering from health
problems of their own, drove 150 miles each week to help with the housework
and care of the other two grandkids when Sandi's doctors ordered her to bed
full-time in her fifth month of pregnancy. My husband and I pitched in to
help out on weekends, as well as kept our granddaughter overnight once or
twice a week. But then, that's what grandparents are for.
What impressed me most was the love and sacrifice of
non-relatives who pitched in tirelessly. Friends and neighbors collected
clothes, blankets, bassinets, baby swings and other essentials to supplement
what the family already had. Ladies from their church provided meals for the
family several nights a week when Sandi could no longer cook. And now that
the babies are home from the hospital, volunteers from the church have
signed up to spend eight hours each day to help care for the triplets and
their mom, who is still recuperating from the difficult pregnancy and
It's hard to imagine how the parents could have done it without
all these support systems in place. Unfortunately, too few young parents can
count on as much help. In our mobile society, it's unusual to have even one
set of grandparents in the area, much less two. And proximity isn't the only
issue. Many grandparents either can't or don't wish to take on extra
responsibilities when their grandchildren arrive. If you believe the
advertisements aimed at baby boomers, today, most gramps and grandmas are
out learning the rumba or running a marathon, not changing diapers and
getting up with the grandbabies for 3 a.m. feedings.
David, Sandi and their children benefited, too, from living in a
small-town community. Many Americans live in cities and suburbs where they
don't know their neighbors, or are too tired from long hours at work and
commuting to become involved in their communities and churches. Who's going
to bake a turkey dinner or wash dishes for a family whom they only run into
at the mall?
On a day we're celebrating love, maybe we should remember that
the most important kind of love isn't the kind that sets our hearts aflutter
and sometimes makes us act like fools, but the more enduring love of husband
for wife, of parents for children, of neighbors who help one another in
times of need.
Perhaps we should remember, too, St. Valentine, whose name we
honor on this day. Legend has it that the 3rd Century Roman emperor,
Claudius II, decided to ban marriage because he believed his army was losing
soldiers, who preferred to stay at home with their wives and children rather
than fight the Goths and others who threatened the empire. When Valentine
violated the emperor's orders by secretly performing marriage ceremonies for
Christian couples, he was arrested, beaten with clubs and, ultimately,
beheaded on Feb. 14.
As I revel in the love of my ever-expanding family on this
Valentine's Day, I'll remember the man who sacrificed his life to preserve
marriage and the family nearly 2,000 years ago.