A Grandmother’s Tale: When Anne Lamott’s Teen Son Became a Dad

What would you do if your teenager had a child? For author Lamott, it was a crash course in the challenges and blessings of an extended family.

By Anne Lamott from Reader's Digest Magazine | March 2012

July 22 and 23
Amy is much better, even though she is still in great pain, and Sam is madly in love with Jax and doing an amazing job taking care of both Jax and Amy. We are together all day, every day, at UCSF Med. Trudy is a social worker in real life, down-to-earth, constantly doing something useful. Everyone is exhausted beyond all imagining, especially Amy and Sam.

The best thing, besides how unbelievably perfect Jax is — not to mention alive — is watching Sam be a father. He stayed up with him in the nursery the whole first night, holding him. Jax takes naps on Sam on the pull-out bed, which is more of a padded bench, and the three will be there in Amy’s room until Friday afternoon, when we all go to my house for a week. Later, Amy’s father, Ray, will fly in from North Carolina. I am ever so slightly concerned, as I spend 90-plus percent of my time alone with my animals, but this is life on life’s terms, not on Annie’s terms.

July 24 To August 1
It has been high energy at my usually dull, quiet house. Jax, Sam, and Amy, who sometimes bicker, and who are vaporous and otherworldly with fatigue; Trudy, on a mattress in the kitchen nook; and the two big dogs and the cat, who is a biter. Jax mostly sleeps, nurses, poops, blinks at you with black goggle eyes, pees on you while you are changing him, passes out.

Yesterday, I was walking around the house with Jax, who was sleeping in my arms, and we really were the ultimate portrait of what heaven will be like. But when we went into Amy and Sam’s bedroom, they were fighting. So I transformed myself into Red Cross Field Station Management Nurse, and mobilized Amy, Trudy, and Jax for his first stroller walk to the Redwood Park.

Through it all, the ups and downs, Jax shines like a pearl.

August 2
Sam surprised me by bursting into church alone, right as it was starting, in a religious fever of needing to escape from Amy, Jax, and Ray. Our pastor, Veronica, made a big fuss from the pulpit about Sam’s joy, and the arrival of our newest brother, and Sam promised to bring him and Amy next week. About 15 minutes into the service, Sam started missing Jax in that aching physical way, almost like a nursing mother. He is so doomed. So he went and snagged Isaiah, who is a year older than Jax, and who Sam and I refer to as Sam’s training baby. Sam has been holding Isaiah every Sunday for months, watching his parents diaper, burp, and cuddle with him. Also, Isaiah’s parents have promised Amy and Sam all of Isaiah’s hand-me-downs.

Sam held Isaiah so differently than he did even a month ago, because his hands have become the hands of a father.

I heard him whisper to Isaiah, “Cool shoes, dude,” and then he leaned over to me, waggling his eyebrows conspiratorially, and said, “Jax will look great in these.”

My heart was broken today in the best way, watching people cry with Sam about his blessing. This church has prayed us through everything — Sam’s birth, his worst asthma attacks, starting school, meeting his father at seven, puberty, and all the hard teenage times when we nearly lost it some days. There are fewer of us now, 50 or so most Sundays, but it is so much the same. It’s a kitchen church, not a church-on-display, all these black and white and brown people who need and want to be here.

When I first started coming, the people saw that I was in pain, and they let me be, and let me be with them, and let me find Him as best I could.

Today people shuffled in, happy and relieved to be there, disappointed that Sam hadn’t brought Jax, but crowding around me during the Passing of the Peace to see all the photos on my cell phone. At St. Andrew, there are all levels of shyness and grand public display during the peace, but somehow they are all hugs of recognition, which is all most of us need or want, in a kind of churchly square dance, hand to hand to hand.

The hymns are bigger than any mistakes; you fumble around with the hymnal and sing the wrong words — you’re on the wrong verse — but the hymn expands to make room for all these voices, even yours. We speak as a body; we have set the intent together, so rather than individual shrill cries or the drones of one crazy person, it’s a braid — as Amy, Sam, Jax, the grandparents, and all of our beloved are now a braid, stronger than each strand, somehow modest and plain, yet beautiful beyond words.

Postscript: Amy and Sam broke up in June 2011 and are raising Jax together from two different homes in the Bay Area. Everyone still gets along, almost all the time, which, if you ask me, is a small miracle. Jax is now over two and a half years old, and absolutely delicious — handsome, talkative, hilarious, rambunctious, sometimes studious, always sweet, the light of all our lives.

Excerpt from: Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son © 2012

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  • Your Comments

    • http://twitter.com/MidwestPsychRN K

      Yes..I found the video “Private” too..ALSO…I have not read any of Anne’s work..but want to read it all…anyone know her first few books in order, ect. I have tweeted AL with NO luck…I wanna read from the beginning! Any help/book list would be great! thanks!
      K

    • Dlindsey678

      This is a beautiful story showing so much love and strife that a family endures.  I recently became a “Grammy” and my life is all about Christopher, my grandson.  I love that little boy with a kind of love that I have never felt.  He is the reason for me being here after my many medical set-backs.  This love is totally undescribable!  Donna Lindsey, Cincinnati, Ohio

    • http://www.johilder.com/ Jo Hilder

      My son and his partner had a baby at 18 and 9 respectively as well. But I could hardly baulk…his father and I were the exact same age when he was conceived. Thanks for giving us *illegitimate* grandmothers some legitimacy! Love your work :)

    • Gottatellgail

      BTW, Anne, your video is marked “Private” and so is not viewable, just in case you’d want to know.

    • Gottatellgail

      BTW, Anne, your video is marked “Private” and so is not viewable, just in case you’d want to know.

    • Anonymous

      What a lovely, precious, emotional, sacred, common, unique blessing. Thanks for walking us through our lives with more grace than we ever thought possible before we met you, Anne.

    • http://www.facebook.com/umpiowl Deb Henderson Parks

      I am reading the book now and it is awesome! 

    • Buddha Angg

      Thanks and so happy remembering typing on your typewriter.  Congrat’s Annie and family!
      Angela E.Rollins

    • Rondarose

      great to hear of your life and your son’s and extended family. Your words are so expressive and I feel like I am right there with you.  Always loved your work.  Loved you and your Dad Ken and our girl Mary. Nice to know you are still writting.  Love and Light Rondarose Leone, from Bolinas

    • Newwestpacific

      what a sweet story :)