I AM the Spider

By Jane Lewis

The front door opened and slow, tentative steps made their way into the bedroom. A voice called out in the dark, “Can we talk?” Arousing myself from sleep, I made my way to the porch swing where my daughter anxiously waited.  A long silence followed before the words began to tumble out of her mouth. 

I had sensed this moment was coming. I could see the daily weariness in my daughter’s eyes and hear it in her voice, as she went out with friends trying desperately to hold on to her freedom and carefree life. A beautiful baby girl, the result of an unplanned teenage pregnancy, had made a grand entrance into the family and captured our hearts.

Looking straight ahead, the swing rocking gently to a stop she began. “You know I love her Mom, but I can’t do it. I can’t raise her. I’m too young and messed up.” Facing me now, her tearful eyes pleading as she continued.  “Will you raise her?”  Then hating herself for what she whispers next. “Or I’ll have to give her up for adoption.”  With those heart wrenching words, she jumped up and disappeared into the stillness of the night. 

I managed to get up and walk leaden-footed back to bed. Sleep escaped me. Images replayed over and over in my mind of my daughter’s downward spiral that started out with questionable friends. Next was the dramatic change in her attitude toward life and abandoning her beliefs.  She began dressing in black with a colorful mohawk adorning her head. Tattoos and piercings sprouted up on her stick thin body.  The roller coaster ride continued with couch surfing, living on the streets and hanging out with a wandering pack of anti-establishment rebels.  All these choices hurtled her into the final, painful descent of alcohol and drugs culminating in a pregnancy.  

After more restless tossing and turning, I was up again and pacing the floor. Tiptoeing into my granddaughter’s room, I cautiously avoided the squeaky floor board in front of the crib. A sliver of moonlight like a ray of sunshine fell across her face as she slept. I studied her face. She was born with her father’s soulful eyes and mother’s delicate features. At four months, she was already a healthy, happy baby who smiled easily and had long since been experimenting with making sounds. My heart overflowed with love for her and my daughter, who had the strength to stop drinking and doing drugs while pregnant. 

Standing over the crib praying for guidance, I pondered larger questions. What’s really important? When my life is over, would it matter if I traveled the world, accumulated more material possessions or received accolades for my work? My legacy would live on through my family and friends, the love I’d demonstrated to them and memories we’d made together. In a moment of clarity, I realized I could show no greater love than to willingly steer my life on a different path and weave this new life into mine.

There is a children’s book that I’ve put away for my daughter to read long after I’m gone.  It’s tucked away in a memory box with her adoption dress, the story of a spider’s life.  The spider was known for spinning amazing webs. As the spider grew old and gray, she created her final masterpiece - a blanket for a poor, young woman’s newborn baby. In a corner of the blanket, she wove her heart before she died. I am the spider - day by day spinning and weaving a warm, loving home for my daughter filled with all the joys that life can bring.  When my final masterpiece is finished, I too will have woven my heart into her life and placed her back in the arms of her birth mom who was wise enough to entrust her to me.   

Epilogue:  My fourth daughter is now a teenager. I’m so proud of the choices she’s making in life.  She’s an amazing young woman with a quick wit and wonderful sense of humor, who likes to display her debating skills when trying to get me to reverse a decision that doesn’t suit her. At my daughter’s request, I tracked down her teenage birth father and he recently entered her life. Her birth mom (my third daughter) turned her life around and is free of alcohol and drugs.  She married a wonderful man and together they have more children that my daughter knows as her sisters and brother. 

At last, the circle of life is complete.