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April 23, 2013

Debbie Toothman cherishes time spent with only grandchild

FAIRMONT — You can dream and hope of having a grandchild all you want.

But take it from Debbie Toothman.

“No one can tell you what it’s like until you get one,” she said. “You love your kids, but even before that grandbaby comes, it’s nothing else you can describe.”

She remembers the first time she saw little Addison Grace.

“She was just a few minutes old. I started crying. She was so beautiful it was unreal,” she recalls. “I couldn’t wait to see her. My heart just melted. There’s an instant bond there. As soon as you see your grandchild physically, instead of in a sonogram, it’s more real. You can’t wait to hold them.

“The first time I held her was wonderful. It was like she and I were the only two people in the world. That’s the only way to describe it.”

Not only is Addison her first grandchild, but she’s also the only one — “so far. And no, she won’t be spoiled,” Toothman said with a laugh.

“No, no, no, no, my goodness.”

You can’t blame her for being a proud grandma. This adoration of grandchildren is kind of genetic.

“I remember my mom telling me when I was born, I was the first grandchild, too. And people thought my grandfather lost his mind, he talked about me so much,” she said. “And that’s true. Everything reminds you of your grandchildren.”

Addison is so easy to love, she said.

“She’s got these great, big, beautiful eyes. And she’s very observant. She laughs and talks and makes noise. She wakes up so pleasantly.

“She stayed with us the other night,” Toothman said. “And she woke up like she was talking to somebody, saying ‘mama’ and giggling. When I checked on her, there she was, on her side, her little thumb in her mouth.”

Buying for her granddaughter is one tough job.

“They have the cutest things for little girls,” she said. “We just buy and buy and buy. Every time I see her, I bring her something. She’s gotta have that, so we just keep on buying.

“What else are we going to get her? What else is there?”

Other babies babble to themselves. Other babies giggle and smile and coo. But to hear Toothman — a proud picture-carrying grandma if ever there was one — talk, no other baby does it as cutely as Addison does.

“She is the sweetest thing. I know no other baby has done what she does,” Toothman bragged.

Some people dread the “g” word. Not Toothman.

“When I was told I was going to be a grandmother, I was beside myself,” she said. “My daughter told only us and her husband’s parents. She wanted to wait until after the first trimester. So here was this secret and I couldn’t tell anybody for two, three months.

“When I heard people talking about their grandkids, I wanted to say I was getting one.”

She broke the news to the rest of the family in a charming, unique way.

“We made pictures of the sonograms and had all my family here for dinner. I handed each person an envelope and told everybody to open theirs at the same time.

“Right away, they knew my daughter was having a baby. I was busting to keep my mouth shut, but I did it. It was just wonderful.”

She kept track of Addison’s development by checking fetal growth sites on the Internet.

“I was looking forward to seeing what was being formed. By the ninth month, if she were born now, the chances were everything would be fully developed.”

In case you can’t tell, she’s not just a proud grandma.

“Oh, no, not hardly,” she said, the love she holds for Addison loud and strong in her voice.

 Her parents have a special name for their great-granddaughter.

“They call her ‘little precious.’ They just look at her and kiss her and go on and on. They marvel at the things she does,” Toothman said. “She gets on the floor and rolls from side to side. Everything she does is amazing. I’m sure no other baby has ever done that. My kids did things like this, but not like this. I think she’s gifted.”

Spoken like a true grandma.

Some grandparents have wallets stuffed with pictures of their grandkids. Not Toothman.

“I carry an album. I don’t mess with that wallet stuff. People roll their eyes but I can tell they’re receptive.”

Some people say having grandchildren makes them feel old.

“Oh, no,” she said.

“It’s an adventure,” she said. “Every month is new. It’s a treat. A piece of me is in her. Another generation continues. That’s how I look at it. I get speechless. I don’t know what else to say. It’s just overwhelming.”

It’s also a chance for a do-over.

“With your grandchildren, you have more time. I look back and think I should have been more patient with my kids. But I think this is normal. Every parent has things to do, responsibilities to keep.

“I’m more laid-back now. I’m not as tense and driven as I was when my kids were little. I have more time to enjoy her.

“I want to be an overall grandmother. I want her to be happy to see me and glad I’m around. I want her to be happy and a well-rounded person.

“This sounds clichéd, but I want her to be the best person she can be.

“When I know we’re going to see her, I can’t wait to pull in their driveway, open the door and there she is.”

Becoming Addison’s “Grammy” is the best thing that’s happened to her, she said.

“My husband James and I think she’s the best thing in the world. She’s just a little bundle of delight.

“I am so happy she’s part of our family. I want to hug and kiss her as much as I can. I can look at her little face for hours.”

If you are expecting a grandchild, she has some advice.

“You will love every minute you have with them. Make time and stop for a bit. Enjoy them. Get on the floor with them. Look out the window. Point out things. I did this with my kids, but with grandchildren, you realize how fast time goes.

“So slow down and enjoy everything they do, every look they give you.

“That makes it all worthwhile.”

Email Debra Minor Wilson at dwilson@timeswv.com.

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