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Essay: Paying Attention

When my first granddaughter was born, I was so excited.

“I can’t wait to meet her,” I told my counselor. “To welcome her into the world.”

He nodded and said, “It’s a lifetime commitment, you know.”

I hadn’t really thought about that. I was thinking about holding the new baby and reading stories and playing together. All the fun stuff.

But relationships are more complicated than the fun stuff, especially those that last a lifetime. It’s a big commitment to be there for someone, no matter what. To be available, to listen, to support. To pay attention to all of it.

And, for the first time, I heard the word “pay” in “pay attention.” Because it costs to give someone your attention. Costs time and energy and interruptions and disappointments.

But you can’t just drop in and out of people’s lives. I’ve done it myself and have regrets, have holes in my life where people should be.

So I held my granddaughter and read her stories and when her sister arrived, we all played together.

Then they grew up and we studied poetry together. Now, they’re both adults and married and living far away. But I’m still paying attention—and so are they.