The following is not a how-to for anyone else. It’s just my story. We all have to maneuver our way through the grinding deprivations of the coronavirus as best we can.
We hadn’t seen the kids or grandkids for nine months, since we were lucky enough to gather for an anniversary holiday in the Dominican Republic last February. Before we left for the D.R., we were worried about the mysterious and random deaths of tourists on the island over the year before. We didn’t realize that the far more deadly Covid-19 was already lying in wait there, and gaining ground in the U.S. We went, and everyone came home healthy, but toward the end of our stay we started hearing news about this novel coronavirus thing.
Having survived the D.R., we fully expected to go back to our lives and begin planning the next time we could see our children and grandchildren. We were on that imaginary road we all have in our heads that rolls along into the future until we hit a wall.
Suddenly all of us got knocked sideways by Covid-19, and we began making adjustments and accepting life compromises we never could have imagined. Over the summer, we didn’t visit our kids out West as we always do. We didn’t visit the Florida kids, either, because Florida seems to be ground zero for foolishness when it comes to the virus.
We felt increasingly shocked and depressed by the stories of people toiling at risky jobs because they couldn’t afford to stay home, at the same time caring for sick relatives and watching loved ones die. If you have a heart and a conscience, they keep hammering you to do something when there really was nothing to do except try to stay healthy and safe.
We stayed in touch with the family as the kids’ schools closed down, and they appeared increasingly detached and sleepy and bored when we connected on Zoom or Facetime. We leaned in and asked questions and they answered, and their slightly distant politeness seemed to exacerbate the pain of separation and real communication.
A few weeks ago, my daughter in California said she wanted to visit and bring the kids. She really wanted to visit; I think she was worried that we might not be around forever. I suppose we’re all feeling our mortality. And she was worried that Covid was getting worse and flying might become impossible.
As I wrote last week, we all decided that Thanksgiving was out of the question because of all the people who would be traveling over the holiday despite the warnings. We wanted to maximize safety.
My daughter flew three weeks ago. Two flights to get here: empty planes. Everyone in the airports and on board was masked. When they got here, they stayed in a rental rather than with us, and we lent them a car so we wouldn’t drive anyplace together. They ate meals in their own place, although that’s usually our best family activity.
It didn’t feel good at all to pay for a rental when I have plenty of room for them. It felt worse to wear masks when we were together, to keep six feet of social distance, and not hug. After a nine-month separation, we didn’t hug the people we love most in the world.
The Florida kids came for 24 hours and stayed at a nearby hotel, just so the cousins could see one another before another year goes by.
We were together outside whenever possible, and when the weather was uncooperative we sat inside, apart, near open doors and windows. The kids spent a big part of each day going to school online at their rental space.
We invented the interlocking-elbow hug and the expressive-eyes love beam, and we went to parks when we could and walked around, taking in the fresh air and one another. I never noticed on Facetime how much they have grown this year, and how they carry themselves differently, and how one has become a bit more diffident as another displays a new boldness in the world.
We did it as best we could. I would say we never forgot the danger lurking among us. Our regimen was disciplined but not perfect. They flew back home a few days ago, having obtained proof of life and proof of love all around. It was a visit unlike any others: We all knew we were seizing a moment with no promise of when we could meet again.
Copyright 2020 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.