Categorized | Features, Grandparenting

COVID Makes It Tough For Grandparents To See Family

Family

COVID has made it difficult for grandparents to see family members. But, Ellen and her husband finally made the seven- hour car trip to visit Aaron (pictured) and his sister, Rayna. 

By Ellen L. Weingart

It had been more than 10 months since we’d seen our younger son Andrew and his family in person, an unusually long time for us. So why did pondering whether to visit now seem like such a life or death decision?

The answer, of course, is COVID-19.

We had seen our older son Harris and his family twice this summer, once at their house, less than three hours away, and once for a weekend away at a nearby airbandb.

But Andrew is about a seven-hour drive away. We’d not only have to stop to change drivers, use public bathrooms and fill up with gas, we’d have to spend at least two nights in his house.

My husband William and I — and our sons and their families — have been very careful during the pandemic.

My husband William and I — and our sons and their families — have been very careful during the pandemic. Especially my husband and I, given that we are in an age group with increased vulnerability. We shop wearing masks, don’t socialize indoors, wash our hands frequently and try to stay six feet away from the neighbors we chat with when we’re out walking our dog.

By the time we visited Harris and his family in July, it had been over four months since we had been more than five miles from our home — and seven months since we’d seen them in person. Frankly, like many other people, we were borderline stir crazy. And we missed our grandchildren. Video calls just weren’t cutting it.

We were super careful with that first venture away from our home. Both our kids had been visiting airbandbs for short trips away — with all the grandchildren in video activities and their parents working remotely, time and location seem almost irrelevant — and the two families had even shared an airbandb get-together earlier in the summer.

Harris and his family had also spent a week away visiting our daughter-in-law Elizabeth’s family. So we timed our visit for long enough after their outings for us to feel reasonably safe being in contact with them. A little over a month later, we felt secure enough to join Harris’ family for a weekend at an airbandb about four hours away from our home. We wore our masks and thoroughly sanitized and did our best to maintain a six-foot distance from anyone we met when we stopped at a rest area — not an easy task with our super-friendly and quite handsome dog —and except when my husband went with Harris to pick up dinner one night, never came in contact with an outside-the-family human being during our two-night stay.

By the time we visited Harris and his family in July, it had been over four months since we had been more than five miles from our home.

Both visits with Harris and his family went well and although there were no hugs or kisses with our granddaughters Miriam and Josie, we came home feeling elated that we had done something at least somewhat normal.

Andrew and Amelia have invited us several times over the last several months to visit, but visiting Andrew seemed messier somehow: The drive itself was long, there were the stops we’d have to make, we’d have to board our dog.

Andrew and his family had also been careful, but perhaps it was a little less so.

They had been having weekly dinners at my daughter-in-law Amelia’s parents, who live nearby. Amelia’s sister and her family came too. True, the dinners were held outside and everyone sat at separate tables — still …

They had a babysitter come four days a week so Andrew and Amelia could work productively at home, although the sitter and kids were outside as much as possible and the sitter was tested for COVID — still …

Our grandson Aaron was playing soccer every week with other 5- and 6-year-old kids and our 8-year-old granddaughter Rayna was going to weekly taekwondo lessons. The activities were outside — still …

Family

Rayna was a calico cat and Aaron is a dinosaur for modified Trick or Treating.

Both Aaron and Rayna take ice-skating lessons at an indoor rink. The kids are well spaced from other children and from their instructors, equipment is left for each participant at a designated bench and parental attendance is kept to a minimum — still …

Both children have playdates, sometimes in someone’s backyard, sometimes at a community playground, but always outdoors — still …

These things were on our mind. Plus I had reached that stage where the less I did, the less I wanted to do. Some days, just going to go the library to get something new to read — which at my library means putting a book on hold, being notified it’s ready to pick up, making an appointment to get it and then driving to the library to have the book contactlessly delivered to my car — seems like too big an effort — and yes, thank you Amazon, my home library is growing at a time when I need less, not more, stuff.

So we kept delaying a visit. But we now had a deadline. Soon schools would open for in-person learning and Aaron and Rayna would be exposed to more people indoors. Once that happened, Andrew didn’t want us to come.

Still, I dithered. Was it justifiable concern or simple inertia? William, to whom I’ve been married for more years that I can possibly be old, was either also conflicted or extremely understanding. We talked it over several more times and finally decided to go.

And it was a wonderful visit. Different sure, but wonderful nonetheless.

Instead of eating at restaurants, we brought in.

Instead of an outing with Amelia’s parents, who are dear friends, we all sat, masked and socially distant, in Andrew and Amelia’s backyard.

Instead of visiting a museum, the zoo, a park or some other activity, we stayed home and played games, read books and talked.

Rayna passes her “yellow belt with green stripe” taekwondo test.

We saw Aaron at soccer and Rayna at taekwondo, masked and more-than-socially distant from unrelated adults and children. We did, though, have to miss ice skating.

We have been home for a few weeks now and no one has gotten sick. Are we glad we went? You bet.

Have we changed our behavior? Not a bit.

 

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