By Wendy Schuman
This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org .
When will I see my grandchildren again? When will it be safe for us to be together?
These questions haunt me every morning as I wake up to another day of the pandemic.
I miss our grandkids, I yearn for them — and I admit I sometimes feel depressed that I can’t see them. It’s a combination of separation anxiety and empty nest syndrome that I haven’t felt for years.
Making a socially distanced visit just isn’t possible for us. They live too far away and in opposite directions. Our two grown children, who each have two kids, live in different states: Massachusetts and Maryland. My husband and I live right in the middle, in New Jersey.
This used to be ideal for lengthy visits: In 4 ½ hours, we could drive north or south and be with one of them that afternoon. But currently it’s just frustrating; far enough away for us to have to stay overnight. Since my husband and I are both in our 70s, it’s unsafe for us to emerge fully into the newly reopening world.
On this at least, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and WHO (World Health Organization) agree.
Being a grandparent gives meaning to life
Although we’re healthy, we do have one condition that tags us as vulnerable — we’re considered “elderly.” OK, not super-elderly, like my amazing, active 94-year-old cousin, but well over 65, the scientific world’s threshold for old age.
Since retiring from my publishing career almost 10 years ago, I’ve thrown myself into the role of grandmother. It has given new and profound meaning to my life.
I turned my home office into a room for visiting grandkids, complete with a pullout daybed, pink-and-gray bedspread and pillows from Pottery Barn Teen, stuffed animals and a poster by the artist Banksy on the wall — the one with the little girl reaching for the heart-shaped balloon and the graffiti that reads “There’s always hope.”
My bookshelf is loaded with kids’ books and art supplies. Every Christmas, we jam the whole family into our suburban townhouse for a week, with the help of port-a-cribs and air mattresses.
Before COVID-19, we would drive to see one of our kids’ families every few weeks, staying over for a long weekend or more. We were there when needed — when a grandchild was born, during school vacations or to just give their parents a break.
Reunions are risky
When coronavirus showed up in mid-March, my husband and I were in a rented condo in Sarasota, Fla., awaiting a visit from our son and his family, which included a toddler and an infant. When we had first arrived in early March, the beaches and restaurants were filled. We’d gone to plays, movies and an opera.