Nineteen months. Well over a year of not seeing my daughter, her husband, or more importantly, our grandchildren. At ages seven and four, I wondered if they would remember us. I knew they had changed so much since we had seen them. We missed so much.
So finally, after vaccinations and so much waiting, they arrived. I had been looking forward to it for so long–planning, shopping, hoping, and losing sleep. They were to come for two weeks. We would watch baseball games and Fourth of July fireworks together. The activities were planned for almost every day: the Ohio Caverns, King’s Island, the Boonshoft Children’s Museum, Carillon Park.
We didn’t anticipate the chaos. Birdie, aged four, loved picking flowers on the deck–until the pots were nearly bald. She danced to ABBA in her pajamas. Charlie loved the robot kit we got him, and spent hours making and remaking them in various configurations. He cuddled during family movie night. Nobody went to bed early. There were S’Mores. Bubbles. Chocolate ice cream. Hot dogs. Sticky fingers and filthy feet. The messes.
I knew it was coming. The goodbyes. By the day of departure, my husband and I were exhausted. So yes, we were ready to reclaim our quiet lives.We knew it would take hours of cleaning to set things to rights around the apartment. But the grief seeped in. Waving goodbye as they drove off, I felt as if most of my internal organs went missing all at once. The heaviness of loss. We missed almost two years of their lives, and now, we would have to go back to missing them once again.
No amount of busy-ness has helped ease the grief of losing them again. Only time and the return of routine will erase it. This sadness is not unfamiliar; it happens at every family parting. But this time it seemed so much more significant. We are not getting any younger, and those children are growing up so fast. How many more years will we have with them?
Every person who has lived through this pandemic has experienced this sort of emptiness. We all have had losses and loneliness. My story is just one of many. We have all weathered perhaps one of the worst years of our lives. A plague of historical significance. It may not be behind us yet. Every single one of us has a COVID story.
Before this virus hit the world, I never worried too much about having grandchildren so far away, because I could always just fly out to see them, any time. But the past nineteen months took that sense of security away. Nineteen months. That gap will not be filled. The future no longer looks quite so stable.
Meanwhile, I wait for my heart to start beating again.