Grandparenting on hold

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By Mary Petersen, Signal Staff Writer

I’ve made masks for the family, donned rubber gloves to go to the store, practiced yoga via stream classes. I even imposed upon my husband to color my hair (with only slight regret).

I can endure staying home, visiting with my friends by phone, getting food delivered on my front porch. But what’s hardest to bear right now is not holding my grandson. 

It’s odd to be labeled as a member of an elderly, at-risk group. I dig holes in my garden, drag around large bags of soil, run miles. But my daughters worry about keeping me safe. So I stay home and begrudgingly make due with FaceTime twice daily. I feel like a pouting 13-year-old. “Other grandparents get to see their grandkids. Why can’t I? You’re ruining my life! I hate you.” I catch glimmers of the future when my daughters will be parenting me in all kinds of ways. 

It’s been six weeks since I hugged my little guy. Only weeks before that I was taking him to baby gym class and library story time with Liza. At the time I marveled at how much energy I expend just keeping him occupied.

He wants to run around rather than sit and follow the teacher’s instructions. He is more intrigued by the electronic door at the entrance and the water fountain outside. As I chase him around and carry him back to the group, I laugh (wearily) about how much work it is to watch a toddler. Now I long for those times. 

There’s so much that I miss. When he hears the trash truck, he runs to the door and holds his shoes. We scramble to get them on and dash downstairs. He giggles, bouncing in my arms, as we run to the corner just in time to see the man drag out huge bins, hoist them electronically over the truck and dump out the contents. He’s mesmerized. 

I miss taking him for walks, reading him books, putting him down for a nap. I miss talking to him and making him laugh. I miss his hugs, and I wonder what he is thinking when he can’t come to me as we stand 6 feet apart. 

Every grandparent has a story like this. (Well, the quarantined grandparents do!) We can manage pretty well day to day, being flexible, making adjustments and varying our routines. But not being with our grandchildren — my friend says she misses her granddaughter like oxygen.

I know we will rekindle our cuddly relationship after this is all over. When he is older, I’ll have stories to tell him. I may exaggerate how heroically I endured our separation, how I knew it was for the best to keep us both safe, and how I sacrificed for the greater good. I’ll tell him it made me so grateful for simple pleasures like the touch of my loved ones.  But for now I put on a happy face and blink back tears when I see him.

Mary Petersen is a retired COC English instructor, 30-year SCV resident and two-time breast cancer survivor. 

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