I am convinced our youngest grandson thinks we live in his Dad’s phone. Thanks to the Coronavirus, we haven’t seen him since November 2019 when he was just nine months old. I doubt, given his age, he can relate to us in terms of flesh and blood – we are just characters like people on TV. We live in Dad’s phone. There but not there; people who disappear when he has the pleasure of pressing the ‘end call’ button.
It’s been tough witnessing his development via video calls through a screen 50 x 160mm. At his end, we are probably even smaller. His progression from crawling to taking his first steps, clapping hands, playing with his toys, reading books, bath time activities, and even his first words.
I still remember the time our little granddaughter in France first saw us on the computer screen after a recent visit. Our daughter said her immediate reaction was to run around the back of the computer then look under the desk as she thought we were hiding.
I had secretly hoped we would at least see all our UK family at Christmas. Unfortunately, due to the massive increase in Coronavirus cases as it escalates (seemingly) out of control that is out of the question especially as we fall in the high-risk category. Even if we weren’t high-risk we would need to quarantine and then in the UK there is the rule of six and various other restrictions which I’ve lost track of.
At least with our four older grandchildren aged six, seven, and two at nine years old we have spent more time with them. But even speaking to them on the phone it feels more like we are interrogating them than holding a two-way conversation: What are you learning at school? Tell us about your friends, Tai Chi, video games, cooking, gardening projects etc. There is no flow to the conversation as the silence between questions grows longer and more pronounced.
Our trip to France on the 19th March to see our daughter and grandkids was canceled at the last minute when France went into State of Emergency and lockdown shortly followed by Portugal. Until then, despite the Coronavirus which some people were dismissing as just a flu virus, although apprehensive we were going. We are now wiser in hindsight as we had no idea the scale or how deadly the virus was going to prove to certain demographics.
At that point, we were still looking forward to our French family coming to us in May. But again it was canceled.
The summer dragged on and with no travel prospects in sight I decided now would be a good time to progress my knee replacement operation which took place at the height of the tourist season so beaches, bars and restaurants, travel, etc was off-limits anyway.
The physical pain of not being able to hug our family is beginning to take its toll.
Our hopes were raised then dashed when our daughter floated the idea of visiting Portugal during half-term holidays in October. Her plan was to stay in a hotel so although we would remain socially-distanced, at least see them all in the flesh. At that point, in moments of desperation, I even considered investing in full PPE so we could give them a physical hug.
Sadly it was not to be. We missed the window of opportunity during the summer when reported cases hit a plateau. Within weeks they began to soar and as I write this France, on the 15th October, reported over 30,000 their highest since the pandemic began And Portugal over 2,000 which I doubt is an accurate figure because the population is bloated by tourists.
As I research potential Christmas presents to spoil the grandkids and family tears well from deep within me as I realize I no longer have any idea of their latest craze or real interests.
It’s going to be a long hard winter and right now all we have to look forward to is survival as we adapt to the ‘new normal’. The highlight’ probably spending Christmas day on the local beach, which in itself will be surreal as we remember the happy memories from last Christmas when our French family came to stay.
Going forward I see no way ahead either to travel safely but also share hugs while we are in the iron grip of the pandemic. So, for now, we are the grandparents who live in the mobile phone.
Are you missing your family?