My three grown daughters and two stepdaughters have been calling me daily since coronavirus to make sure that I am careful. I am a senior. Yes, I am the target population for the virus, but I consider myself in good health. Before the virus, I played tennis. I went to exercise classes. I enjoyed my kids, grandkids, and my hobbies. It’s been a turnabout for my husband and me to have our grown children worrying about us, helping us, buying our groceries, and ordering us to “stay home.”
One night, I spoke on the phone to Andrea, my oldest daughter. She works as a first responder, a nurse at a hospital with COVID19 patients. We hadn’t seen her in weeks, as she didn’t want us to be exposed to her or to her kids. Her toddlers were home from pre-school. She had no childcare. She said she was exhausted. Her voice cracked.
“Oh sweetie, I’ll be right over,” I said. How could I not help? My husband told me that I was crazy. I knew I wouldn’t go. I knew Andrea didn’t want me there, but I felt so helpless. I couldn’t stand doing nothing.
The next day, I called Andrea and the kids to facetime. Twenty-month-old Jeremy garbled at the screen, proud to have discovered speech. Three-and-a-half year old Hannah grabbed the phone from her brother and gave me a virtual tour of her toys; a new set of blocks and a unicorn. She took the phone into her pink tent and placed it on the floor I gazed up at pink, the plastic roof of the tent. Hannah chattered about her toys. I heard Andrea’s voice off-screen telling Hannah that it was time for dinner.
“Not now. I’m playing with my grandma,” said Hannah. I laughed and settled in, looking up at the pink tent roof while Hannah told her stories. This was a virtual play date, I realized. It wasn’t what I had imagined when I wanted to help, but for now it was just right.