The Covid Diaries :: We Miss Our Family

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missing grandparents and extended family during the covid-19 pandemic - staying connected through technology

“What’s wrong?” I asked, concerned.

My six-year-old daughter appeared on the screen, twirling her hair and looking at the floor.

“She wants to be there,” my husband said, patting her back.

My heart broke for her the millionth time since March 2020, when her normal childhood took a detour thanks to Covid-19.

This time, I saw her sadness during a Facebook Portal call from my parents’ house in North Carolina. My dad had been discharged from the hospital a week earlier after a 15-day stay with Covid. I was traveling for work and tacked a day onto my trip so I could see him while he recovered at home after a scary couple of weeks.

My visit broke a nearly 12-month streak of not seeing my parents and brothers. My three daughters now haven’t seen their maternal grandparents since February 2020.

They haven’t been able to spend much time with their paternal grandparents, either, who live slightly closer to us.

Covid has taken a lot of our freedoms away, but in my mind the worst thing, by far, is our ability to see our families. For kids, perhaps they don’t know what they don’t know. I was reassured that my oldest daughter’s unstable year of kindergarten (two days a week, then four days a week, then two days a week, now five days a week . . . along with some really challenging days of homeschooling) wouldn’t damage her too much since she didn’t know any different.

But her grandparents have been a big part of her life since she was born, even through a move from the Carolinas to Birmingham when she was two. Her younger sisters are close with both sets of grandparents, too. So not seeing them has been hard.

We’ve tried — and continue to try — to cope the best we can. There have been a million FaceTime calls, lots of family texts, and we convinced everyone to purchase a Facebook Portal so we can see our loved ones on our big screen t.v.

We celebrated birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas together virtually, thanks to the wonders of technology. And when my dad was alone in a hospital room for 15 days, he said being able to see all of us is perhaps what got him through the ordeal.

My girls didn’t understand the seriousness of his illness, but they understood he was in the hospital. They saw him hooked up to oxygen, and I know that sight frightened them a bit. They’d appear on our daily video calls, and I teared up each time I saw my dad’s face light up when one of the girls put her face up to the phone and yelled, “Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii Papa!!!!!”

Now, as I sat in my parents’ living room seeing my little girl look so sad, I looked over at my dad, who smiled at her.

“I want you to be here too, Brooke-Brooke,” he said. “And you and your sisters are going to get to come see Papa REAL soon, okay?”

She looked up, and actually smiled.

We’ll get through this.

My in-laws have had their first round of the vaccine, and my mom is due to receive hers next week. My husband is getting his first shot as we speak. And I’m so grateful my dad pulled through, and my heart breaks for everyone who has lost loved ones from this.

We WILL get through this. I feel like I can see a glimpse of light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

Sure, it’ll be nice to not have to wear masks everywhere. And I’ll really appreciate not having to worry about my kids having to quarantine due to exposure.

But most of all, I can’t wait to watch my girls reunite with their grandparents. The thought of those hopefully upcoming reunions makes my heart so full it could burst.

And selfishly, I want to be able to see them, too. I miss them.

Normalcy will return. And those first hugs will be so, so sweet.

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A North Carolina native, Jennifer has called Colorado Springs, CO, Lynchburg, VA, New Orleans, LA, and Charleston, SC home since graduating from Elon University in 2003. She has spent time as a journalist, event planner, and sports information director. Now, the Hoover resident is a full-time sales & marketing professional for an outdoor furniture company and an independent rep for Zyia Active. Of all the hats Jennifer wears, her most important roles are as a wife, mother, daughter, and sister. She has been married to her husband Mike since 2011, and together they have three daughters ages 5, 4 and 2, and a sweet eight-year-old beagle, Cooper.