"Live a good life, and in the end, it's not the years in the life, it's the life in the years."

Keeping family ties strong

By on February 22, 2021 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments
Grandma and Grandpa Linda and Ken Reid in East Wenatchee play Yahtzee with Emma and Sam in South Florida over FaceTime. Grandcat Rusty observes it all.

Twelve months of COVID makes for a long year away from kids and grandkids

By Linda Reid

When restrictions and shutdowns were first officially announced in March of last year, I remember listening to Governor Jay Inslee on the radio in the car. 

It was one of those “frozen moments” for me where I felt a paradigm shift. Not yet as dramatic as the assassination of President John Kennedy or the tragedy of 9/11, but the feeling of uncertainty about where COVID-19 would take us was unmistakably jarring.

This past year has indeed taken us on “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” 

One of the most challenging consequences of this pandemic (other than the profound impacts of the disease itself) for many people has been managing long-distance relationships with loved ones. 

I confess I have come to the realization that I have always felt entitled to see my daughter and grandchildren twice a year. That has been the case for 15 years, until 2020 came along. 

We managed our biannual visits when they lived in France, in Hawaii, and Florida, where they have been for the past five years. We always had that much-needed dose of quality time together, and we have become dependent on it. 

This past year has humbled me and made me even more grateful for the previously guaranteed anticipation of in-person hugs and snuggles with Emma (now 15) and Sam (12). 

As the months went by, the reality of when it would be safe to travel to Florida, or for them to come here, began to form a dark cloud on the horizon. 

We had our good-bye hugs on Jan. 8, 2020, so we passed the one-year mark almost two months ago. In looking back, I have been asking myself how we have been able to keep those critically important family bonds strong and thriving without our biannual time together. 

I have compiled a list of some of our favorite activities that have helped to keep our remote relationships with our grandchildren flourishing. Keeping “the good life” of grandparenting alive and well until it is safe to travel again is a high priority for many seniors. 

• FaceTime is the foundation of most of these ideas. Just being sure to connect on FaceTime each week has been so important to us all. Sometimes it is a whole family event and other times Emma and Sam each have time with us with no interference from others. Our three-hour time zone issue does make that a little tricky sometimes.

• There are times when the kids don’t feel like talking, so we have fallen back on the old tried and true “show and tell” where they each have a chance to share something they have created (such as sketches, origami, Lego creations, completed puzzles, schoolwork) and receive our raves and affirmations. (We can share, too.)

• Snail mail through the post office has been useful as we send cards, hand-written notes, and sometimes receive Emma’s and Sam’s original drawings. It will never be out-of-date for me to send or receive a tangible sign of love via the USPS.

• Virtual game time has been a more recent activity for us. Our favorites so far are: Yahtzee, Scattergories, Family Feud, Bingo and some more informal word games like categories and taboo. We have lots of laughs and enjoy the (mostly) friendly competition.

• Cat chats are extremely popular, especially with the youngest and most entertaining of their “three cool cats.” Rusty loves the attention and is often a consistent presence on Face Time. Phoenix usually runs and hides as soon as he hears our voices, and Princess Polly, age 15, is deaf but makes good eye contact with us. 

• Virtual yard and garden tours are always a hit. It is fun to see what is happening in each other’s yards. We see the Muscovy ducks waddling around their yard and bird of paradise and hibiscus in bloom. They see snow and gold finches and sparrows flocking around our bird feeders. 

• Other virtual tours have included virtual walks, Christmas light tours, watching New Year’s Eve fireworks, a “trip” to the Miami Zoo, and a gondola ride down from the top of Crystal Mountain. 

• Sharing family time on Christmas and birthdays at virtual parties, complete with gift-openings, is fun for everyone, especially when we loop in Uncle Jason and Aunt Emily.

I am attempting to give Sam some virtual piano lessons since they recently got a piano keyboard. He wants to learn to play a particular piece and I’m trying my best to help make that happen.

• Story time is always a low-key way to connect. We are a bookish family and I have always been the matriarch of bedtime stories. Occasionally we still do that. Sometimes I even read them a story from The Good Life I have written.

• Our favorite FaceTime activity yet is… baking together. We make the same recipe at the same time, even syncing when we put our creations into our ovens. We did Christmas cookies (Spritz and Mexican Wedding Cakes), peanut brittle, and our family Julekaka (Norwegian Christmas bread) all with delicious outcomes. That is an impressive accomplishment considering we are 3,000 miles apart. It was so much fun we recently baked orange bread together and made French toast with it the following morning. We plan to keep this up!

• Just texting photos back and forth is such a wonderful way to stay involved in each other’s lives. Emma is becoming quite the nature photographer and we love to see her photos. When we take photos and send them, especially in “real time,” it almost feels like we are together.

We have all learned some hard lessons this past year. 

I have come to understand that the opposite of entitlement is gratitude. Anticipation is positive, but if you depend on something too much it can lead to disappointment. 

When relationships are a priority in our lives, we find creative ways to stay connected. If we look carefully, we might even find blessings in our deprivation. 

When everyone in the family, from grandparents to parents to grandkids, is determined to have multigenerational bonding, it will succeed. 

I am living with hopeful anticipation that we can find a way to have some in-person time with our Florida family this summer, but 2020 has proven that time and distance can never take away what we have.

Linda is a regular contributor to The Good Life and makes her home in East Wenatchee with her husband, Ken, who arranged the photos for this article. 

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