I wrote this piece in early May. Of course, it is not about travel because there is no travel. But it is about something that soothed my soul better than a foreign land, distant mountain, or Glacier could ever do.
I live alone, and I don’t want to die. I want to be with people, but I don’t want to die. Such is the dilemma of living life during a pandemic. As I write this, I have been in self isolation for 52 days. When I entered this state on March 12, 2020, I thought it would be short lived, certainly not long enough that I would need to cancel a planned trip to Greece in May. But here I sit in the warmth of an afternoon shaft of sunlight, as it pours through the window next to a tall stone fireplace in my house….alone. Though the sun is warm, it is the cold stone that matches my mood. I fall into that dreaded category of people who are most vulnerable to a deathly outcome from the virus…simply because I have lived 66 years. And for that reason, I had to remove myself from my new baby grandson. An impenetrable wall went up. Not a wall of wood or stone or wire, but one of restraint. This first baby of my son, Matthew, and his wife, Nathalie, was just over 6 months old that last time I fed him, read to him, kissed and hugged him. His father goes out into the world to work each day and, therefore, poses a risk to me. So I have been stranded on my island away from the people I love most, seeing them only in the cold glass of an electronic device. I squeal at the sight of each new accomplishment my grandson has mastered over these last 7 ½ weeks. I wonder if he recognizes the woman on the screen who seems so delighted, as I coo and call his name to hold his attention.
I am like countless other grandparents, brothers and sisters, friends and families sentenced to this isolation. My story is not unique. There are breaks in the monotony of the sequestered life – long walks in the woods, planting the vegetables and flowers that bring beauty to my landscape, a drive to the little house at the beach. I am lucky. There is the virtual gathering with members of my family, blue light enhancing our flaws, through the lifeline that is a Zoom meeting. There are the driveway visits with Matthew and his family. There are the FaceTime cocktail parties with friends. It’s not drinking alone if five of my closest friends are clinking glasses with my iphone.
Three weeks into our lockdown, I stopped watching and reading the news. Each thunderous headline or opening soundbite struck a sickening spike of fear into my heart. Within days of my personal boycott of the news world, my spirits lifted. It was the right decision.
April was unusually chilly, as if our sweet earth knew that sunshine and warmth would be more than we could resist. She knew that we might break the bonds of home and safety and jeopardize the downward curve.
As I pray to God each day for a miracle, I also acknowledge how the earth is healing. It spins off the pollution and rinses its lakes, and rivers, and oceans. It’s atmosphere and beauty can be seen in places once shrouded for a century by the smog of humanity.
My family knows to alert me when there is actual good news, the only kind my psyche is willing to process. Some of the statistics are moving in the right directions. There is a possibility of a medicine that may reduce the length of time an infected person is ill. The scientists and doctors of the world are making progress in the race for medicines and vaccines. None of this means I can be with my family. Or, does it? With this new found hope, a lot of planning and preparation, a meeting is arranged. I worry he will think me a stranger. It is May. Mother Nature has granted us a beautiful day. Outside I spread a blanket, pull on my rubber gloves, even gargle with Listerine. And then there he is! Matthew and Nathalie, while maintaining our social distance, deliver into my arms this sweet child. Cason is all smiles, dimples, soft chubby arms. Oh the nectar that is an infant’s smell. As his parents wave goodbye, I perceive no anxiety on his part. He is delighted with his surroundings….the soft green grass and fragrant lilacs. He follows the flight of a butterfly and cocks his head to the sound of a bluebird’s song.
At the end of this visit, Cason will be whisked away and I will strip my shield of clothes and gloves, gargle and scrub, and wait. We will wait two weeks to be sure our little test has not been a mistake. But till then I relive and remember as though we are in the garden. Cason gazes at me with a look that says time hasn’t passed. I know you. You are my Gramma.