I touched my grandson today. He is just a few weeks shy of his second birthday and I think that I can count on my fingers how many times I have touched him since the outbreak of COVID-19. Who could imagine that I would find myself typing these words?
I have been very careful about all of the new rules that rule our society. I have not hosted my children often, and when I did, it was only outdoors, in our backyard, sitting at separate tables for dining. And in small groups, not all together.
And each day, each week, each month, I comforted myself with words like “this will soon pass” or “it has to end soon” or even “this is what God has planned for us, so don’t fight it”. But then I came to the realization that my beloved twelfth grandchild must not have any conscious memory of my touch on his skin.
This week, spontaneously, we hosted all of our children and grandchildren for a barbeque. We were 23 Rings, in our yard. We set up four tables. My husband and I sat separately, basking in the joy of seeing all our our offspring conversing, laughing, sharing experiences. Three couples are in the process of buying or building homes and they networked sources, and information and experiences.
We got even greater joy out of watching all dozen of our third generation interacting. My oldest grandson, 13 year old Mevaser, had a great time romping with my youngest, 2 year old Lavi. He carried him around on his shoulders, played soccer with him and chased him around the grass. My youngest granddaughter, Kerem, was “inaugurated” into the circle of the younger girls, three of them cuddling up on one lounge chair to watch a YouTube video. It was an evening of comradery, connection and conversation. It did NOT include the fourth “c” COVID or as we call it in Israel, Corona. We wore masks, we sat apart, but even within all the restrictions, it felt, well (almost) normal.
Towards the end of the evening I saw that Lavi was trying, ever so hard, to engage someone in a game of soccer. No one was returning the ball that he kicked in every possible direction. I saw my opportunity to interact with him without a physical contact ( something that seems harder with younger children) and I ran across the grass to return the ball in his direction. We ran, and kicked and giggled and the most natural thing in the world seemed to sweep him up in my arms and hug and kiss him. But I stopped myself. Now that fourth C appeared, looming large in my imagination. I reeled myself back and resisted all my natural grandma instincts. And then Lavi reached out for my hand. He must have sensed my conflict. I took his hand, shushing my conscious with the promise of intense hand washing and Purell rinsing. And I took his other hand and we danced. We twirled and spun and he was so adorable in his efforts to imitate my motions of jumping and hopping. And in my heart I prayed “let this touch imprint my love for this child on his heart and in his body. Let him know that I love him because I don’t think that at his age he can know this cognitively or semantically. He has to feel it. Please let him be stamped tonight with my love!”
The eleven grandchildren that have preceded him have a storage chest of joint memories to rely on. We have taken family trips and vacations, spent Shabbatot together and driven together in the car. They are older and we zoom and Skype and talk on the phone. We have other alternatives to make up for the lack of physical connection.
Grandson #13 is making his presence visible in my youngest child’s evergrowing belly. She and her husband are currently living in our house while their apartment is being constructed. Her baby will be born into my house. My prayers are that we will have succeeded in our worldwide efforts to eradicate this cursed plague by the time he makes his appearance in this world. I dream of being present at his birth, helping my daughter in her labor, of being among the first to bond via touch with the newest member of our family. I have an inner comfort that even if Corona is still part of our experience when #13 arrives, because we have formed our own “capsule” with my daughter and son in law, I will feel comfortable relaxing some of the social distancing restrictions.
Meanwhile, Lavi, who is at such a totally delicious stage in terms of his language development and the growth of his sense of self and of interpersonal relationships, still presents a great challenge to me in terms of touch. So I broke the rules, let my guard down, and touched my grandson.
And I loved every second of it!