The Great Divide…Grandparents & our Little People During Lock Down.

 

“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.”

– Aldous Huxley

There are so many ways our communities are being hit hard by the coronavirus. While the massive loss of life and the incredible suffering experienced by those hardest hit by the virus, along with those who’ve lost work and are facing financial ruin, there’s also that massive impact on relationships due to enforced social isolation. For many, their greatest struggle is being cut off from the people they love more than life itself….their grandchildren.

Papa Bert 95

Celebrating my grandfather’s 95th birthday. It was the last time we saw him and he passed away a month or so later.

While searching for a photo of my grandparents’ home in Ipswich for my travel series, I came across a string of photos of my kids with my late grandfather, which vividly capture the intimacy of their relationship, and how they really helped my grandfather come out of his shell and sparkle in ways that were truly miraculous.

With the elderly being at the highest risk of catching the virus and having the worst possible outcome, and kids being a good potential source of transmission; physical contact has been put on hold. Stopped. We’ve all been told in no uncertain terms to “stay home”.

Jonathon teaching Papa Bert to read

However, as much as it’s for grandparents’ own good in terms of their physical health, being kept away from their grandchildren and the love, joy and energy they bring, is also having a potentially damaging impact on their mental and cognitive health.  No doubt families are very concerned about the risk of regression. Whether the door between remembering and forgetting will shut during this time of social isolation is over and stay shut. That there will be no turning back.

Amelia Papa Bert Wheelchair

I get that.Yet, with no alternative, we can only hope that nursing homes are finding ways of keeping these connections alive when it’s difficult for families.

When my grandmother went into the nursing home, the staff worked with her and my aunt to make a special memory book. There was nothing wrong with her memory, but she’d had a series of crippling mini strokes and had lost the capacity to speak (which was utterly cruel when she was already immobile and spent hours connecting with family via the phone.) This book traced from when she was born and her parents and siblings right through school, getting married, family life, work and grandchildren. From a practical point of view, the book was a brilliant memory jogger, and it also enabled staff to connect with her in a personal way when family weren’t around. They could get to know her. These days, however, this book is a precious time capsule…her life story.

This is something families could put together at home and drop off for their loved ones. I’m sure it would help. Clearly name everybody in the photos and use large print. Keep it simple. Add drawings from the kids etc. Make it special.

Jonathon laptop papa bert

Meanwhile, I also want to share a very special visit our family had with my grandfather, Papa Bert. This was early in 2007 and not long after Christmas when we gave our then three year old son a Fisher Price laptop for Christmas. It was a very simple device and the mouse was actually designed to look like a mouse. That’s quite important for the story because when our son was teaching Papa Bert how to use his laptop, he told hi to put his hand on the mouse, and he did following the instructions to a T. This was the very same man who’d rejected the high-tech electric typewriter he’d received for his 80th birthday and stubbornly persisted with his manual typewriter which must’ve come from the ark. This bright, animated computer user, was also a far cry from the man who slept through Santa’s visit to the nursing home and wasn’t even responding much to family members any more. However, his blue-eyes were sparkling and you can see the connection between my 93 year old grandfather and my three year old son as clear as day.

I don’t want us to forget that ever!!!

Papa Bert & Jonathon 2004

Papa Bert meeting our son for the first time at his 90th birthday party. Hard to believe there was 90 years between them.

The middle-people can often get in the way of the very old and the very young, but there is so much love and the benefits to their well-being go far beyond words.

Please keep holding onto that and finding ways of connecting through these extraordinary times and don’t let go.

cupcake box Pymble

The remains of the cupcakes we sent my parents. Mum sent this photo back with the box positioned in front of some photos of us. 

I also need to consider my own parents in all of this. They’re now in their mid-70’s and considered “elderly”, although they’re in denial and it doesn’t make much sense to me either. Not that I’m one to throw stones. I’m  grappling to get my head around 40 and last year I turned 50 and it’s getting harder and harder to keep treating these milestone birthdays as another 21st!! We did manage to leave a box of home-made cupcakes on their doorstep through the week, when Geoff was down in Sydney for work. They did us all a world of good. Mum rang up sounding much more animated and that physical expression of love meant a lot.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to connect with our teenage daughter. I’m hoping the chocolate caramel slice might work. She’s been spending lock down in her room chatting with friends, and taking the dogs for an extended daily walk. That said, I am getting a lot of writing done. So, there’s a lot to be said for independence.

Zac at the beach

Of course, the absolute winners of this coronacrisis in our family are the dogs. They not only have four ball and stick throwers at home, they’ve also been going for extended walks. They’re grinning from ear to ear just as long as it’s not their turn to be left behind!!!

Are you currently cut off from your grandchildren? Or, perhaps your kids are being separated from their grandparents? How are you keeping in touch? I’m thinking of you and would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena

5 thoughts on “The Great Divide…Grandparents & our Little People During Lock Down.

  1. Tails Around the Ranch

    Have been separated from my grands for a few years now. But with this pandemic, knowing I can’t see them in person seems far more impactful. Zoom and Facetime have become the next best thing. Loved the story and images of your grandfather with the kids. So precious as are your memories.

  2. maxwellthedog

    Loved the story of Papa Bert meeting his grandson for the first time. The photo says it all – the bookends of life. The cycle. Darn it, now you going to make me break out in a Lion King tune, here it is, it’s coming, I can’t hold it in:

    🎵🎵‘Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba Sithi uhm ingonyama.🎵🎵🦁

    OK, got that out of my system. I don’t have much in the way of grandparent stories. I only knew one of them, a maternal grandmother from whom I get my Irish heritage. Nana passed at grand age of 96 after a full and productive life. The other grand-branches of the family tree got lost along the way. I’m pretty near your parents’ age and also completely in denial. Both the AJF and I catch each other referring to other people as “those senior folks” when they’re probably the same or maybe even younger than us. Anyway, just wanted to say this was my favorite post from you and I’ve read many of your stories and enjoyed all. But this one hit the spot, somehow creating a nostalgia in me for something I never had to begin with. Ha!

    Meanwhile, Huxley’s quote may be pertinent for many, but when I act like I carried my inner childhood into my current age they call me immature and throw me out of the bar. Happy Easter to you and yours.

  3. Rowena Post author

    Immature? Perhaps a more appropriate word could be “senile”, which is so unkind.
    We connected with my Mum, Dad and brother via Zoom tonight for the first time. The just live down in Sydney about an hour away and we’r used to seeing mum up here once a week but that dropped off at least a year ago and we had cold which prevented us from getting in touch before lockdown shut the doors.
    We went some caramel slice round to our more elderly neighbours today. He’s just turned 90 and was recently in hospital and respite which he refers to as his stay in Pentridge, which I think is a gaol in Melbourne. He’s English and has a cracker of a humour. Lock down at home is an improvement.
    Thank you very much for your lovely words about this post. Much appreciated. I wrote this straight from the heart. I was so close to my grandparents but by the end of their lives they had been through so much that it was clear that it was their time, which helped a lot. I have a series of antique tea cups which I bought in memory of them.
    It’s funny but what with this extended lockdown and being cut off from my parents, I’ve been missing my grandparents a lot and feel like there’s only a paper-thin wall between us and it’s inpenetrable.
    Wishing you and family, especially Max, a Happy Easter and hope you’re keeping well. The deaths in America are staggering. Do you know anybody who has had the virus or been affected? Our losses here have been very low and I usually know someone who knows someone affected by a crisis of this magnitude but not this time. Hopefully, it stays this way.
    Lady is being a very good laptop dog and says hello to Max.
    Best wishes,
    ro

  4. Rowena Post author

    Sorry you haven’t seen your grandchildren for awhile, but I know what you mean about how not being able to travel or even see people, makes that separation more intense. We connected with my parents today by Zoom and Facetime for the first time and it was wonderful to see them and relieved some of my separation anxiety. Not knowing how long this lockdown is going to last or who’ll still be around when it’s over is a concern. I don’t see that as “anxiety” because I think that’s a real concern. However, it’s something we need to get used to without that turning into panic. I’ve had to do this for years with my health otherwise I would’ve gone mad.
    Are you missing Sam more with the lockdown? I think for anyone grieving being stuck at home and having the stress of the virus on top of that would make it worse.
    Anyway, I haven’t wished you a Happy Easter. It’s been a very different day but it’s still felt a bit like Easter.
    Best wishes,
    Ro

  5. Tails Around the Ranch

    Thanks for the Easter wishes. Zoom is a wonderful tool to keep families separated by thousands of miles. It was such a joy for nearly all the grand and great grand children to see my parents for all of us on that all.

    Yes, most definitely Sam’s absence has weighed particularly heavily on my heart. Norman and Elsa sense by heartache and try to boost my spirits. It will be a long process I think, much like this pandemic. We need to be prepared to ride the storm for a long while. Wishing you and yours a ‘Hoppy” Easter from me and the Ranch hands. ❤︎ Stay well and keep smiling.

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