For My Granddaughter who is Two and ¾’s During the Pandemic

The granddaughter to whom this poem is dedicated is my 6th grandchild and 4th granddaughter. She is my daughter’s 2ndchild. When she was born, I was the first person to hold her. Her mom had a planned C-section and for medical reasons had general anesthesia. It is a family joke that her father does “not do blood,” so both mom and dad asked me to be in the operating room, and to then take her and hold her skin to skin until her mother was conscious and able to hold her. For two hours, I held this newborn and played surrogate for my daughter, while mom and dad were in recovery together.

At first, I ping-ponged from the present to 35 years earlier when I had held her mother immediately after birth. But her tiny, warm body pulled me insistently to the present.  Grandchildren give us that special blessing—the chance to be wholly present. So we settled in to breathe together. I matched my inhalations and exhalations to hers, marveled at the touch of her velvety skin and the miniscule fingernail on her right pinky finger, the miraculous gift of life’s continuity. I whispered a Shehechiyanu, kissed the top of her head and sang her “Summertime” for the first time.

I have been matching my breath to hers ever since and “Summertime” is her favorite song. She is named after me and her father’s mother.

For My Granddaughter who is Two and ¾’s During the Pandemic

 

I miss the storm door that never closes behind me.

I miss the squeal of delight that greets me when I hang my keys on the rack in your hall.

I miss the little hands that grab for my coat and reach for my shoes.

“Gromzy, you have to take these off.”

If I don’t, I may not stay long enough for a story, a walk down the street, bath time, a snack.

I miss your toddler seduction.

“Do you want to see my baby, my princess drawing, my sleeping bag?”

“Oh yes, I do.”

I miss the way time falls away when I am with you.

I miss disengaging with “I have to go home now to feed the dogs.”

I miss your smile as we chant the familiar excuse together.

I miss miss miss it all with a deep ache.

The pandemic, a rude, uninvited bully, has taken over our playground,

And shoved us—made us fall away from one another.

You dislike the digital proxies even more than I do.

FaceTime does not have a key rack.

Caribu has no place for my shoes or a way to hold you in my lap when we read a story.

Zoom does not let my hand cup your head for Shabbat blessings.

I will remember everything about this time and tell you stories about it.

I hope you will only remember that your Gromzy always loves you,

Your mother is a wonderful teacher,

Your father delights in you,

And that once upon a time, your brother became your best friend.

4/19/2020

Lee M. Hendler is the Co-Founder and President of the Jewish Grandparents Network

 

9 Comments
  • Jill S Paulson
    Posted at 22:02h, 05 May Reply

    Lee,

    Beautifully written. David and I are very, very lucky. We live behind our daughter and her family and we treat our two homes as one We are grateful that little Reid comes through the gate every dat to help garden, read books and walk the dog. We know how fortunate we are to watch baby Sophie roll over and start to smile. We don’t take these blessings lightly and hope that it won’t be long before fellow grandparents can feel the hand of their grandchild, watch him/her play sports or as you say, cup their heads for the Shabbat prayer. Stay well and safe. J.

    • Lee Hendler
      Posted at 03:19h, 06 May Reply

      Thank you, Jill! You and David really are blessed. Enjoy the special environment you have been fortunate enough to create. It really was worth it to move to Atlanta! I hope you all continue to stay well too.

  • Joanne Fritz Kraus
    Posted at 23:01h, 05 May Reply

    That captures the tension of the time. Thank-you for sharing that with us!

    • Lee Hendler
      Posted at 03:21h, 06 May Reply

      So glad that it was meaningful for you. Hope your family continues to be well and stay safe, Joanne. Lee

  • Helene Schilian
    Posted at 03:55h, 06 May Reply

    I am right there with you, Gromzy. We moved from Florida last February to be near our son and his family, to spend days loving, teaching, and entertaining the girls. Our visits are limited to the backyard, no hugging, no touching. It is sheer torture for bubbe and grandpoo; not to mention no physical contact with our out of stste daughter and her foster baby. Praying for an end to this plague .

    • Lee Hendler
      Posted at 14:33h, 06 May Reply

      I know it is so hard for grandparents and families who live close and are used to regular contact. Our JGN national study showed that 51% of grandparents who lived less than hour away from their grandchild provided caretaking: daycare on a regular or as needed basis (also overnight sleepovers-48% and transportation-46%). What was striking was that 29% of grandparents who lived more than an hour away also provided at least one of these. So many of us are making a significant regular commitment to our grandchildren in our lives AND the well-being of our families. Covid 19 has instantly turned us ALL into distance grandparents. And it has removed us as what I call “the make it work” factor in many of our families’ lives. As our young families experience a new kind of stress, the ways we can help must adapt. We are working on that here at JGN. Please share your ideas and experiences. Grandpoo? I love it!!!

  • Ruth Feldman
    Posted at 16:09h, 06 May Reply

    So beautiful- a real blessing! To be able to feel so profoundly and to be able to share so eloquently, Thank you

  • Sheraine Arbitsman
    Posted at 10:08h, 29 June Reply

    My sentiments exactly. Our sons live no more than 5 min away. I was the after school caregiver to our two granddaughters. We had a special bond and I loved every minute of it. We have not had as much contact since the pandemic began except when restrictions were lifted, my son was more lenient…I still have not been inside their house except for mother’s day. The girls have been here a few times in the last 2 weeks. We’ve played outside when we were invited over. My grandson was strictly quarantined since his mom was working in a hospital, however, it became necessary for me to help with childcare so for the past 2 months or so, he’s been coming here 4-5x a week all day! No one has gotten sick and we have gotten to know our grandson and be hands on! That has been my saving grace being with him and really getting to know him. It’s probably harder to be distanced from grandkids who live very close by. While I enjoy my grandson’s presence, I’m exhausted by the end of the day! He’s here only one more week till the JCC daycare reoopens and I will make sure it’s a very fun week!

    • Lee Hendler
      Posted at 13:53h, 29 June Reply

      Sheraine: you are truly in the trenches during this moment. I think that you are right about it being more challenging to be distanced from those who live very close to us because we are used to seeing them and being with them on a regular basis. Your story shows how many families are navigating their way through this and creating their bubbles of safety and necessity. Please share what you will do to make sure it is a fun week for your grandson. We would all be interested in your experiences together. Thank you for sharing!

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