My family recently celebrated the birthday of our 4-year-old granddaughter with a big multi-state get-together, thanks to some snazzy computer technology.
My adult grandson and our nearly 3-year-old granddaughter were on the screen along with family members and happy friends. There was even a little girl that our “birthday girl” announced: “You are my best friend in the whole world.”
Everyone smiled, chatted a bit and sang “Happy Birthday” to her. It was awesome.
While the computer event was definitely different, it was still kind of fun. The laughter filled our hearts and hers with joy. I was happy, but simultaneously I was still kind of sad.
I wanted to hold my granddaughter and look at her big old smile right there in front of me. I wanted to hug her and my other smiling granddaughter just as tight. I wanted to embrace my 21-year-old grandson, too. Yeah, we still do that.
My son and daughter and their spouses were right there on the screen. Alas, there was no chance of hanging out with them. And, there was a different kind of loss in that. There was no chance that my son could use his big fancy egg thing to grill something for everyone. (He’s OK, I’m still better at the grilling stuff than he is.)
Still, I laughed and smiled because it was effective medicine to see everyone, if only in little squares on a computer screen. In these strange days, this is what we are left with.
Lost in the incredible technology is the love and feelings that you can only have from less than six feet. It’s looking into the faces and inquisitive eyes of grandchildren and seeing how they have changed. You see how their conversations are changing and also how you are being perceived.
There is no social distancing that can work when you want to touch your children and your relatives.
Just a couple of days after the computer party, the 4-year-old granddaughter called me. She knows how to use the FaceTime app on a cellphone, which means we can see each other on our phones. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s scary and impressive that she can do that.
When she saw me, she asked, “Why do you have a mask?” I told her that I didn’t want people in the grocery store to see me. I was hiding from them. She wasn’t buying it. In matter-of-fact tone, she asked, “Is it because the Earth is sick?” Kudos to my daughter for trying to get her to understand what is going on around her, but my goodness, is this what we have to drill into babies?
While I sadden to only seem my kin by computer, I can’t imagine the heartbreak of families whose loved ones, especially the coronavirus victims, have died alone. It is difficult to imagine seeing sick or quarantined loved ones, at best, through a thin window yet feel miles apart because you can touch them.
Those little squares on the computer helped for a few minutes the other day, but they did not shoo away my feelings. There will be a time and place, hopefully, that we will get together soon. I know I am one of millions of people who long for something like that.
There is a quote, I don’t know the author, that I love that speaks to how I, and probably many others feel. “I’d rather be physically hurt than emotionally, because you can put a band-aid on your finger, but you can’t put one on your heart.”
Email Edward Pratt a former newspaperman who writes a weekly column at firstname.lastname@example.org.