“Gan Gan,” says my little five-year-old daughter Rose on the phone. “Why can’t we come round to your house any more?”
Oh dear. This is a difficult one.
It’s not because of the new tier system which we’ve been moved to. (Thankfully we’re still able to be part of a childcare bubble.)
No. It’s because this week my husband is going into hospital for at least one night to have a spinal operation.
So it’s essential he doesn’t catch anything before he goes in.
This means that my eldest son and I, who are under the same roof as him, also have to be careful.
My daughter has tried to explain this to Rose and her little brother George, three. After all, this isn’t the first time. That shock of the first lockdown when I went from being a “two day a week full-time gran” to waving outside the window, will never leave me. It all happened so suddenly. And I know, from your emails, that many of you feel the same.
But the constant changes of rules (necessary as they might be) are not just confusing for adults. They are also muddling for children. And my husband’s operation during coronavirus fears is yet another.
“You’ll be able to come round when Grandad is better,” I say.
“But I want to come now!” she pleads.
I feel so divided…
How I will miss our Sunday mornings which will need to be put on hold until my husband is allowed to see others. Usually Rose and George come to us and make cakes or do air clay pottery or plant seeds in pots outside. It’s great for us to have some time with them. And it’s also nice for my daughter and son-in-law to have some time to themselves.
Yet we daren’t risk it. After all, children can be the silent super spreaders.
We’re also worried about going into their house for the same reason. But we can meet up outside!
“How about a walk with the dog when the tide is out?” I suggest.
“Great,” says my daughter.
But as I set out from my house, after arranging to meet down on the promenade, it begins to rain.
My mobile goes in my pocket.
“I can’t take them out in this, Mum,” says my daughter. “I don’t want them to catch cold especially with the new term starting.”
My heart plummets. I was so looking forward to seeing my little ones (that includes my 35-year-old daughter who will always be one of my babies as far as I’m concerned!).
I see her point. Mind you, that’s another issue, isn’t it? What do you all feel about schools closing? I’d be really interested to hear. Do you have grandchildren at school? Do you have children who work as teachers? Are you worried about them being infected? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All replies will be treated confidentially.
So far, Rose’s school is still opening as usual. “Can you pick me up on my first day?” she’d asked last week.
“Of course I will,” I’d said. We both love this! I enjoy queuing up with the other grans and mums, socially distanced on our “chalked flower” waiting stones, and catching up with the chat. But the best part is when Rose flies into my arms, shouting “Gan Gan!” I twirl her around and then she slips her little gloved hand into mine and we walk along the pavement, talking about her day.
But now we have the date for my husband’s operation, I’m going to have to break my promise about picking up Rose from school on that first day back. I’m not sure how I’m going to do that but there’s no way I can expose myself to potential germs and then pass those on to my husband.
Meanwhile, I carry on with my walk in the rain. But I feel so lonely without them. A seagull then gives me “the eye” from the beach. I take a photo of it and send a message to my daughter’s phone.
Dear Rose and George. “What do you think this seagull is saying?”
Little things like this can help us keep in touch My daughter is really good at sending videos to all six of us grandparents to show what the children are doing. It makes such a difference and I know we appreciate it.
I’ve also signed up with a photo app where I choose pics from my phone and get 25 prints made for under a tenner.
Then I put them on my kitchen dresser and also in an album with captions. I make sure to include the date. Somehow I have the feeling that 2020 and 2021 will be in the history books for quite some time…
Memories to last a lifetime
Then a dear friend from my old life (when I was still a young mum) rings for a natter. “I’m just in the middle of writing a diary for my best friend’s grandchildren,” she says.
The friend she is referring to, died three years ago. She knew two of her grandchildren but they were only three and one when she passed.
“I thought it would be nice if I wrote down my memories of their grandmother,” she said. “I’ve also asked other friends and members of the family to write theirs. I’m going to make it into a little book for them.”
What a lovely idea! She gave me permission to pass this on.
It’s also amazing how much children can remember about their grandparents, My eldest son was three and a half when my mother died and my daughter was one. My daughter understandably can’t remember anything of her but my son has lots of memories, including how granny taught him to play cricket. He is still a very good player!
Then something lovely happens. About five years ago, I started swimming in the sea every morning with an artist chum of mine. We usually finish at the end of October but we’ve kept going this year – it seems to help with the stress from all this uncertainty in the world. So I am about to get into my wetsuit at 8am when the phone rings.
It’s my daughter.
“We thought we’d go down to the sea and see the sunrise,” she says. “Would you like to join us?”
I explain I’m going swimming so we agree to meet down there. Little Rose and George are very excited to see Gan Gan in a wet suit! They watch on the rocks like mermaids while my friend and I swim across the bay and back.
Surprisingly it’s not as cold as you might think in the water. It’s only when you come out that you really begin to shiver. Lucky my friend and I have our bikes and are able to cycle back to our respective homes before leaping into hot showers!
But the best thing about today was having my grandchildren there. “Can I swim with you next time?” they both ask when we get out.
“I think you’ll need a few more swimming lessons first,” I say. Like many other things, these had to stop with the virus. My daughter and son-in-law had also been helping them to swim, just as my 97-year-old father had taught me when I was their age. “We’ll also need to wait for some warmer weather.”
“But you went in,” points out Rose.
That’s because I’m older. You can do what you like then!
Of course I don’t actually say that out loud. I don’t want to set a rebellious example!
“Can we swim when it’s summer?” asks George who’s been keeping a keen ear on the conversation.
“Yes. With any luck many of us will have had our jabs by then.”
Meanwhile, we will need to stay upright and I’m not just talking swimming. Thanks to everyone who has emailed to say they get some comfort from this column. And please let me know what you think about whether schools should be closed temporarily or not. Contact me at email@example.com.
Stay safe. And see you next week!
Jane Corry is the author of five top ten best-sellers. Her latest novel I Made A Mistake is about Betty, a grandmother who lives with her son’s family. Published by Penguin, £7.99 in paperback and also available as an e-book and audio, narrated by Emilia Fox. http://bit.ly/IMadeaMistake OR https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jane-Corry/I-Made-a-Mistake/24376830