My 97-year-old father’s face looms into view on Alexa. I’ve just called him.
“Morning, Daddy,” I say. “Guess what? Little George has just had his vaccination.”
My father’s face creases with astonishment. “Isn’t he too young? They’re still doing the 70s group around here.”
“No,” I say. “He’s just had his three year booster jabs, including the MMR!”
I have to admit that it didn’t occur to me he might get the two muddled up. But actually it’s very understandable. Especially when you’re that age.
“MM what?” he asks.
“Mumps, measles and rubella,” I say.
“Well I never,” he says. “I remember you and your sister getting measles. You were both quite poorly. I didn’t realise you could vaccinate against it nowadays. Isn’t that marvellous?”
Things have changed so much since his day. Mine too.
I remember being really worried about my three having their vaccinations. But I’m so glad I did it. Maybe, in future generations, the coronavirus jab will be as commonplace as any of the others.
I decide not to tell my father that actually my three-year-old grandson had a high temperature overnight.
In fact, I only discovered this myself when my daughter rang the morning after the jab. “Did you get my text?” she asked.
Oh dear. It was the one evening I didn’t check my messages. Instead, I watched a film with my husband and then went to bed. Now I feel terribly guilty.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have my smart phone notifications switched on so I don’t get a bleep when I receive a message. Personally, this would drive me crazy!
“It doesn’t matter, Mum,” she says understandingly. “You couldn’t have done anything about it anyway.”
Yes I could! I could have worried. And then said my prayers.
Anyway, the good news is that George was back to normal within a couple of days and – most important – got his appetite back. If George doesn’t eat, you know something isn’t right!
Meanwhile, home-schooling continues…
One of the benefits is that I am picking up a few tips. “Tell Gan Gan what we did this morning,” says my daughter encouragingly when they call for a chat on What’s App video.
“We learnt about digraphs and trigraphs,” says Rose proudly.
“Are those dinosaurs?” I ask.
“No,” says George shaking his head.
Perhaps I’m thinking of a diplodocus. I’m really confused now. Oh dear. I’m sounding like my father when he didn’t know what MMR was.
“Digraphs are two letters that make one sound,” explains my daughter kindy. “Like ‘ch’ in ‘chair’. Trigraphs are three letters that make one sound like ‘tch’ in ‘match’.”
Goodness. It all sounds terribly complicated. Reading methods seem to chop and change all the time. When my three were little, we had a spelling tin with cut out words inside. I’d help them learn the whole word. I’m not even sure if I can analyse how I mastered reading as a child. Looking back, it feels like one of those things which just happened naturally.
“Talking of dinosaurs,” I say, “did you read about that four-year-old who apparently found a dinosaur footprint?”
My grandchildren’s faces light up. “I want to find one too!” says Rose.
“Me too,” pipes up George who has been imitating his sister during lockdown. It’s not surprising since they haven’t had any other peer company.
“Maybe we’ll find one on the beach,” I say.
We don’t find any signs of dinosaurs. But we have a good stab at making some sandcastles. It’s pretty windy yet at least we’re outside, getting some healthy fresh air. Brrrr!
Later in the week, my daughter needs to have her routine blood tests for arthritis. So I have the children while she is out. They clearly need to let off steam but it’s raining. So instead, I hit on the idea of playing musical statues. This doesn’t work very well because I haven’t got the heart to tell them when they’ve moved. Instead, I let them tell me!
“You keep losing, Gan Gan!” says Rose.
It’s all part of the fun.
Then we have tea. Oh dear, I don’t seem to have very much in our fridge for them. My husband and I don’t eat meat. We have some fish but they’re not fish fingers. So it looks like carrots and broccoli with pasta. They had this last time but they don’t seem to mind. I’m the one who feels guilty for not having any variety.
“Can we watch the iPad while we eat,” chirps Rose.
I used to be very against this. But during lockdown, I’ve relaxed my standards. If it makes them happy, why not? I should say here that I often read to Rose and George over a meal but right now all they want is an animated version of Peppa Pig.
“Anything for a bit of peace,” says my husband half-jokingly.
At least we’ve got some strawberries for pudding. I speak too soon. There are only two left and they’re both mouldy.
“They’ve grown beards,” says Rose. It’s one way of putting it!
“Never mind,” I say, putting them in the bin (more guilt again – this time over wastage). “I’ll get some more later on.”
“Yes,” says George very seriously. “When the world is better.”
It’s a phrase which they are using more and more. It’s rather sweet yet also poignant at the same time.
The next day my daughter rings me very excitedly…
“Guess what?” she says. “I’ve been called for a vaccination on Sunday morning at the surgery.”
This is wonderful news! My daughter has low immunity because of her arthritic drugs. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve all been super careful.
Meanwhile, lots of messages are coming through on my Tennis WhatsApp. Obviously we haven’t been able to play since the beginning of the last lockdown but we’re all in touch. “I’ve just had a phone call from the doctor,” texts one of them. “I’ve got my jab next week.”
She is 70. My husband and I are in our mid 60s. With any luck it will be in the next fortnight or so. I do hope so – especially after his spinal operation which has understandably made him feel rather vulnerable.
Of course, we are still going to have to be careful. But it’s a start, isn’t it?
However, I’ve noticed that we have to be quite careful about expressing views to friends. One has declared she is not having hers because she is allergic to vaccinations in the past. It’s a fine line.
Then my son rings. (My youngest one who lives in London.) When he rings, I get slightly alarmed. He normally communicates with me by text.
How I miss him! I can hardly believe that the last time we saw each other was August. This is the longest we’ve ever been apart. At least I get to hear his voice during his fortnightly national radio show. This is early in the morning so the dog and I listen to him on my mobile phone during our walk.
“I thought I’d design you a new website,” he says.
How wonderful! It’s great to have a techie child – I wouldn’t know where to begin.
“I thought we could do something a bit different,” he says. Then he starts talking in a language which I simply don’t understand. It makes me feel like my father. Perhaps this is what all generations go through. It makes me feel old and I’m not sure I want to be.
Then again there are advantages, aren’t there? For a start, I’ll never have to do another exam again! I certainly wouldn’t want to be doing my A-levels right now – especially not during this present time.
The morning comes for my daughter’s vaccination appointment. I get back from my morning swim in the sea just in time before my grandchildren arrive. Normally, I’d be talking them to Sunday school at our local church. But instead, I’ve printed out some pictures of two children being kind to each other – as well as some sheep – for them to colour in.
All goes well until my husband decides he wants to join in.
“That’s my picture,” says George indignantly.
“He’s quite right,” I say.
Whoops! This wasn’t meant to turn into an argument.
“Sorry,” says my husband. “How about a chocolate biscuit?”
And suddenly peace is restored. Just like that.
Grandparent of the week – Katharina, Devon
Katharina Blome, 68, lives in Devon. Her granddaughter Greta lives in Berlin with Katarina’s son and his partner.
“The last time I saw Greta was back in August. I was meant to have visited at Christmas but that had to be cancelled because of the virus. I miss her very much. But the good thing is that she talks to me twice a week on What’s App. She calls me ‘Grandma England’! My son and his partner are very good at sending me photographs of her. I am hoping to fly out in April but we will have to see. There are lots of us in this situation. But I tell myself it won’t go on for ever.”
If you would like to tell us about your situation as a grandparent during lockdown, please email me at email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you.
JANE CORRY is the author of five best-selling thrillers, published by Penguin. Her latest novel I Made A Mistake is about Betty, a grandmother who lives with her son’s family. Available in paperback (£7.99) and also 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