For the last year I’ve been telling myself that I’m lucky compared to so many other people. There’s been no cruel Covid death in the family. No overwhelming loneliness because I’m a shy introvert who loves living alone. I’m in a nice little house instead of a cramped apartment. I’m pretty healthy for my age (77), despite a bout with cancer five years ago. My son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren (15 and 18) live just a mile away, although I haven’t seen them except for porch dropoffs, and my son calls almost every day. I’m retired and haven’t lost a job or home. Nor has my son or DIL. And now we adults are all fully vaccinated. We’re certainly among the lucky ones.
And yet, I’ve felt pretty bummed during this Covid year. Yes, I missed my grandson’s graduation (in a parking lot) and was distressed that he didn’t get the kind of graduation and prom that I had — although it might not have mattered to him at all. Certainly no cause for grief on my part. A year of disappointments, sure, but not grief.
Then a few days ago, in the New York Times, I read “It’s OK to Grieve for the Small Losses of a Lost Year.” And I felt a little better. Maybe it’s normal to feel bummed about the past year because, after all, there were losses. Relatively small losses, but losses nonetheless.
About a month ago I learned that my grandson, instead of working or going to college nearby, was joining the Marines and would be heading to boot camp in September. He’d be gone. Grown up and gone. All those weekly visits we’d missed, chatting and playing video games, would never be recouped. There wouldn’t be a year in which to get them back. I’d lost a year with him. A very important year. Our last year? Who knows when he’ll be home again. And at my age, who knows if I’ll still be around. I texted him about his leaving: “It seems so … permanent.” And he replied: “Kinda is.” At that point I had to stop because I couldn’t see my phone anymore.
Then yesterday I read “The Year Grandparents Lost”, also in the NY Times, and saw this:
Grandparent grief — a term used by Emma Payne, founder of a company called Grief Coach — involves another dimension: older people recognize that time with their families is growing limited. The average age for becoming a grandparent in the United States is 50, but many grandparents are older, or face health problems.
A year apart can feel more wrenching to a 75-year-old, for whom it represents a greater proportion of her remaining life span, than to her 35-year-old son or daughter.
At last. A concise description of what I’d been feeling but hadn’t conciously admitted to myself.
Yes. It’s true.
Time is indeed a thief.