I wish I could tell you the title of this column is a takeoff on a popular 1994 rom-com with heartthrob Hugh Grant and equally adorable Andie MacDowell. But as has been common during this past year’s pandemic for many, the three lifecycle events are two missed family simchas and an unfortunate passing that indirectly resulted from COVID.
All three are from my husband’s side of the family. And they weren’t the only shattered dreams we and others experienced in a year marked by tragedy and disappointment.
First, the weddings. My nephew and niece, who happen to be siblings, were to have big Jewish New York-style weddings last year: my nephew in late March – just a week after COVID began its chokehold – and my niece in May. Neither wedding occurred with the ostentatious fanfare typical of such simchas. We watched through a static screen as they tied the knot in separate, intimate outdoor ceremonies.
And closer to home, my 22-year-old son, typically an animated extrovert, watched his college graduation online, standing in our family room in a cap and gown with a scowl on his face, followed by tears in his bedroom. And I hardly ever see him cry. Hours later he would return to campus in Florida – a five hour drive alone – for “closure” and formal graduation photos. I mourned with him the lost senior opportunities. I mourn now still his plans for senior year and beyond rerouted.
But probably the most sorrowful of times during the pandemic for us came when we learned my mother-in-law was headed downhill. A feisty woman starting to lose her memory, who enjoyed shopping and an active social life in her independent living complex in Florida, was confined to her one-bedroom apartment during COVID. We are convinced she made up her mind she wasn’t going to live that way.
Meanwhile, my husband and his two brothers were told they couldn’t visit. So we enlisted the help of the independent living home staff and spoke to the matriarch of the family through cellphones. We spoke; she pushed away the phone held up to her.
Then my husband pushed the limits, challenged authority, requesting through as many channels as he could find, jumping through whatever hoops were required, to be allowed to say goodbye, as any child would and should do when it comes to their loved ones. He did get to see her one last time. And then we all came to Florida when she passed, no hugs, all masked, keeping our distance, the family that was to join twice for simchas with her included, and we said goodbye to the last of my husband’s parents.
So what does freedom mean to me? Freedom means that soon, as I prepare for my second vaccine, that simchas are in store, including one of the previously mentioned big weddings tentatively rescheduled for July. And that when my daughter graduates in a few years, it will be in person. Most of all, I can’t wait to hug my parents, who I haven’t seen in more than a year. And everyone else I love that I can get my newly vaccinated arms around.
Roni Robbins is the AJT associate editor.