The Pandemic Grandparent: Grateful for Streaming — But Also Sad

Streaming, schreaming! I surprised myself by figuring out how to “cast” onto my TV the links my daughter had emailed. Minutes later, I sat in bed, having a cup of soup and watching a performance of Clue, with Grandson #1, Henry, as “Wadsworth,” the all-knowing and very English butler played by Tim Curry in the movie.

This is pandemic grand-mothering. Last week, Jen texted that if I wasn’t busy, I could “see” 11-year-old Charlie’s game. As I prepared dinner in Washington D.C, I watched her youngest play basketball in New Jersey. I later sent his phone a smiley face, “I was watching when you made a basket!”

For a brief moment after Charlie’s game and again last night, I thought to myself, this is better. I’ve done my fair share of sitting on hard and backless bleachers in cold gymnasiums with the inevitable six-foot father blocking my view. No need to brave the cold or drive in the dark. Streaming allows me to be anywhere and still be there. Too bad I can’t tune in when Sam plays tennis!

I quickly caught myself. The play was great — not the Clue I expected, but it was funny and held my interest. (It didn’t hurt that Henry was “onstage” almost the whole time!) But afterwards, it just wasn’t the same.

I missed the moment when Henry emerges from the dressing room, all sweaty and smiling. Unfailingly, he is at his absolute happiest. Last night, I didn’t get to to hug him or whisper in his ear, “Hen, you were great!” I didn’t hear his shy but proud, “Thanks, Minna.”

Instead, as the screen went dark, I imagined him sitting alone in his room — in costume — in front of his desktop computer and two monitors.

“Was it weird after?” I asked via text after congratulating him on a great performance. “A let down?”

He texted back, “Not at all.”

I guess he’s grown accustomed to virtual life. I haven’t. How could I say, even for a second, this is better. It’s not. But it’s what we have now.

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Author of 15 books and over 200 articles and posts, here I specialize in short reads — on relationships, social trends and my adventures in Paris.

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