John Clark celebrating the arrival in Maine of his youngest grandchild. I had little interaction with three of my grandparents. My paternal grandfather died while shoveling snow when I was four. My maternal grandparents lived in Old Forge, NY and we only went there a few times to visit. I spent a lot more time with my paternal grandmother, Della, as Dad and I stayed at her house in West New Portland for a week of fishing every summer. When she got ill, she moved to an apartment in Union so I saw her quite often until I went to college. She died that Christmas in 1966.
When Beth and I became first time grandparents, we were at the hospital shortly after Piper was born and the thrill of holding her as a newborn still makes me smile. We had the same experience when her brother Reid was born six years later. We’ve been involved in their lives on a frequent basis ever since-taking them to events, exploring nature, having Piper overnight, teaching her to fish, going critter hunting, reading to them, and playing hide and seek.
When our younger daughter, Lisa, got pregnant, COVID-19 was lurking just beyond the horizon. It came on like a hurricane in New York City where Lisa taught and Sam worked as an engineer. In addition to dealing with pregnancy, she had to adapt to a hybrid teaching model-limited in person classes as well as online instruction. Sam was also adapting to working at home while simultaneously rebuilding Lisa’s office to make a nursery.
Gemma Claire Barresi was born on July 16th, 2020. It wasn’t until Columbus Day weekend that Beth got to meet her. I stayed home to take care of the dog. However, we did video chats several times a week and Gemma and I started mooing back and forth. It wasn’t long after she was born that Sam and Lisa began thinking about moving to Maine. Lisa had always had the idea in the back of her mind and when they started discussing it as more than a pipe dream, the decision to do so came quickly, aided by Sam getting approval from his company to work remotely in Maine.
They began decluttering and figuring out what needed to be done before putting their house on the market. Lisa was also finishing up her year as the fifth grade math teacher at PS 238, Langston Hughes School in the Bronx. Then came the panic buying of Maine real estate. Every time they found a home within a reasonable distance of Portland, it was gone in a heartbeat, raising their anxiety. When a house in Poland came up, they had Beth and I do a walkthrough with the real estate agent suggested to them by one of Lisa’s high school classmates.. We were tasked with assessing everything while he did a video tour of the place with Lisa and Sam. In the process, I learned he was a cousin of someone I graduated with back in 1966 (Maine is big, but also small in many ways).
We liked the place, especially the limited traffic and big back yard. Sam and Lisa liked the four bedrooms and three bathrooms. The sellers were accepting bids and would make a decision the following Monday. Sam and Lisa debated what to offer and Jared, the realtor was extremely helpful. Their bid was accepted even though someone else offered more (but had a lot of things they wanted done before moving in).
June was a hectic month, what with arranging financing, juggling inspections, and closing dates, but when July arrived, so did Sam, Lisa and Gemma. Beth and I have made frequent trips from Waterville to Poland, helping unload two PODs as well as a U-Haul, while entertaining Gemma as Sam and Lisa moved things into place. While they’re far from completely settled, things are comfortable, Lisa and Gemma have gotten library cards, and everyone including Sara, Russ, Piper and Reid, enjoyed a perfect Saturday at Range Pond State Park, followed by ice cream.
This entire experience has made empathize me with parents and grandparents whose connections and gatherings have been knocked galley west by COVID-19. I’d be interested in hearing about your family experiences during this strangest of times.