Transcending Distance

Eileen is five today! Katie, Bobby, and Eileen and Charlie are planning a Milwaukee party, and we are all-in! Even though there will only be the four of them in their house, I’m getting dressed up in mine. I’ve had my clothes laid out – sparkly silver top that I have never worn because Eileen is the sparkly gal – not this Grandma so much. I’m putting on pants that zip and lipstick. 

Tim and I live in Michiana Shores, Indiana, and at 5:30, we log into the delight of a pre-kindergartener whose contagious enthusiasm knows no boundaries. Bethy and her husband Danny live in Bridgeport in Chicago, Brendan is in LA, and Kevin is in Brooklyn. Bobby’s mom and sister are in Illinois. The family is ready to Zoom with Eileen! 

During FaceTime last weekend, Eileen said to Brendan, “Uncle Brendan, you get to come to my birthday party!”

I have to admit. I felt a sense of loss, an ache to be together. Does an electronic, computer-generated connection really constitute a party? Will it be a true memory of a special gathering?  I have great relationships with friends who I meet with virtually, and I know those friendships are deep and authentic. Will this celebration also be real?

Overthinking this (shocker), I said to Tim last night, “I’m worried that Eileen will be disappointed and think that her virtual party is not really a party.”  

“It is a party. She gets it. She’s smart.”

Hmm. Then like Winnie the Pooh, I opted to think, think, think, before I went into what I was really feeling. 

The thinking me rationalized that Eileen knows she cannot see classmates, have playdates, pick out books at the library, shop at the store, or swing on public park playground equipment. Last week, Katie said Eileen met a friend on the sidewalk, kept her distance, jumped up and down, giggled, doubled over, and said to Grace, “We can play together when the germs go away!” 

Five-year-olds understand that this too shall pass. 

Then I went deeper into what I was feeling – a deep longing to dance with Eileen, snuggle with Charlie, feel squirmy bodies climb over me on the couch. I want to marvel at their beauty, presence, and personalities in a place filled with warmth and love. I want to clean up, and do the dishes – things I like to do while soaking up the the funny banter in the room. I want to watch Tim twirl the kids and see their faces as they reach up to him for more.  

Then, this fifty-seven-year-old recognized that this too shall pass.

Tonight at 5:30pm, we party! Eileen has a scavenger hunt planned for us. The first to bring an item to the computer screen gets a point. Tim better stay the hell out of my way.

We are going to dance, sing, eat cake, and bear witness to love, joy, and gratitude for our children and a little girl and her brother who light up our world. That is real! 


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