What Did I Miss? by
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Recently, my husband and I took advantage of a nice (by Chicago standards) day and visited with our daughter, son-in-law, and two of their children on their front porch. We were all masked and socially distant. I sensed someone was behind me. It was one of my granddaughters who simply wanted to touch my hair. It has been over a year since we had any physical connection, and we are both big huggers. So, I said yes, you can touch my hair. And I cried.

This past year has made me realize what really matters most to me.

On this one-year anniversary of the start of COVID-19 restrictions for me, I feel a bit like Thomas Jefferson jumping off the boat to start Act II in Hamilton, singing “So What’d I Miss?” He missed the revolution, but what I have missed this past year, while far less dramatic, has worn me down and crushed my spirit. On March 8, 2020, we had just returned from watching two of our grandkids compete in a regional swim meet in Indiana. While there, we had an inkling that we should be careful about things like opening doors with our bare hands. Still, we sat in bleachers in an unventilated public indoor pool with not a mask in sight. When we returned home, the world had changed.

Last picture on my phone before the official start of the pandemic

Of course, I have missed the things that made up my “normal” life, some of which I probably complained about from time to time. This week, I actually went to the grocery store, fully vaccinated and double masked, for the first time since the COVID curve started shooting up. It was a strange feeling taking my time to select what I wanted rather than anxiously rushing through the store or relying on a shopping/delivery service that rarely delivers all of what I need. And I sat outside in my friend’s yard for a socially distanced visit between vaccinated people who are still not sure what is safe. We didn’t hug, and I told you I’m a hugger. When we had to move indoors so she could give me something, I’ll confess that I felt anxious. And when her neighbor stopped by to drop off a book, I wanted to leave ASAP. Who was this masked man? Was he fully vaccinated? How long will it take for me to stop feeling anxious in situations like this?

We are now entering the second round of missed birthday celebrations for my kids and grandkids. I’ve missed being able to take them for a special outing as a gift. I’ve missed watching them blow out their candles and eating cake together. I’ve missed graduations, holidays, and special performances. I’ve missed sharing the everyday experiences with them that build memories. I’ve missed celebrating my 75th birthday.

In tears at my 70th birthday celebration.

On May 15, we moved from our house of 45 years, the home in which our children grew up and our grandchildren came for family gatherings and sleepovers. No one got to say goodbye to the house, something they had hoped to do. Only our in-town kids and grandkids have seen our new home, and that was a very brief, anxious, and masked run through. None of our friends have been here. It has been strange living here for over nine months with no visitors or guests.

This story has a somewhat happy ending. The newest CDC guidelines for vaccinated people (that would be me and my husband) allow us to gather indoors with our in-town daughter’s family. They are stopping by on Sunday to visit us in our condo and both of my granddaughters will receive a huge hug from Gramma, who will probably cry again. Then, we will celebrate Maya’s birthday with her favorite treat, an ice cream cake.  I may even eat a piece of that cake.

Over a year ago in Wisconsin last time I saw her

In April, we hope to drive to Indiana to visit my daughter’s family there. All I want to do is see them for the first time since that swim meet last year. I’m also hoping we will feel safe enough to visit our granddaughter who lives in Wisconsin in a residential school for disabled learners. The airplane trip to Boston to see our son’s family may have to wait a bit, but we are hopeful to get there this summer. After being separated from us for almost 18 months by then, these guys definitely need a hug from Gramma.

This past year has made me realize what really matters most to me. It’s not going to nice restaurants or movies or the theater. It’s not taking one of those vacations still on our bucket list. I guess I have become a cliché of every grandparent interviewed recently about their longing to see their grandchildren. So what’d I miss? I missed this:

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, join my Facebook community, and visit my website.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. Laurie, may we soon get back to kisses and hugs and all the other things we took for granted!

    Although some snow is still on the ground here in the northeast, spring is in the air!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    There was no question in mind what you would write about, Laurie. With every fiber of your being, you love your children and grandchildren and this forced separation has been so difficult for you. It has come through your writing in so many ways. I wish I could reach through this screen right now and hug you. You deserve it. Hang on; those hugs are coming. Massachusetts is finally getting its act together with vaccinations, so your Newton kids will be safe soon and you can come this way (just as we hope to go to CA and visit our daughter once our full immunity kicks in). I am a crier too. Don’t fret. You moved me to tears.

  3. Marian says:

    The photos tell this beautiful story, Laurie. I’m so glad you will be able to see some of your children and grandchildren! And, your thoughts when you encounter people are so true! Are they vaccinated, masked, safe? I’m wondering how much of the pandemic will stick in the back of our minds years down the road.

  4. John Shutkin says:

    As soon as I saw your title, Laurie, I knew exactly what it related to (being a real Hamiltonphile myself). And it is really, and sadly, the perfect title for your story and reference for this past year: all the important stuff we’ve missed.
    And your words and adorable pictures describe it beautifully.

    Let’s hope that, by next year, the answer to your rhetorical title will be “Nothing important!”

  5. Ah, Laurie…I teared up at your first paragraph, and just let it flow to the last. Your heart comes through loud and clear in your writing. I’m a hugger, too, and I miss hugs viscerally. I’m sure I’ll start bawling the minute someone other than my husband hugs me…I’m tearing up again just thinking about it! We’ll just have to do our best to make up for lost time, right?!

  6. Suzy says:

    Loved the title song and reference to Thomas Jefferson, even though I am not a Hamilton fan (but did see it on TV). I read somewhere that Covid has been hardest on grandparents, because losing the chance to watch their grandchildren grow up is harder than other loss of human contact. And you have written the story that illustrates that point. So glad you will soon be able to see them all!

  7. Khati Hendry says:

    You captured so well the uncertainty and apprehension of how to be anymore, how to manage the risks, what lies ahead. But I do predict some wonderful hugs will be part of it. Your love shines through and it warmed my heart.

  8. This captures very well your own experience and represents what millions, in particular the older, relatively secure segment of the population, have endured. BTW when I was at a bat mitzvah the first weekend of March 2020, I did not hug any of my relatives or even shake their hands, even though I was sharing an Air B& B with some of them. So I guess there were different levels of awareness in those final days before the official declaration.

  9. Right there with you, Laurie! Went into our daughter’s home and hugged her and our 2 grandchildren. Nirvana!

  10. So much emerges in this post, Laurie. And the images just add a counterpoint to the deep, deep longing for touch. I feel you ;-)!

  11. Risa Nye says:

    All the same feelings, Laurie. Thanks for putting it all into words. At the beginning of the pandemic, my youngest grandchild was afraid to get close to me because she’d been told to stay at a distance from everyone–which included me! Gradually, she got closer and now allows me to pick her up, hold her on my lap, and even sneak in a snuggle. She’s two and a half, and I hope she won’t have a lot of memories of this time, but who knows? Love the pictures here. (By the way, there was an article on this year from a grandparent’s perspective by Paula Span in the NYT recently.)

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