Still Childless, Still Living with COVID-19

Dear friends,

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

Today I’m getting my second COVID vaccine shot. I’m less nervous this time because I know the procedure, from where to park to what to do when I get into the big building at the fairgrounds. I know the shot itself won’t hurt much, although my arm will ache afterward. I am nervous about getting sick afterwards. Some do, some don’t. After my second shingles vaccine in February, I was flattened for three days. I have left my schedule open this week just in case.

Meanwhile, here in Lincoln County, Oregon, the number of COVID cases has gone up and we’re back in the “high risk” category, with all kinds of restrictions on where we can go and what we can do. Shots or no shots, it feels like it will never end.

Who knew we’d have a second Easter of pandemic shutdowns? Another spring break wearing masks, afraid to be with groups of people?

Meanwhile, I keep seeing everybody’s kids in their Facebook posts. Dyeing eggs. Hugging stuffed Easter bunnies. Playing together in the sun. This year on Easter Sunday, I had the courage to tell my brother when he sent photos of him with his adorable grandchildren—whom I have not seen since the pandemic started—that I am jealous of what he has. He needs to understand that while his photos give me joy and I don’t want them to stop coming, they also bring pain because I don’t have my own grandkids. Because COVID has lasted so long, these little nieces and nephew won’t even know who I am. I was so hoping for a relationship with them. Facetime, you say? So far, our family doesn’t do that.

As they get vaccinated, many of my grandparent friends are reuniting with their grandchildren. I am happy for them, but the photos make me feel more alone, here in the woods with my old dog.

Zoom meetings, classes, and church services have become all too familiar now. I am grateful that I don’t have children struggling to learn via computer screen and making it hard for me to get any work done. I see the advantages of not having children during this difficult time. But I’m lonely.

I thought I had nothing to say today, and I didn’t want to be depressing. Well, here we are. Please, tell me how you’re doing after a year of this? How has COVID affected your childless situation? Have you put everything on hold or worked it out? Does the closure of so many things make it impossible to move forward? How did your Easter go?

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Little-girl hug makes childless auntie happy

Sue & Riley 62318Being an aunt is the best. You don’t have to earn it, justify it or explain it. Yes, there are honorary aunts, and I’ve got a relative who insists on dubbing all adult cousins “aunt” and “uncle,” so the kids grow up thoroughly confused, but I’m talking about real aunts (and uncles).

I just came back from my dad’s house in California. No Wi-Fi, hence no post last week. It was a challenging trip. I was originally going to attend my niece’s party to celebrate her birthday and the adoption of her little boy. But she got sick and had to cancel. I should have canceled, too, but I had already gotten the time off, and I had told my 96-year-old father I was coming. I put Annie in doggie jail and drove almost 700 miles to San Jose. The drive felt extra long. I was sleepy and tired as I dodged trucks, RVs, and cars on I-5. When I arrived, my father was in a terrible mood, but I did my best to help him, despite temperatures nearing 100 and no air conditioning. I was alarmed at how his health had declined in the two months since I saw him last. I cooked, cleaned, gardened, and assured him I would do whatever needed doing.

Early on the second morning, I woke up sick. Stomach flu. The sites online describe it as a sudden explosion, followed by a strong desire to die. Yes. Total output, fever, chills, aches, the works—on the hottest day of the year in San Jose. I lost six pounds in two days and wasn’t much help to my dad (who wasn’t much help to me). As soon as I could drag myself out of bed, I continued trying to help him. We fixed the bathroom sink, I pulled weeds, I cleaned the refrigerator (pleasantly cold), cooked, and washed dishes. I went to Jack in the Box and bought him a milkshake.  I listened to hours of stories about the old days on the ranch, in the Pacific during World War II, and on the job as an electrician. Eventually my stomach stopped threatening to erupt, and I could stand for more than a minute.

My brother came to visit with his son William and his two-year-old granddaughter Riley. My nephew explained to his little girl that I was “Papa’s big sister.” Riley has lots of aunts, including four with names that are variations of “Susan,” but I’m Papa’s only big sister.

Any doubts about whether I should have gone to California were erased when Riley came running to me with a big smile, arms open wide for a hug. Yes, aunthood is good. She’s at the age where she’s discovering the world and is rarely still or quiet. I’m glad I’m not responsible for her 24/7. I don’t understand half of what she says. But I loved interacting with her and watching her as she explored my dad’s backyard and got soaked playing with the sprinkler on that hot afternoon. And I loved spending time with her daddy, a giant of a man I remember as a funny little boy with glasses who didn’t mind hanging out with Aunt Sue.

Aside from our Saturday with the kiddos, it was just Dad and I, two people who usually live alone. I’m alone because of the whole widow-without-kids thing, but my father has two children, two grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He rarely sees any of them, doesn’t know when their birthdays are or what they care about. He expects nothing from them and offers nothing in return. Part of that is being a guy. Mom was the one who kept the family connections going. Part of that is the sharp-edged side of his personality that I have known all my life. Big sigh.

Dad is uncle to nine wonderful adults, along with their children and grandchildren. Again, not much connection. He talks a lot about his family history. He loved his Uncle Louie and his Uncle Walter. I don’t know what happened. I guess you make what you will of the opportunity.  I think you have to start when the nieces and nephews are young, offering your love, your time, and your interest in what interests them. The rewards can be great. And it’s way easier than being a step-parent.

I know sometimes it feels too painful to be around other people’s children. Perhaps seeing your siblings become parents just reminds you of what you’re missing. But if you’re lucky enough to be an aunt or uncle, don’t miss this chance to love and be loved by a little one.

For more about being a childless aunt or uncle, read Melanie Notkin’s book Savvy Auntie and check out her blog at the Savvy Auntie website. Ten years ago, Notkin established July 22 as Auntie’s Day, so if you can claim aunthood in any form, go celebrate.

Also visit my previous posts about being an aunt. “Free to Be Aunt Sue” is about my relationship with Riley’s daddy, William. “Learning How to Be a Great Aunt Sue” talks about my first time meeting Riley.

I welcome your comments on being an aunt or uncle. Also, do you say “ant” or “awnt?”