Tina Gould can't wait to put her arms around her five grandchildren, a closeness she hasn't shared since COVID-19 hit in early 2020. She has met her youngest grandchild only briefly — and that was with a mask on.
But now that new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allow fully vaccinated people to visit unvaccinated, low-risk family members (from a single household indoors), she has the green light to reunite with them.
"I'm thrilled,” says the 64-year-old, who splits her time between Columbia, Connecticut, and Palm Harbor, Florida. “I feel like I've been cheated out of a year."
A lot can change in 12 months’ time, especially when all five grandchildren are under the age of 5. In the past several months, one of her grandkids has seemed shyer during video chats, so she “won't rush” at the child when they can finally hug again.
"It could be just my imagination,” says Gould, “but I'm curious to see if we can re-bond quickly."
When thinking about being able to touch all of her grandchildren again, she adds: “Oh my God, oh my God, my heart will grow one million sizes!"
'Will there be any changes?'
Bob Hughes, 73, of Penfield, New York, is preparing for a different kind of change when his four grandchildren — ages 11 to 14 — spend the night at his house this weekend, for the first time since before the pandemic.
On a typical sleepover, he and his wife, Ann, would play board games with the kids before sharing a dinner they called “pizza chicken,” watching a movie and eating ice cream sundaes. The next morning always meant pancakes, bacon and fruit salad.
"That was our routine, but this is a whole year later now,” Hughes says. “So maybe they don't like that anymore."
The yearlong separation has been difficult for the grandparents, who received their second dose of the vaccine in late February. They took care of the adolescents as babies and later watched them after school while their parents were at work.
"FaceTime is nice, but we really miss being able to hug them and having them here,” says Hughes.
He wonders whether he will need to do night patrol duty on Saturday night like before to make sure the children, from two different families, get some sleep.
"Will there be any changes in what they want to do, or will they reminisce and want it to be like it always was?” he says. “It will be fun and interesting either way. I'll keep an open mind."