The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has brought a lot of uncertainty into our lives, and yet I sense that it has also brought a lot of clarity about what ultimately matters.
The periods of isolation over these last months have caused many people to ask themselves: If my world narrows, whom do I want to be close by? In answering this question, some people are finding that they are too distant from their loved ones—and they are taking steps to change things.
In the case of our own family’s experience, the coronavirus has instigated significant changes in the living arrangements of our parents.
At the start of the pandemic, my mother, age 80, was in the Gurwin Jewish assisted living community in Commack, Long Island. Back then, no one realized how bad things were going to get, and before we knew it, several residents of Gurwin came down with the virus and a lock down was instituted.
Thankfully, on June 19 my mother was “sprung” and went to stay by my sister Jessica, 45 minutes to the southwest in North Woodmere. At the beginning we thought it was going to be just for the summer months, with my mother going back to Gurwin at the start of the school year, as my sister is a teacher.
But with the growing realization that this coming year may bring with it new lock downs and new periods of isolation, my sister and her husband Ben decided that mom would live with them and that we would hire an aide to be with her during the day. My mother has dementia and cannot be left alone.
I asked my mother if she misses her friends at Gurwin; she told me: “I would always be happier with Jessica; she’s a wonderful daughter.”
Al and Willie Ross, my father- and mother-in law, 89 and 83, were living in their home in Scottsdale, Arizona, when the pandemic hit. Thankfully, they are both in good health, and through the months of sheltering in place they were fairly self-sufficient (with their daughter Charlotte from her home near Boston helping them order groceries online). But they went stir crazy.
Willie is an avid bridge player, Al likes to go to the gym, and they both love to go out to restaurants, plays, movies, concerts, etc. For my in-laws, the pandemic accelerated and clarified their next step.
“We always knew in our hearts that we needed and wanted to be closer to our family, and the coronavirus has pushed our decision forward on this issue,” Willie told me. “We are very resilient and open for change. We are happy here, but life is not the same and I do not know when it will get back to being the same. In any case, we cannot hope for our total independence forever.”
At the end of August, my in-laws sold their home and moved to NewBridge on the Charles, a Jewish independent living complex about 7 miles from where Charlotte and her family live.
Going in a different intergenerational direction, I also sense new attitudes in people my age toward living closer to their children and young grandchildren.
I wrote a piece recently mentioning that Sarah and I had uprooted ourselves from our home of 22 years in order to live down the block from our infant grandchild. Several people wrote to me to say that they were contemplating doing something similar, and our friend Diane wrote to say that her daughter, son-in-law, and infant granddaughter, were moving into a house a few doors down from her in Dallas.
Dear Reader: If you, too, would like to take stock at this time and think about moving closer to the people you love—or facilitating them moving closer to you—I think that, that is a good idea.
Teddy Weinberger is director of development for a consulting company called Meaningful. He made aliyah with his family in 1997 from miami, where he was an assistant professor of religious studies. Teddy and his wife, Sarah Jane Ross, have five children.