By Grace Cooper
DO YOU ever have one of those nagging feelings that things have been going too smoothly lately? In mid-August, my beau and I traveled to visit my son and his bride in the college town where they live and work. As an added bonus, her lovely parents extended their visit to overlap with ours. We enjoyed fabulous dinners out and a fun bike ride organized by my boy, weaving our way through beautiful parks and countryside. The best was yet to come though when we attended a four-hour rock concert in which my son charmed a crowd of rowdy revelers with his magnificent singing voice. My beau couldn’t sit still, moving about the crowd taking photos and videos of the boys in the band, as if he were the proud parent groupie. I loved him more for the sincere way in which he bragged about my son for days afterward.
We returned home for a few days before flying off to the Southern town where my daughter, son-in-law and two adorable grandchildren moved last winter. Mind you, the South in August is uncomfortable, to say the least. The day prior to our arrival had been marked by a violent storm that toppled trees and brought down power lines. My daughter reassured us by phone on the Uber drive to her home that despite this post- apocalyptic scene, her lights were on and A/C functioning. Yet something in her voice—her distinctly raspy voice—suggested there was trouble brewing.
Anyway, our plans for the week were to drive to the beach house she’d rented, just a few hours away. We were excited at the thought of happy children, crashing surf and ocean breezes. However, when my girl returned from her work in the hospital wearing a mask and keeping me at arms length, she announced she needed to test for Covid. Yes, she was positive, feverish, coughing and miserable.
You know that feeling we all had during the height of the pandemic when the thought of dying of C0vid was a daily occurrence? Well this time I was dying to go to the beach instead. I tried to contain that thought as I ordered my daughter to bed and offered to fetch the children from daycare, with my beau in tow.
Again, he cheerfully tugged the children’s wagon up the hill towards the little school, sweating, soaking his shirt that minutes earlier had been crisp and clean in their air-conditioned home. By the time I gained access into the locked fortress that was the daycare entrance, he was forced to wait outside because his name and photo weren’t pre-entered on the allowed “pick up list.” I glanced at him and took note of how he was looking at me in a way I might describe as cranky-in-progress. I would have hugged him but he was icky and sticky and on the other side of that door was A/C.
First I dropped into my grandson’s classroom, only to find him engrossed in a puzzle. Rather than the typical wildly affectionate greeting from this adorable three-year-old, he shouted, “No, CeCe! I’m not ready to leave yet!’ That meant 15 more minutes to finish the puzzle, nibble his way through a large afternoon snack, hug his teacher, give high fives to classmates and insist that he pack his own backpack for the ride home.
Finally we were on our way to fetch his baby sister in the infant room. She fortunately greeted me with a little leap into my arms but with the distinct aroma of a poopy diaper. I debated changing her, but the thought of my patient beau suffering heat stroke made me change my mind. Tugging the toddler towards the door, while balancing Miss Poopy Pants delicately on one hip, we finally spilled out into the peak heat of the sunny, sweltering afternoon.
Beau now was thoroughly soaking wet and appeared to be much less happy to be included in this family scene than the one we’d just left. Fortunately, after strapping both of the smelly and cranky grandkids into the wagon, the walk home was downhill. Beau was quiet, but I hoped it was merely him trying to maintain stable vital signs as he tugged the wagon back to the house.
The next few hours were a blur as we fumbled our way through feeding both children and son-in-law scraps from their pre-vacation, largely emptied refrigerator. Then there were baths which are quite a production of water toys, bubbles, “soap paint” and hair-washing tears. Wet children are as slippery as little dolphins, and faster than I could dry them off, they were off and running naked through the upstairs. Finally wrestled into pj’s, my beau placated them with story-time books and even a song or two. They seemed to love this kindly virtual stranger. I blew him kisses of gratitude.
Soon after as we fell exhausted into bed, it occurred to us both, counting virus incubation periods on our fingers, that we were too busy to get Covid. Our upcoming two weeks were filled with not only beach time, but a big party for our nearest and dearest we’d scheduled only two days after arriving back home. Then the next day he was headed out of town for a business meeting with clients he hoped to impress, rather than infect. And finally he was to fly down to see his son and pregnant daughter-in-law soon after. Uh oh, I thought. Nowhere in our chock-full schedule did we leave time for costume changes, let alone convalescence from a highly communicable virus.
What to do but keep calm and carry on? And so we did what mutually supportive couples do . . .we decided to make the best of a bad situation . . .together.
I’m happy to report my girl rallied like a trooper the next day, and after packing two cars full of beach regalia, we enjoyed a spectacularly fun week with the babies and their parents. I loved the way my daughter and beau teased one another in a genuinely affectionate repartee. I was smitten by the way he entertained the babies on the beach, and I was grateful that his 73-year-old constitution was so strong.
We stayed healthy. The party was a rousing success, and he visited my best friend and her husband in Baltimore on the way to his work destination. Now only two more days and he will depart for a visit with the ones he loves most . . . until the moment his own little baby angel, blessed with a sprinkling of his DNA, makes his grand debut later this year.
Life is wildly unpredictable but a wide open and loving heart is the glue that holds it all together, whatever rolls your way. And that is why this man is a keeper.
Grace Cooper (a nom de plume) left her long marriage a decade ago, and with it went all sense of her identity—but not for long. Now 67, she has begun chronicling her tales of looking for love in all the wrong places, and unexpectedly finding herself.