By Lorraine Connelly
As I write this, my husband and I have passed the two-week mark of our second dose of the Moderna vaccine, which was smoothly and efficiently administered to us under the auspices of the Wallingford Health Department. I applaud Steve Civitelli, director of Health, for his rollout efforts to get the word out about vaccine availability to residents 65 and over.
With nearly 50 percent of Americans 65 and over now fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released updated guidelines that give fully vaccinated people the green light for increased socializing — that includes grandparents being able to gather with their grandchildren without wearing a mask.
COVID-19 has been problematic for those in our age group (e.g., grandparents) because we are the demographic that is most likely to become severely ill or succumb to the virus. For many grandparents, the enforced separation during the pandemic has been a time of sadness and mourning.
So, it was with great joy that we were able to celebrate our youngest granddaughter’s first birthday on Good Friday. At her birth a year ago, New York City was in the most virulent throes of the pandemic. Hospital residents were faced with the prospect of giving birth or dying alone. In late March of 2020, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order mandating that hospitals allow partners in delivery rooms. My son-in-law, thankfully, was allowed to be in the delivery room with my daughter. But unlike the birth of my first granddaughter two years earlier, I was not able to hop on Metro-North to welcome her. That trip never took place as COVID-19 derailed my plans.
We have missed some other notable milestones this year as well – our eldest granddaughter’s mastery of her scooter and her ability to perform impressive tricks on her Micro Kickboard. Yet we have been fortunate in that we have been able to FaceTime with our grandchildren on a regular basis.
It was particularly meaningful that our youngest granddaughter’s first birthday fell on Good Friday this year, a day of Christian prayer and reflection. Both Protestant and Catholic churches celebrate a “Tenebrae” [the Latin word meaning “darkness”] service. From Good Friday until Easter Sunday, Christian churches around the world symbolically go dark in remembrance of Jesus’ death and entombment. Worshipers leave in silence to ponder the impact of Jesus’ death and await the celebration of his Resurrection.
I was struck by an apt analogy – whether we are Christian worshippers or not, COVID-19 has given us “Tenebrae” – that liminal space of darkness, vigilance, and waiting. The pandemic has allowed us to grapple with our own cavernous feelings of mortality and loneliness. It has also taught us how to wait with expectant hope for a resurrection of sorts – the safe re-engagement with others.
On this latter note, there is good news for Connecticut. With more than 80% of residents 65 and older having already been vaccinated, and 38% of all residents having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, Gov. Ned Lamont has now eased coronavirus restrictions in recent weeks, allowing residents to gather.
While the worst of the pandemic may seem to be over, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have increased in Connecticut recently, due in part to the spread of highly contagious new variants of the virus. The B117 strain, first identified in the U.K, now accounts for nearly 40% of cases in Connecticut, according to the Yale School of Public Health. Some of this rise in cases has been attributed to the relaxation of gatherings and travel among people under 40.
Our hope must now be tempered. The medieval origins of the word “temper” has a dual meaning – to restrain and to mingle. The human impulse after a year of enforced restraint is to throw caution to the wind and get back to what we perceive to be our normal lives. According to the New York Times, vaccinated Baby Boomers are more than ready to mingle. “Boomers are bringing back the Roaring Twenties, reviving the party scene across the country. They are attending dinner parties, frequenting bars, and hosting wine socials.” A recent episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Maya Rudolph, presented an over-the-top skit with vaccinated Baby Boomers partying to a hip-hop beat.
While I am not ready to party like it’s 1920 or 1999, I am thankful to have absorbed the lessons of this pandemic year and willing to hold both truths as necessary – to temper and to mingle – to exercise caution while celebrating the light at the end of the tunnel.
Lorraine Connelly is a writer and Wallingford resident.