On a particularly cold Saturday morning in January, 1990, our two sons and I were returning home from an errand. Our oldest, then 9, was in the front passenger seat; our youngest, then 4, was safely – at least by the standards of the day – strapped in a back seat. Our oldest has always thought long term; even then, he and I were casually discussing when he would someday go away to college.
We got home; our oldest went into the house; I came around to get his brother out of the back seat. Our youngest looked up at me, and said, “I don’t have to leave, do I?”
Faced with that question from a small one, you respond even as you know that things will change: “No, son. You never have to leave. You can always stay here with Mom and me.”
Our son — whom I assured on that long-ago day that he never had to leave home – is now based in Brazil. A COVID silver lining for his parents: he and our daughter-in-law just spent the better part of a month with us while they received their two-shot COVID vaccinations. While all are aware of the stresses families face when economic difficulties require adults to rejoin their childhood households, the pleasure of having one’s adult child return home for an extended stay without such pressure cannot be adequately described.
As we settled into a routine, our Cariocas (the Brazilian term for residents of Rio de Janeiro) at first shivered in the chill of Wisconsin’s early spring, then acclimated … at least to an extent. Our son took our daughter-in-law around the neighborhood, which it must be conceded still retains more than a passing resemblance to the Cleavers’ 1950s TV neighborhood. After one of their walks, he brought home an old baseball he had found in a field near his grade school. We played catch on a couple of occasions [our boys could fling the ol’ pill around a lot longer than I could; inasmuch as I had literally not picked up a baseball in over 20 years and given my vintage, I quickly developed “Fauci Arm” ;)].
The two worked throughout their visit; TLOML and I found it entertaining to watch the Rio de Janeiro Bureau Chief of a major news outlet provide insights on the chaotic state of Brazil’s politics and its COVID response in televised interviews against the backdrop of one of the walls of his boyhood bedroom. Our daughter-in-law maintains an Instagram site through which she provides enticing plant-based recipes to thousands of Spanish speakers throughout the Americas; as she posted her creations, our kitchen was beamed across the world [making us particularly glad we had remodeled a few years back ;)]. [A number of her followers were intrigued by life in a Midwestern American neighborhood; others inquired as to how her decidedly carnivorous father-in-law was enjoying her vegan dishes. I could assure them that each was, indeed, magnifico : )].
Vaccinated, our son and daughter-in-law have now returned to their life in Rio. Although we have been empty-nesters for over 15 years, the house is and for a while will be empty, and silent. Even so, we have mostly felt the joy and warmth of a great visit as we have moved furniture back to normal spots, reshelved books, and returned the lawn games to their accustomed places. Where my pang came: picking up the baseball gloves and the found baseball. For whatever the reason, my immediate association was to a song from TLOML’s favorite musical, Fiddler on the Roof. A part of one of its verses seemed the appropriate title for this note.
That said, I will venture that our vaccinations and the visit have made us ready to re-enter our lives. As recently as this week, we have heard a medical professional opine that if one has been fully vaccinated, the primary obstacle to returning to normal pursuits is psychological – reticence born of a year of protective behaviors — not physical. A number of those that follow these pages are, like us, of retirement age; I would submit that once one has become fully vaccinated, being too reclusive will result in the unnecessary forfeit of irretrievable life space. Also, we can’t expect President Biden to run the country for too long without the benefit of our guidance ;).
The seasons have changed. Let’s go.