Does absence make the heart grow fonder?


I know this is usually an adage applied to romantic relationships, but I’ve had this on my mind in a general sense lately.


I’ve been away from blogging for some time; I hope you’ve missed me, if you ever read me at all! I’ve been working on my second book, No Spring Chicken: Stories and Advice from a Wild Handicapper on Aging and Disability.


But that’s not the primary thing I want to share with you right now, that’s just my excuse for neglecting my blog for a bit.


These past eleven months of pandemic have been so isolating. Thirteen people I knew died in 2020, none from Covid, but it sure made consoling, offering care and grieving much worse. Among my own loved ones were a very close girlfriend, two special cousins, and a dear friend of fifty years. And also one of our two precious old kitties.


I do miss my friends, although I have so many Zoom meetings with some of them that what “missing someone” really is has kind of slipped away from my awareness. Something about the physical presence is hard to replace, even when you can see the person’s face. Gestures, shrugs, nervous fiddling, the telltale signs of pain, or of excitement, a person’s scent, the way their clothes fit, how their legs relax when they sit.


I am a hugger of people I know well, so I definitely miss touching those I love most… but I have an affectionate husband and still have one kitty, so I do get cuddled almost whenever I want. And I find that I no longer “go in for the hug” when I see someone I know, and then remember, whoops, I can’t do that; my body now has fully accepted pandemic protocol. So I’ve almost forgotten physical affection for anyone to whom I’m not married. That’s rather a numb place to be.


I think of the single people I know and wonder how they are doing with all this. Were they already used to it? Did it mean more to them to hug than it did to me?


Once nearly everyone is vaccinated (and I hope everyone I know will be), will we feel safe hugging again? Kissing? I kissed some of my girlfriends and men friends on the lips previously. Nothing slobbery, just affectionate.


Here’s what concerns me: I find that now when the phone rings, my initial reaction is, “Oh no. Don’t bother me. I don’t feel like talking to anyone.” And I am so happy when it turns out to be a friend or relative, but still, there was that moment of irritation. I have become so accustomed to being alone so endlessly (except for my husband, but we’re often in separate rooms)—that unless I have scheduled a distanced, masked meeting with a friend, outdoors or in a room with all the windows open, I would just as soon… be left alone. Yikes. Writers tend to favor solitude, but I never wanted to be a full-on hermit!


I know this will change… or I hope it will—when this pandemic is over. I also have a modicum of fear that viruses (not just the one creating the Covid response) will mutate so quickly that we will not be able to keep up with them and will live in a forever-masked, distanced world. But I do trust science. I trust vaccinations. I had so many childhood or later diseases that are now preventable through vaccines: polio, measles (3x), mumps (2x), chicken pox, and later whooping cough, pneumonia, shingles and flu. I am a big booster of booster shots. So I deeply hope our dedicated scientists will bring us all back together again.


How about you? Has absence made your heart grow fonder?