My watch buzzes and a familiar name pops up. My smile is huge, stretching from ear to ear. I reach for my phone and open the Messages app. It from Gigi, my daughters’ great grandmother of sorts. This time, the picture is of my newborn twins. A week ago, she sent me a picture of Pattu, all of four months old.
Messages from Gigi are always a treat. Some days they are long and rambling, touching on different members of my daughters’ birth family, catching me up on news, pontificating on the pandemic, and asking after my family in India. Other days, they are short, a cursory check-in. Sometimes it’s a meme. Then, on days like today, I get pictures from when my daughters were not mine. Those pictures are a treasure from when they belonged to the family they were born in, surrounded by uncles and grandparents who doted on them.
I save each of these on my phone, on my laptop. I take backups for fear of losing them. I show them to my children and record them reacting to the images of their past self. We talk about the pictures. We giggle at how big her cheeks are in the pictures. We ooh and aah and we move on to the next thing.
Sometimes, late in the night when the rest of the family is in bed, I send out notes to my children’s mother and father. I ask if they are okay. I ask if their families are okay. I worry about them like I worry about my siblings. I include them in prayers. I imagine our twice canceled trip happening in the near future.
Then there are times when my mind goes to dark places. Morbid places. Places where I lose members of my family or I lose members of my daughters’ families. The feeling is overwhelming. It reduces me to tears. It also makes me wonder about the what-ifs. I write out notes to be sent in the event of my untimely death. I delete them for fear of tempting fate.
Openness in a normal world is raw, beautiful, and hard. Openness in a pandemic world is poignant, tinged with what-ifs. It makes you reckon with alternatives you have not considered. It makes you worry for your children in ways you never expected to. It changes the definition of family. It changes you as a person. It is a lesson in how connected our lives are and how common our humanity is. It is humbling. It is scary. It is necessary, now more than ever.