Hey, got a minute? Of course you do. You’re sheltering in place and have nothing but minutes. Let me ask you something. Remember all the way back in the days when you’d have to rack your brain to come up with increasingly clever and convincing excuses to get out of visiting your parents or grandparents? Ironically, now that the Coronavirus has provided everyone in the world with the perfect excuse, it turns out we want to visit them. Apparently, absence makes the heart grow guiltier. And yet’ the newly instituted rules of social distancing forbid it. We don’t want to give our beloved relatives the Coronavirus, and they don’t want to give it to us. And so, out of love and a desire for safety and life, we must figure out other ways to show we care, other ways to “visit”. I’ve thought this through, consulted with numerous experts, checked with my Ouija Board, and paid close attention to the voices inside my head. Here, then, with the help of a generous grant from the Visit Your Relatives You Selfish Jerk Foundation, are my suggestions for the best ways to visit your parents and grandparents during the Coronavirus.

Zoom Them

If we can’t see our parents and grandparents in person, then the next best option is to see and speak with them virtually. Hence, the popularity of videoconferencing, currently lead by Zoom. This enables everyone to communicate over the computer from the sheltering in place safety of their homes. What could be bad about that? I’ll tell you. There’s a large percentage of parents and grandparents who haven’t the slightest idea how to find Zoom, download Zoom, and operate Zoom, much less identify and turn on their computer. So, by the time you’re through helping them do all that, they’re frustrated, you’re in a bad mood, and all of you end up drinking again before noon.

Stand Outside Their Living Room Window

Of course, this method can be somewhat challenging for any relatives’ domiciles that are located higher than street level – but not impossible. You just have to speak louder and have broader gestures the higher that floor. Otherwise, put your creativity to work here. Hold up large signs such as, “We miss you!”, “We love you!”, and “Please don’t forget to turn the gas off!” Physically act out your feelings and emotions. (Those who have had mime training will be that much further along.) Set up a pulley system that allows you to raise gifts or gift baskets up to their windows. How about a serenade? Sing them their favorite songs, accompanying yourself on the ukulele which you have learned just for this purpose. And keep it all meaningful, but short. A three hour visit will just end up exhausting you and your parents/grandparents, who will as a result come up with some lame excuse why they’re unavailable for a visit next time.

Write Them

Back the prehistoric era, they had these things called letters. You see, there was no video, so people would actually write down their thoughts and feelings on pieces of paper and then send them to one another through the mail. Really! Okay, so it’s a bit old-fashioned, takes a few days to arrive, and a first class stamp is 55 cents. Still, it’s a form of communication that’s very personal and with which your parents and grandparents are familiar and comfortable. Plus, you can put photos in the letter and not have to worry about anyone droning on and on during a phone call or Zoom session. As an added bonus, the letters can be saved for all eternity in a scrapbook or album, and perhaps even published someday if one of you becomes famous, or turned into a self-published book in any case. Hopefully, they were still teaching writing when you went through school, because I understand that now it’s no writing in school; all computers. Sad!

Call Them

This is the easiest way to communicate with your sheltering in place parents and grandparents. You avoid having to do a tutorial for them on how to use Zoom. You don’t have to write, pay for, send, and wait for a letter to arrive and be returned, and you don’t have to stand outside their window, gesturing like an idiot. It’s fast, free, easy to do, and satisfying. As an added bonus, you can determine how popular your relatives are by how many times during the call that they apologize for putting you on hold to take another call. And, of course, if you both have iPhones, you can see each other by using the FaceTime app, though you may have to explain to them how that works without losing your patience, and that they really should be wearing clothing during these video calls.

Gift Them

Okay, so maybe you can’t be there with them, but anything you send them certainly can. And so every time they look at the flowers, balloon bouquets, groceries, books, CDs, DVDs, clothing, deluxe masks, fruit of the month club offerings, and restaurant deliveries you send them, they’ll think of you. And, who knows, depending on how they really feel about you, they may actually prefer the stuff you send to your actual appearance. (Sorry you had to hear this from me.)

Things to Avoid Saying

In an international survey of parents and grandparents who have been sheltering in place, here are some of the least-popular things they’ve heard from their children and grandchildren. You might want to avoid saying these:

“With all this coronavirus stuff happening, you’re lucky to be so much closer to the end of your life.”

“When you’re buried, it’ll be six feet under, so I guess that’ll take care of the six feet distancing requirement between us.”

“I brought you some Clorox bleach in case you’d like to try out any of the President’s suggestions for wiping out the virus.”

“I ordered you a ventilator from Amazon – just in case.”

“You actually look better with the mask on.”

“Happy Birthday – I got you this new Drawing Up a Will software.”

“I guess we have one more plague to add during the Passover seder. Somebody call Charlton Heston.”