‘I can’t go near my grandchildren.’ Coronavirus isolates retired Brattleboro nurse

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To her 5-year-old granddaughter, Beth Kiendl is Minga. Her husband is Ebu.

Kiendl has no idea where the nonsensical names came from, other than her granddaughter Grace’s fertile imagination, then a one-year-old girl who was talking early.

Kiendl’s daughter, Kate, also has an 18-month-old son, Jake. Kate is a nurse like her mother was. Kiendl, 70, spent 43 years tending to the addicted, the suicidal and the mentally tortured at Brattleboro Retreat.

Now the coronavirus pandemic has hit. Jake is oblivious, as 18-month-olds are. But Grace understands social distancing all too well. It means she can no longer hug and kiss Minga, who lives in Brattleboro, just 10 minutes down the road from her home in Dummerston.

“Grace and I are very tight,” Kiendl said. “That’s been tough, tough, tough.”

When Passover began on April 8, Kiendl and her husband wanted to have Passover Seder — the meal that begins the celebration of freedom and equality — with their daughter and her family. What to do?

“We have a very big deck with our house,” Kiendl said. “Six of us sat in all corners of the deck.”

But it was more than Grace could take.

“Grace asked her mother, ‘If I wear a mask and gloves and put on one of Minga’s sweatshirts, can I give her a hug?'” Kiendl said. “She said, ‘You can.'”

So Grace did, grabbing Minga tightly around the waist.

Read more personal stories: How Vermonters are facing life in the coronavirus era

Contact Dan D’Ambrosio at 660-1841 or ddambrosio@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanDambrosioVT. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Sign up today for a digital subscription. 

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