There was no whooping and hollering to celebrate her annual arrival on the Vineyard. No floating in the cool waters off State Beach while cradled in the arms of her counselor. No mid-afternoon naps snuggled in the hammock under the shade of our backyard tree. No empathetic ear and discerning heart of her mother. No obligatory laughs at the corny, recycled Dad jokes. No strolls with her siblings on the bike trail. No morning coffees at Mocha Mott’s. No Easter. No Thanksgiving, No Christmas. No Jabberwocky. No coming home.

Since March 12, 2020, our daughter Shirley has been quarantined in her room at her independent living center in Rockland County, N.Y. She has left her room only for medical appointments. Many on the Island know Shirley, especially if they attend the Jabberwocky play in July, as the beautiful woman who is swept from her wheelchair by two shirtless he-men to perform her annual graceful, aerial flight to the ecstatic ovations from the adoring audience. The summer of 2020 would have been Shirley’s 23rd year as a Jabberwocky camper.

Shirley, like so many of her fellow campers, has been isolated from family and friends for almost a year. As the Covid outbreak devastated the New York city area, her facility was shut down with strict entrance guidelines as to protect the medically fragile residents. Last summer, for the first time, Shirley was able to receive an outside, socially distanced visit by her brother and in August my wife and I were able to travel for a visit. We proposed a Thanksgiving homecoming on the Vineyard. However, as the number of cases ramped up in her area, she was unable to leave her residence. Christmas on the Vineyard was under consideration but as the CDC recommended to limit non-essential travel during the holidays, we decided the risk was too great. Shirley is an incredibly healthy individual, however due to her limited lung capacity, a Covid infection could be devastating.

Technology has been a saving grace for Shirley during this crisis. She is unable to use her hands or voice to operate a standard device. She uses her eye gaze (as a mouse) to access a tablet that is mounted to her wheelchair. In the confines of her room, she attends a virtual class at her day program. Last fall, she headed a campaign to recruit the fellow attendees at her day program to register and vote in the Presidential election. She participated in Zoom events sponsored by fellow campers from Jabberwocky and sang songs with friends she knows from Guatemala. She participated in family games on Zoom and even watched movies with us as we placed our iPad in front of our TV.

Shirley has been an exemplar of courage and resilience, not only through this pandemic, but throughout her life. She refused to be defined as someone having a disability (the Jabberwocky attitude) but chose to be a person who opens her heart to others, gives and forgives, continually learns, and for me, continually teaches me lessons of life.

Now all she yearns for is a touch, a human touch.

Through this pandemic, she has been taken care of by incredibly compassionate health care providers who from the start have taken this pandemic seriously (her residence has remained Covid free). With the necessity for precautions, Shirley has not been touched or moved or received any type of face-to-face contact with anyone who has not donned a mask and pair of gloves. There have been no hugs, no strokes of her hair, no kisses on the cheek and no arm around her shoulder. Only sterility.

Our Island has been touched by the campers of Jabberwocky. They have taught us to see the bigger picture, motivated us to do things we thought we could not and maybe, allowed us not to take ourselves too seriously. How fortunate we are to have such an incredible Island institution as Camp Jabberwocky. Who knows what Camp Jabberwocky looks like this coming summer: live, virtual or hybrid.

There will be the day when the Jabberwocky campers will again board the ferry and we will be waiting on this side to welcome them to the Island with our whoops and hollers. And once again we will be touched (and taught) by these amazing people.

As for me, Dad, all I want is to touch my daughter. A simple kiss. A gripping, wraparound, bear hug. A dance in my arms as I lift her out of her wheelchair. And the night I can tuck her into her cozy bed and tell her everything will be all right.

Phil Reppert lives in Oak Bluffs.