Last December, I traveled back to my hometown of Detroit, eager to join the rest of my family as we celebrated the achievement of my first-born child, my daughter Jasmine, as she received a master’s degree in her chosen field of education. I could hardly wait for the family reunion — the first time for us since my mother’s death on July 4th one year ago.
I was forced to face disappointment even before my plane had landed in Motown. Unforeseen circumstances arose which prevented my oldest grandson, now a high school senior who lives in Atlanta, from joining us.
But my precocious youngest grandson who started school this fall and lives in Detroit with his parents – my daughter and her husband – was more than willing to soak up the spotlight, relishing the fact that he didn’t have to share it with his older brother. And while the ages of my two man-cubs place them at opposite ends of the K-12 educational spectrum, I shower both of them with equal amounts of love and affection.
Sure, I express that love in different ways, sometimes. However, I have no qualms with grabbing either of them, wrapping my arms around them, kissing them on their foreheads and telling them, “I love you” – as often as possible. So, shortly after returning home to the DMV, I began planning my travel itinerary for 2020. Being the proud grandfather, at the top of my list were a few visits to Atlanta to see Jordon, 18, star on his high school football and basketball teams and to later witness his commencement ceremony. In addition, I looked forward to several weekend trips to Detroit to see Jackson, 6, head off to first grade, to see him all aglow while opening his gifts on Christmas and for any other reasons that I could find and which would justify another trip to the Wolverine State.
Then, the world turned topsy-turvy as life ground to an unexpected halt after a mysterious sickness, now known as coronavirus, began to appear. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
There’s no need to rehash how COVID-19 has changed the American landscape in every facet of life. But I have fond memories to hold on to until some semblance of normal can be found: class trips to the apple orchid in northern Michigan with the other first graders; hayrides, haunted houses and marshmallow roasts enjoyed during an outing for the freshman class during my first year at U of D High; and talent shows hosted by the graduating class at Louis Pasteur Elementary when I was in the sixth grade.
Those experiences, and so many more, will forever mark my formative years, leaving with me unforgettable, precious memories. But I cannot help but wonder, will my grandsons have the chance to form and hold on to similar memories which have long been the magical moments of youth? Will there be proms, homecoming football games, college visits, that first kiss, snowball fights, campouts and sleepovers?
Both of my grandsons seem to be adapting amazingly well with the “virtual thing” – much better than I believe I would if I were in their shoes. Even as the family patriarch, I’m still struggling, especially as it relates to my two man-cubs who I miss so much.
I don’t want to learn how to become a “virtual grandfather.” I don’t’ know how to be a “virtual grandfather.” I don’t like being a “virtual grandfather.” I have grown weary of Zoom, text messages and Facebook Live.
The Beatles said, “I wanna hold your hand.” I want and need more than that. I want to look into my grandsons’ eyes as they share their joys and fears or recount recent events that they can’t stop thinking or talking about.
I want to hug them tightly, kiss them all over and tell them that in all seasons, at all times and no matter what they may or may not do, I will always love them.
Officer, I want to report a robbery. I know the name of the thief: COVID-19. It’s already taken the lives of some of my friends and family. Now it wants to steal my joy – a joy that comes with being a grandfather. Can you, or anyone, help me?