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To: Grandma

Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash

We’re all isolated in different ways.

I am one of the privileged. Though I am laid off, I received a stimulus check and unemployment benefits. Some have been unable to coordinate with their state’s unemployment office, while others are not eligible for aid at all. I live with my partner and two roommates, so I can socially interact, give hugs and share a bed with someone. Others experience quarantine by themselves.

My grandma is one of the lonely. She has been a caretaker her whole life. She has seven children and over 20 grand and great-grandchildren (I lost count years ago). She is, and always has been, a big part of our lives. Two of my cousins, who she spends a great deal of time with, can no longer see her in fear of infecting her with Covid-19. Grandma says she drives by the house and they wave out the front window.

She loves to shop. Despite the spread of coronavirus, which targets people specifically of her demographic, she spends her days driving around going to all the places that are still open; Target, Wal-Mart, etc. I feel a little concerned. The thing is, though, she says she isn’t afraid to die. I’ve always known this about her and been inspired by this quality. She says she has people waiting for her up there. Two of her children, my aunt and uncle, passed away, and she frequently gets stars in her eyes thinking of when she will be reunited with them. It’s not that she wants to die, it’s just that, well, she isn’t fearful of her transition into the next realm like so many of us are.

She believes in reincarnation and spirits. She takes joy in reading books about the after-life, spirituality and oneness with the universe. She passed these interests on to me. Growing up, she would pick me up in her green buick and we would drive around talking about spirituality, the concept of old souls and all the general silliness of being a human.

Times Have Changed

When I think of my grandma passing, I feel some ease knowing that she will be okay. However, Covid-19 has made all of this a lot more complicated. Just because I know she’s okay with death doesn’t mean I want to be the one that caused it.

My father, whom I love probably more than anyone on the planet, isn’t exactly taking the virus seriously. He says he’s “lived through so many of these, you know swine flu, ebola, blah blah blah. They’re [the media] always telling us we’re going to die. It’s always something” he says. In a way, he’s right. He has the same perspective about climate change, though, which has been hard for me to sit with. The “we’re all going to die anyway and the earth is going to be fine” mentality. I mean hey, thinking that way is nice, and sometimes I really wish I didn’t care so much. But I can’t let myself avoid the deeper complexities behind why things like climate change and global pandemics happen.

I am almost certain he had the virus. He was never tested, but he was coughing so hard he passed out. Twice. He swore up and down he didn’t have it. He recovered and is fine now, which I am grateful for. Fast forward a week or two, he feels bad that grandma is lonely. Just after he was sick, I went for dinner and grandma was invited. I was slightly appalled and told him not to touch her. Out of instinct, the first thing he did was hug her.

Despite my fears, all I could think of was how happy she seemed to be around her family and not alone in her tiny apartment. But then I remember around the time of her 82nd birthday, she told me she intuitively felt that she would pass at 92. “That’s another 10 years, grandma!” I responded, thinking how great it was that I would have another ten years with her.

Uncertainty

What if it isn’t ten years? What if I’m a carrier and I give it to her? These are thoughts uncomfortably invading the minds of millions.

In the midst of the virus, though, I have observed a sort of detachment from earthly life in older people. Not in a morbid way, but more so in a manner that liberates them to let go of the obsessive fierceness for physical living that many of us young people share. Our whole pressure-filled existence is ahead of us; to be someone, to do something great. We fight for the mark we’re going to make. We are utterly attached to ourselves and those around us. I don’t sense this in my grandma, nor my great grandma, or my grandfather, all of which are currently isolated in their homes. They have seen decades of potentially life-threatening diseases, natural disasters, wars, you know, the challenging normalities of being on this planet. They foster the state-of-mind of acceptance.

This is no excuse not to protect and respect our elders as much as humanly possible when it comes to this virus. I still don’t support grandma coming over for dinner. But perhaps it is worth the recognition that many of our most threatened members of society are taking this one day at a time, merely waiting for a phone call or a drive by from a family member.

If we share anything, it’s the longing for each other. It’s the commonality of needing togetherness. And it’s the desire to hug your grandma when you don’t feel like you can.


To: Grandma was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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