By DH Cermeno
Relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren is something that families take great pride in and enjoy to immeasurable degrees. Unfortunately, the current quarantine has put many grandparents into situations where they are unable to see their families, and I went through something similar with my own grandfather years ago. But the difference is that today’s grandparents are doing what they can to ensure they can see their grandchildren once the quarantine is over, just as referenced in this article by Robin Marantz Henig. But that does not mean that the process is not difficult.
I miss my grandfather. He has been gone for almost 40 years but our relationship is one that I have treasured all of my life. I remember his warmth, his wisdom, and above all his affection. My grandfather introduced me to wonderful things life had to offer such as jazz and the comic genius of Charlie Chaplin. We had our own private jokes which made us laugh and no one else could understand. I found a tremendous amount of comfort going to his house to just enjoy talking and playing together. Something simple as sharing a bag of M&M’s or a Snickers bar was a treat. And then once we had enough and were tuckered out, I found great comfort falling asleep with him in his recliner as he crooned “Shortnin’ Bread” in my ear. Then my parents had to ruin it by coming to pick me up.
I will never forget the last time he was in the hospital. At eleven years old, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t see my beloved “Atun”, as I called him. His immune system was low due to the disease he was fighting and the doctors were hesitant about having too many people visit, especially children. All I know is that I was unable to see my grandfather and in my young mind, it didn’t make sense. All I wanted was to see Atun. In an article by Colleen Temple, I understand exactly how the children referenced feel.
Daily I kept hearing from my family that Atun was getting better, and that I would be able to see him once he came home. I held that thought in my head, had tremendous hope and I looked forward to seeing him reclining in his favorite chair. I started drawing pictures of us together and making cards to show him how much I missed him. I listened to jazz records that he loved, and I even watched Charlie Chaplin films, and imagined him next to me. I did get to hear his voice on the phone, but he sounded weak and tired, not as peppy as he always was. But he reassured me that he would be home soon and what wonderful times still lie ahead of us. I told him I couldn’t wait.
But God had other plans and, one morning, I was awoken by my sister and she and I had our first difficult discussion. She shared the news that Atun was not coming home. I bawled my eyes out. I felt cheated and betrayed. Who was to say that the last time that I saw him prior to his going into the hospital was the last time I would ever see him?
I am grateful for the fact that I was able to speak with him over the phone to hear his voice. And as modern technology has evolved, grandkids and their grandparents are able to see each other’s faces through Facetime and other inventions. However, these means are not a substitute for human contact and the warmth we feel when those we love are close to us. We miss kisses, long warm hugs, and just the solace of cuddling and sitting next to our family members.
During these times, we need to hold on to the memories and the times shared to get us through this pandemic. We don’t know how long this will last and that is the other factor that makes this experience so difficult. If we had a deadline we could work towards, it might make it easier. But we don’t. All families are trying to do now to remain healthy so that once the quarantine is lifted, they can be reunited.
Since I haven’t seen my grandfather in years, the memories and experiences I shared with him live in my mind and my heart daily. It was because of everything he taught me and the love he gave me that I felt compelled to write Coffee and Cedar: Finding Strength From Memories. As difficult times arise and we feel helpless and unsure about what the future holds, we need to look to the teachings of our elders, whether they are either alive or have passed, to help us persevere. Their wisdom and insight help us overcome hurdles and hard times just as they did. They build us up, make us feel secure and uncover the confidence and resilience that exist in each of us. Whenever I am met with a challenge, I think of Atun and how he would tell me, “El sol no se tapa con un dedo.” He was telling me that the talent and gifts that I had inside of me were impossible to be denied, no matter what criticism or obstacle came my way. And that gave me confidence and the ability to move forward to pursue my dreams. Our mentors instilled confidence in us and the strength to overcome anything, and that is what we all need to remember. This situation will come to an end. And once it does, we will rejoice and truly take advantage of the time together. But until then, we need to be strong. Because the more we do to control the pandemic, the sooner we can be reunited. So, remember, hold onto those memories of the past and use them as a way to warm your soul to have hope for many more wonderful times to be shared in the coming months.