Family. That word conjures up images or thoughts. For some, they think of those they live with, others may think of parents or loved ones outside of their household, while some immediately focus on children and grandchildren. There are living family members, and those we’ve grieved. Whomever or whatever comes to mind, family has a lasting impact.
Our world has undergone an unthinkable health crisis with the COVID pandemic. Lockdown kept us in the safe confines of our homes with social distancing imposed, as fellow columnist, T. Marie Bertineau, shared in her column, isolation was not the hardest part, to which I agree. My retired parents are social and enjoy their daily outings. This apple fell far from that tree. I worried that they wouldn’t be able to sustain a lockdown as well as I could.
In the early days of the shelter-in-place, I remember thinking how grateful I was that my grandparents were no longer living to endure this crisis. They each battled enough in their lifetimes: wars, illnesses, poverty, and racism. Days rolled into weeks and weeks turned into month after month of uncertainty. Soon, I found myself longing for the wisdom of my grandparents.
My abuela would have undoubtedly helped us stretch our pantry items into delicious and comforting meals so we wouldn’t have to leave the safety of our home for groceries.
My abuelo, a WW II veteran, would have remained updated with what was being reported globally, nationally, and locally. He would have advised his seven children, nine grandchildren, and fifteen great-grandchildren on what he gathered from various sources of media and perceived to be the truth.
My paternal grandma was a single mother of eight, having outlived two of her children and a spouse, a grandmother to twenty-something, countless great-grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, and now, great-great-great grandbabies. She would have reminded us that this too shall pass, but not without some lasting effects. She would have said that fear is always an option, but not to expect something beautiful to come from living in that state. Similarly, my grandma would have reaffirmed that no one is invincible, and ignorance never wins. The entire family would have had homemade sets of masks sent to them. Most of all, my grandparents would have expected our family to look out for one another and our neighbors.
I recall going into summer longing for some respite, but seeing hate and racism take center stage. As I stated earlier, these were the things my grandparents endured as Mexican Americans. In an instant, I saw the fear in my children’s eyes as local protests clogged city streets and freeways. Then, unexpectedly, we received word that my mother-in-law died. She was just here and then she wasn’t. My husband lost his mother, and my children lost a grandparent. I knew abuela would have pulled out her prayer candles and kept them flickering from morning until night.
Throughout the pandemic, I learned how easy it is to become mired down in doom and uncertainty. It is strange how these events can change everything that we thought we knew about ourselves and our family. This was not the time to run, but instead, be still and listen. My comfort with being distant was no longer acceptable. I could hear my grandparents telling me to connect.
My children and I have made it an evening ritual for the past year to video call my parents to see them, their dog, and so they can see their grandchildren. Our calls are so expected now that even their dog meanders around them in the evening anticipating the ring of the phone.
Placing a call to my parents on speaker as I drove or accomplished another daily task, was how our conversations previously occurred. They often worked when I phoned them, and it was easier for us to converse without stopping our daily grind. Now, we all sit and actually take the time to see one another, albeit through a screen. Initially, I thought the connection was for my children and my parents, but I make them laugh and I look forward to that each day. That heals my soul too.
I wholeheartedly feel the pandemic has some lessons in it for humanity. As an educator, I teach my students about social awareness by looking inward first, then using that self-awareness to bond with one another. As a strong family of classmates, we are then able to bless our greater community with our unconditional love and respect. I realized I gleaned that outlook from my grandparents and how they approached life, despite adversity.
It’s been decades since I hugged my grandma, and over a decade since I laughed with my abuelo. Next year, will mark ten years since my abuela left us. I would love a phone call with my grandparents again. The pandemic has reminded me that despite the years, I still remember their wisdom and what it felt like to be in their presence. I miss my grandparents tremendously and the days of being called their grandchild.
Anna Rodriguez is a wife, mother, and elementary teacher. She is completing her first contemporary novel set in California’s Central Valley. Family and friendships are important themes for Anna’s work because of the influences they have had on her life. When Anna is not writing or hanging out with her family, she can be found reading or searching for music to add to her eclectic playlist. She will complete her MFA in Creative Writing in the summer of 2021.
A beautiful balance of emotional memoir and social commentary. Thank you for the pleasure of reading this.
Thank you for reading it and sharing your thoughts.
There is so much to learn from.the craziness that this pandemic has swept us up in. Great read!
Thank you for reading my post. It has definitely been a crazy time for all.
You’re welcome 💜
Welcome to the Carrot Ranch family! I enjoyed your essay and the weaving of reflecting on family and the pandemic. The pandemic and the political crises, has brought some family’s closer, even if distanced, and some farther apart. It has certainly brought home what is most important and valued. Even the “daily grind” has been affected and if one can be mindful as you and your family are about sharing time and appreciating one another, that’s a plus.
Thank you for sharing here.
Yes, the pandemic has affected families in so many ways, and it sometimes seems to just depend on the day.
Thank you for the welcome and for reading my column. I am excited to be a part of this creative community.
Continued success! And welcome to Carrot Ranch! Where all, including fictional lives matter. 😀
While my husband and I are at an age where our grandparents, and most of our parents are no longer with us – our grandchildren are lucky to have both sets local. While the grands were not in our immediate ‘pod’ we did keep in touch. Soon the adults in our family will have had both of their ‘shots’ which will make it easier to see those we treasure.
Every family has it’s own story of how they overcame unwarranted prejudice. Let us hope that we have taught our children and grands (and all the greats) how to be good people for our world. ~Jules
Thank you for the welcome and for reading my post and sharing your thoughts. I am looking forward to a summer of celebrations as more family and friends get their vaccine. My heart soars at the thought of hugging and sitting close to chat with loved ones again.
Hopefully, this happens for you soon.
Welcome, Anna. Thank you for such a warm look at family. I never knew my grandparents and have been told there is a hole in my life because of it. I agree. I was lucky enough to have my children, grands, and sisters in my closed circle this past year and it has kept me going, though in slow motion.
May you finish your MFA in style and share the rewards of it through your writing.
Thank you for welcoming me. I am so excited to be joining this wonderful community.
I agree that when we miss out on knowing some of our family members, it does feel as though a hole has been left in us, especially when we hear stories from others who got to know them.
Your last line meant a lot as I power through to the end of the MFA program. Thank you for that!
Happy to see you on the ranch.
I never met my grandfathers, both whose health was compromised by WW1 that they died relatively young. Both grandmothers made up for it though, achieving 92 and 96 respectively and both slipping away in their sleep. They both taught me many lessons; one the benefits of hard work and empathy, the other the corrosiveness of small minded pettiness. Hey, that’s families, eh? We get what we are dealt by capricious nature. Your memories and perspective adds to the views on Covid and its impacts, not all of it necessarily a bad thing. Best of luck with the novel.
Thank you very much for reading my column and sharing a bit of your family’s story with me. While I am sorry to hear about both of your grandfathers suffering with health issues which took their lives, I think it is a blessing to have had grandmothers who lived into their nineties. But I do know, all too well, that some family can teach us what we don’t want to emulate. They are all in our lives for a reason, right.
Oh true. The don’t do as I do example, even if not deliberate.
Welcome to Carrot Ranch, Anna!
We share a kindred connection, both coming from the Central Valley area of California and wanting to write from that place in our hearts where we connect with others. I was so excited when we met and became peers in school for our MFA program.
Your novel gives voice to the Mexican American experience which is really foreign for a lot of Americans. That heritage of California’s diversity runs in my blood, especially the comfort of food. Just because we had to make it stretch didn’t mean it lacked flavor and warmth! A pot of pinto beans brings back so many memories. Even after all these decades away from California, I still fix enchiladas and beans for special occasions. I regret not learning to make the tamales of my elders.
This pandemic has made us reconsider how we connect with loved ones and the world. I take to heart what your grandma said: “…that fear is always an option, but not to expect something beautiful to come from living in that state.”
Thank you for writing a column in the midst of Thesis writing! It is all-consuming but I promise you there is a light at the end of that tunnel.
Charli, I am so grateful for the invitation to write alongside the storytellers in this vibrant community.
I fondly remember our initial conversation for a class assignment, and the ease with which we communicated and connected.
I feel so blessed to become a part of what you’ve built here. I wish you the best as you reach that finish line!
Thank you, Anna! You’ll get across that finish line soon, too!
A great story and a wonderful remembrence. Thanks for sharing
Laugh on the even and odd days, You can cry on the other ones
love the grandparents wisdom and unconditional love the writer clings to, amidst the hardship of Covid
Hi Anna, and apologies for my late reply to your wonderful post. I have been keen to read it and comment for many reasons. I am British born and bred, but was once married to an American GI, for a short time was Mrs Rodriguez. Sadly widowed, I remarried, American, and adored my in-laws, both long gone, both hispanic. I raised my children for twenty years in California, missing my home and family in England and embracing my American family and life. I got used to that awful pull of home and missing those we love, but it didn’t make this entire 15 months and counting of harsh lockdowns in the UK and separation from my adult sons any easier. We visit regularly in “normal” life. The pandemic has cut to the core of our way of life. But as you so eloquently put it, great lessons are there not run but to be still and listen. Your evening check ins with your parents remind me of my weekly times with my children. As with your parents’ dog, their cat takes centre stage on my son and partner’s laps as soon as the screen opens up and she hears our voices. We are in contact daily by text/What’s App sharing funnies, memes, articles, general updates. It has helped so much, but I long for the day when we can meet up and hug again… soon, I hope! Your grandparents’ legacy is a gift and made me think of mine who raised my mother and her brother (my uncle) as young children through WWII. My grandfather had a bomb shelter at the end of the garden, Granny hid a rifle in the grandfather clock, just in case. And she would have been making those masks alongside your grandma for the family, too. Wonderful to meet you, Anna. Thank you for this lovely post and sharing your heart with us. Sherri
Hello Anna! As another columnist new to the Ranch, I welcome you, albeit a bit belated, for which I apologize.
I read your lovely post and felt the love and warmth of family in your words, which brightened my morning tremendously. What you said about missing your grandparents . . . ohh, my heart. My grandparents have all walked on, but the love and lessons they shared with me remain. Every once in a blue moon, one of my grammas pays me a visit while I sleep. For that I am ever grateful.
Thank you, Anna, for the mention in your column. I look forward to future posts!