I pulled my cell phone from my pocket, steeling myself to call my grandma in a nursing home some 500 miles away in Ohio. Why is this so hard? Before Covid, I looked forward to these calls. I thought of them as doing my part to help care for her. Now I wondered if I was making any difference in the face of a deadly pandemic, especially one that was hitting care facilities so hard.
Quickly I reviewed the list of things I’d come up with to tell her, the latest games my three-year-old, Amelia, was into: baking cakes for stuffed animals and dancing to Baby Shark with her brother. The word combinations, Jack, now two, was saying: “Doggie, woof. Daddy, bye bye.” Silly stuff Grandma delighted in hearing.
Grandma was more than a grandma to me. I was 12 when I went to live with her while my parents split up. She’d supported my dream of going into the Air Force and so many other things. I wanted to be there for her now if only over the phone. Ordinarily I’d make time to visit, but her facility was in lockdown. Those restrictions should have reassured me that she was safe. Instead, it felt as if she were living on the moon. I couldn’t imagine what Grandma was going through in such isolation. She was 98. Macular degeneration made it impossible for her to read. Or even watch TV. I understood the need for isolation, but separation carried its own health risks.
Maybe it was me who was the problem. I got tongue-tied when I tried to say anything deeper than the usual updates about the kids. I couldn’t spout Scripture the way others could. Wasn’t comfortable speaking for God, period. Not that I was out of touch with my feelings. I just didn’t have a firm enough grasp on them to talk openly, to offer hope and reassurance and comfort. In the military, we used to say, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.” These days I found myself mostly doing the latter. I worked as a consultant, helping businesses manage change. I’d seen too much to pretend that everything always turned out for the best.
Enough stalling. It had been two weeks since my last call. I tapped in the number. I waited for her answering machine to pick up so I could announce myself. “Hi, John!” Grandma’s voice sang out. “So good to hear from you!”
“Wow, Grandma, you sound great. How are things going up there?”
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