About a month ago, I embarked on a solo trip to visit my family in London. Something in me told me it was time to visit, as it had been three years since my last trip across the pond. Little did I know that a month later, I would not have the freedom to book a flight to London, or anywhere for that matter. With a one-week gap in my schedule, I originally saw myself traveling somewhere warm to get a kickstart on my summer tan. London would do though, I mean 30-degree weather with pouring rain is the perfect environment to get a nice burn, a wind burn that is. I had new baby cousins to meet, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents to see. With everything going on the world now, I am forever grateful to have had this opportunity to spend six days with my family who I may not be able to see for a long time.
Before this pandemic hit, my grandpa used to wake up every morning, get himself dressed in his slacks, his polo shirt under a sweater, and his cute golfer hat to make the 30-minute walk to see my grandma in the nursing home. He spent every waking hour with her, all meals, all tea and biscuit hours until she was soundly asleep in her room on the second floor. He would then venture home, get himself situated for bed and repeat the next morning. JoJo is 97 years old, although you would never know it seeing the way he functions. While I found the time to explore London’s typical tourist attractions, my more meaningful memories came from visits to the nursing home to see my grandma who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Although my grandma doesn’t know who I am, I spent time holding her hand, giving her sips of her favorite juice (apple), and playing my brother’s violin recordings for her. Although grandma doesn’t recognize me, someone else next to her very much looked forward to my daily visits, Grandpa JoJo. JoJo and I have Skyped over the years, when he would always say his usual ‘oh my goodness, how did you become so beautiful?’ at which I would reply my usual ‘I have your genes grandpa’. As I sat in the nursing home for hours on end, I got to know my grandpa, a man who has the kindest and most gentle heart. While Grandpa would watch me helping Grandma and tell me how wonderful of a nurse I must be, I would watch Grandpa and admire his patience during my grandma’s outbreaks and panic that are caused by the Alzheimer’s. And when grandma would take her afternoon snooze in the chair, Grandpa and I would exchange medical stories, where he would give me case studies and ask me to figure out the diagnosis and treatment. I later learned he used to do this with my mother, after he returned from treating patients in his clinic. Grandpa JoJo now lives in the nursing home with grandma, as visitors are no longer allowed and without visits to see her, there would simply be no reason to live.
Life as we know it has changed. With most of the world now working from home, many losing their jobs and unfortunately many lives taken too soon, there has been an overwhelming sense of coming together in the face of tragedy. Relationships have been forced to become virtual, and individuals are finding themselves focusing less on materialistic aspects of life and rather expressing gratitude and showing love to the people most important to them. While I can’t Facetime Grandma and Grandpa or see them in person, I hold onto the memories we built and the updates that come from my family who are constantly calling to check in with him. Before this pandemic, I always made it a point to be kind to others, and now more than ever I am inspired by the helpers in this world, the people that look out for the vulnerable in the community and find creative ways to stay connected in a world that is forcing us to stay physically separated. While it’s easy to get lost in the news and feel an overall sense of panic and even depression, I urge you to focus on the good things in life, the love that will get us through these difficult times. Read the stories of strangers singing across their balconies, of florists donating flowers from canceled events to decorate public parks, of families cooking meals for their neighbors; these are the stories worth focusing on. Try and do one nice thing every day, whether it’s a Facetime or text to check on someone in your life or offering to pick up groceries for your neighbors and family members, every action counts. Life is precious, and we must always remember to never take things for granted. Stay informed, stay positive, but please stay hopeful that we can and we will get through this.
Upon leaving the nursing home and getting ready to depart London, grandpa and I exchanged a big hug and his typical somewhat slobbery double-cheek kiss while he told me how he will always be proud of the young lady I have become. He didn’t forget to add in that he’s sure I will find a doctor just like him in no time… so doctors out there, can someone prove to me that chivalry isn’t dead and there can be a love like my grandparents love out there?
As my mother always says to me, “in a world where you can be anything, be kind”.