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Gratitude in the Time of COVID

I just returned from a trip to Tucson. No celebration. No health crisis. A trip because my daughter asked me to come. It was my first flight since Christmas 2019, and the second time I’d seen my children in person since COVID shut down the country in March 2020.

Boy, things have certainly changed. A major toll road was finally completed, so the drive to Hobby Airport was actually pleasant. Parking was uneventful. The clerk even came out of her booth to welcome me to The Parking Spot #2. It took longer to walk up and down the security rows than to have my credentials checked. Even placing shoes, belts, laptops, whatever into the plastic bins went quickly. The airport was not crowded. I assume that’s because it was only 7:30 and because fewer people are traveling nowadays.

The sun was shining as I read my book. Suddenly, the terminal was pitch black as a storm cloud descended and all hell broke loose. The rain had been predicted, as was its swift exit. What was not forecast was the three-hour delay. The amazing thing in all this was that no one complained – not to flight personnel, not to one another. Instead, people engaged in conversation, actually talked about pleasant stuff. No politics. No mask confrontations. No tantrums.

The flight to Tucson was so empty that people sitting at the front of the airplane had to move to the back for take-off in order to balance its weight. Everyone was happy to comply. No grunts of displeasure for having been temporarily inconvenienced. Rather, those passengers were our superheroes who finally got us off the ground. A woman with twin girls sat across the aisle from me. They were also on the return flight, and we talked in the Tucson airport about our weekend away. A husband and wife who had sat in front of me were on the return flight as well. They greeted us like long-lost friends. Who ever did that before COVID kept us isolated and insulated from one another?

Then there was my family. My grandsons grew at least six inches since I last saw them, and they now had facial hair and drivers’ licenses. Dale, older by 18 months, was at the wheel as my daughter’s Silverado rolled to a stop at the terminal. I couldn’t take my eyes off the back of his head as he focused on the road. He’d come a long way from the Fisher-Price truck he pedaled up and down the driveway when he was little.

Before COVID, I visited for their birthdays and Christmas, but I never got to see them compete in track and cross-country competition because I was always there during the off-season. During this visit, however, I got a surprise. Robert plays the tuba in the high school marching band, and the last football game of the season was on Friday night. I got to the stadium in time for the half-time show. Robert was marching by as I arrived at the fence line. He stopped, sporting a beret because the tall band hat didn’t fit under the tuba bell, and proudly posed with his instrument. I snapped a picture through tears. Yes. It was one of those Yiayia moments. Like sitting behind Dale as he drove.

Because this was a no-occasion weekend, we just hung out. I met Robert’s girlfriend, Memosa, and her brother, Quinn. His best friend, Nathan, whom I’d met before when he had green hair, is now a blond. What teenagers hang out with grandmothers? These kids did. Memosa even apologized for not spending more time with me. WOW! Nathan actually sat with me talking about stuff while the others were outdoors fooling around. I told him he should join them, and he said he preferred to hang out with me. Double WOW!

I had plenty of alone time with the boys. Robert and I shared a room, and Dale would join us in the mornings to talk. The three of us went shopping, and I was impressed that we only bought the dress shoes Robert needed for his Christmas concert. We’ve come a long way from, “can I have that, Yiayia?” I made two pans of ziti for them. One was gone before my plane landed back in Houston. Robert says the Olive Garden should take ziti off its menu because mine is so much better. I’ll make four pans next trip.

The weekend flew by, but, in many ways, it was richer than longer trips with the boys in the past. We didn’t have to do anything except be with each other, and we did just that. COVID kept us apart for too long, but this weekend gave us back precious time for which I am eternally grateful.



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