Last weekend, I met my latest great-grandchild. Only another grandparent can know the feeling of holding your great-grandchild for the first time.
Loretta Jane — she has my middle name and her paternal grandma’s first name — is not my only great-grandchild. I have four others — Jaylen, 14, Tavaris, 13, Halle, 6, and Marley, 4. I love them all.
But what makes seeing Loretta Jane, who is lovingly called LoLo, for the first time so special is COVID-19. She is a child of the quarantine age. Except for her parents, Afra and Bradford, and her grandparents — my son Shawn and his ex-wife Mary Ann, and a recent visit from her paternal grandparents, Bill and Jane Hardie, of El Paso — everyone else LoLo has ever met wore a mask.
I learned of LoLo’s impending arrival just before Christmas of 2019. She was due June 6, 2020, and my Christmas gift from her parents that year was an American Airlines gift card to see her as soon as possible.
It was all working out. I would have my knee replacement surgery in March, and by the time LoLo was 3 months old, we figured I’d be able to travel to New York to see her for the first time. Meanwhile, they sent me a Portal so I could watch the baby bump grow. It was an exciting time.
Then, like an atomic bomb, the pandemic hit. And everything changed — from the way we lived at home, to the way we worked and shopped. What had been an exciting time turned into a nightmare. I was afraid for Afra and all the other mothers-to-be. I prayed that they would all be safe and deliver healthy babies in an unhealthy world.
The Lord answers prayers. LoLo was born on time — June 6 — and was a healthy 7 pounds and 11 ounces. Instead of my being there in person, I watched her development via Portal. I would coo and smack kisses as her parents positioned her so she could see my face. It helped some, but I so longed to see her, to kiss her plump cheeks.
Her parents sent me videos — of her trying to crawl and getting so tired that she fell asleep right in the middle of a crawling session, of her sitting alone. They warmed my heart.
Still, it seemed that COVID-19 was never going to allow me to see my newest great-grandchild. Then I learned about the COVID vaccines. Getting them gave us new hope.
I put myself on the waiting list at my medical center. I called several times, only to be told that the vaccines had not arrived. Most of my friends in my age group had already had their second vaccine, and I was still waiting for my first shot. I was getting very frustrated.
Then, a friend put me in touch with someone who scheduled me for the vaccine at a medical center near me. Without hesitation, I went, was vaccinated and went home to await the side effects. Only a little soreness at the site of the shot for a day or so.
I had just had my second shot, when on Easter Sunday, after a delightful Portal call, we decided it was time for me to come up to meet LoLo. Right away, my granddaughter Afra booked my flight, and on April 11, I flew to New York to see Miss Loretta Jane. I had hoped to see her before her first birthday; I met her just a few days past her 10th month.
When I first met her, she just stared at me. I think she recognized the big red eyeglasses I wore, but that was on Portal. Now, here I am standing before her, reaching out to her and hoping she would just fall into my arms. Didn’t happen. Not the first day.
But being the grandma that I am, I didn’t give up. Gradually, on the second day, she started to smile as I caressed her soft cheeks. Then, she let me hold her. Oh, happy day!
I was only there for a few days, but I did my share of cooing and talking “baby talk.” It’s a wonder that I even remember how to talk grown-up. It’s funny about loving on your grandbabies; you just don’t seem to care how silly you look when you are trying to communicate with them on their level.
I had missed so much of her young life already. I had to cram as much into these three days as I could.
But while I’d missed out on some tiny milestones, I was there for a big one: LoLo took her first steps while I was there.
How great is that?
Killian Pines, Ahavat Olam to reopen in-person services
After more than a year of virtual worshipping, Killian Pines United Methodist Church, 10755 SW 112th St. in Kendall, will open its sanctuary doors for in-person worship at 11 a.m. April 25. The service will begin with Pastor Wilma Reyes leading the congregation in prayer.
In addition, Ahavat Olam, the Jewish congregation that has shared the church grounds since its 2005 inception, will resume in-person worship at 7:45 p.m. May 14. Cantor Ronit Rubin will lead the congregation in prayer at the first in-person service after more than a year of being closed because of COVID-19.
Services will continue via Zoom for those who want to join the services virtually, said Rabbi Danny Marmorstein, spiritual leader of the synagogue. Preregistration is required.
Marmorstein will lead the in-person worship at 7:45 p.m. May 28. For information go to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Killian Pines United Methodist will continue to be live-streamed for those who want to join virtually via the church’s YouTube page.
For in-person services, congregants will have to answer screening questions and have their temperature taken prior to entering the sanctuary.
There will also be mandatory wearing of masks, social distancing of at least 6 feet, and a reduced number of attendees (25) inside the sanctuary. If there are more than 25 people who want to attend, other accommodations will be made.