Worries of a Covid Captive Grandma

Before the pandemic, unless I was traveling, I would see my grandkids every other week. I would arrive at their house at noon, stay overnight and then leave around noon the next day. Since the new normal, I have only seen them two times for a total of less hours than I could count on my fingers. Time looms before me as I have stayed confined. Time also seems compressed as a deadly virus forces me to reassess the length of my life and the lives of everyone on this planet.. The months, the weeks, the days, the hours tick by. They almost lose their meaning as I wait and wait for the familiar to return. Time has lost its shape, its structure.

by Salvador Dali

My son, daughter-in-law and grandkids came for a visit on July 5th, 12:00-4:00. Four short hours. So many smiles, so much joy and then they were gone.

I worried that I hadn’t done enough. This really bothered me. For the first time, I wrote my grandkids a letter hoping to fill in the blanks of what I felt I hadn’t conveyed in our short visit.

July 6, 2020
My dear sweethearts,

After you left, I looked at all the things you played with and made. I’m amazed how wonderful each one of is and I’m so proud of you.

R. (my 9 year old granddaughter), my creative storyteller, you looked at my new calendar and thought about the passage of time.

Your wonderful imagination took over and you created a world where time could be controlled . You drew it on paper as you explain it to me.

It was the beginning of a great adventure. That is what writers do. They observe and wonder what would happen if things were different. Sometimes they see the things no one else sees or understands and they open the world to new possibilities. Never be ashamed of you imagination. The world needs the wonderful excitement that shines through your stories.

C. (6 year old grandson), I think you saw the wonder I saw in the golden mushrooms on the tree that had worked so hard to stay alive as it rested on its side. New life is now forming on its dead form as a sign of hope, telling us that nothing in nature really dies.

I loved the way you, R., and K. enjoyed seeing the styles of different artists as we looked through that art book.

C., you jumped into creativity with those oil pastels. It takes bravery and strengthen to be an artist. A person has to let go of doubt and be free. Connor, your picture of the cat shows you have great courage. I think you know that nothing has to be perfect when you are doing art, that there is no right or wrong.

R., I see that strength in your drawings, too.

K. ( my grandson, five), I am impressed that you are so observant. I’m glad we got to look at the Da Vinci pop up book. Like you, he looked at everything, birds, the human body, everything!!! And then he invented things and built things. He never gave up or got frustrated because he knew he would always figure things out.

You are a builder, K.

You are brave when you have a problem. You look and look and find a solution. Your construction crew will look up to you for the answers. You will invent and build just like Da Vinci. I can’t wait to see the wonderful things that you will create.

My sweethearts, I love when you come to visit and I visit you. I watch as each one of you use your talents. I am so, so proud of you.

Love forever and always,

Babci (Polish for grandmother)

I mailed the letter and I worried and wondered like all grandmothers do. Did I make the most of each moment? Did I hug my grandkids enough? Do they realize just how much I love them? Did I teach them enough? Did I listen and encourage them enough? The world and the future are so uncertain. I hope for the best, that the world will heal because I have so much more I want to give to my dear sweethearts.

Copyright 2020 @theautonomoustraveler.com All rights reserved.

India-The Value of Education and Stubbornness

Education is of very great importance to me, followed by the quality of stubbornness. Like many families, my relatives don’t like to talk much about feelings. Dark secrets are buried and many tales are hidden away. As Yuval Noah Harari, writes in his book, Sapien, all cultures are based on stories and those in power decide which stories will dominate. But I have another viewpoint, that eventually the truth comes out. It leaks through holes of forgotten revelations and suddenly remembered events. These conjure up “ah-ha” moments, bursts of clarity when the mind declares “so that’s why things are the way they are”. One brain scientist stated the mind “remembers patterns not rules”. Thank goodness or we would all be living in a state of bewilderment. If we really listen and observe , we can finally see the inconsistencies in fantasies accepted as true. And if we look deeper yet, we can see the lasting influence that our past and heritage have on our lives.

I remember my grandfather, sitting in the kitchen of his house on Welch Avenue in Niagara Falls, NY. I was about four but I can still see the brown radio on a little wooden shelf way above his head and mine. It was always on when he was present, squawking Polish, his native lauguage, or playing happy Polkas He was always reading a newspaper, coming from who know where, written in the language of the “old country”.

It was years later that my cousin told me the legend of my grandfather and my grandmother. A story that has impacted me and will influence future generations in my family forever.

Before coming to this country before World War I, my grandfather was part of a prosperous family of doctors who expected him to pursue a career in medicine. My grandfather had other ideas, he wanted to marry my grandmother and be a duck farmer. His family was livid and ridiculed his decision by making fun of my grandmother who was illiterate. But she was extremely stubborn and would not allow herself to be shamed. She secretly slipped two duck eggs into her apron, sold them at the market in town, bought chalk and a small slate, and taught herself to read and write.

This spirit of perseverance and the belief that education was the key to a better life and a sense of pride was passed down to my mother who was unfortunately a victim of history. She never went passed the eighth grade because she worked during The Great Depression cleaning houses for a dollar a day. She later worked as a cafeteria lady and a cook but she had learned how important education was. By working hard and saving , my mom put aside enough money so my two sisters and I were able to go to college. She stubbornly rejected the advise of some family members who said education wasn’t important for girls. I owe so much to the strength and persistence of my grandmother and mother. Education was my golden ticket to a professional career as a teacher and now has provided me with the resources to travel. My education has also made me a curious lifelong learner, something I enjoy everyday

Of course, when I visited India I was interested in their education system. School attendance is compulsory for children ages six to fourteen. But I learned there are glaring discrepancies. Private school have more resources.

Public School

What is even more disturbing is the fact that about 60% of the Indian population lives in rural areas and according to a study in 2008, the absentee rate for teachers in rural schools was on average 48% each day.

And to make matters worse, as of 2018, 28% of schools (19% public schools) have internet, 9% have computers (4 % for public schools) and only 68% of all school have usable toilets.

Those who have enough money for a good education, mainly those who go to private schools and /or have additional funds for the services of tutors are more likely to get into one of India’s 900 universities or 40,000 colleges. This privileged group does very well as professionals in the fields of technology, information, medicine, engineering, management, and economics. They have great social mobility and are sought by corporations and businesses in the US.

There is hope. Progressive companies in India like Tata Consulting Services (TCS) runs the largest private digital education school for potential employees. 400,000 employable students are coached in data analytics, cloud computing, and the “internet of things.” The company also rotates 200,000 employees at a time in a program to continuously update their techs in 600,000 competencies. “Based on market demand or project specifics, education for workers is always immediately relevant”.

Aravind Eye Care System also trains its workers and is able to provide eye care for poor Indian citizens. They have gone a step further and opened a plant that manufactures intraocular lenses that cost one fourth of those imported from the US.

It’s heartbreaking to see the woundedness of India. The country needs a better education system but also upgrades in security, protection of property rights, health services, and infrastructure. Change is slow because of governmental corruption. Bribery and patronage are very common and widespread.

India needs a strong dose of stubbornness. The people have power in their numbers. Those who are poor and rural must rise from the shame of their situation. The light of justice must be focused on corruption so the government is more effect in serving all Indians. Also, the leaders in employee training need to be encouraged and recognized so their reforms can spread across all of India.

I owe so much to my grandmother who would not allow herself to be shamed. She had the strenghth and ingenuity to do something to better herself and I’m very proud of her stubborn determination. As she lived her story, she planted the seeds of power into the heart of her daughter, my mother. Because of my mom, my sisters and I were able to go to college. Now the grandchildren, and great grandchildren in my family believe in the importance of education also and this light will go on and on. We will all be stubborn and resilient in our resolve. Thank you so much, Mom. Thank you so much, Babci (the Polish word for grandmother)!