Editorial: The pandemic reminds us of the importance of grandparents

  • A Pennsylvania couple talk to a 98-year-old grandmother isolated in her fourth-floor bedroom at a Scranton nursing home earlier this summer.

    A Pennsylvania couple talk to a 98-year-old grandmother isolated in her fourth-floor bedroom at a Scranton nursing home earlier this summer. Associated Press File Photo

Posted9/9/2020 1:00 AM

Of all the phrases that sprung up in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, one seemed more heartbreaking than many others: the hashtag #dontkillgrandma.

Used to urge people to stay home, the message emphasized how the coronavirus posed a more serious risk to older patients and how even mild cases among the young can have deadly repercussions.


But that bold, blunt hashtag also served as a reminder that grandparents are a gift -- one that should never be taken for granted.

Flash forward a few months, and worry for our most vulnerable family members continues. Spending time with grandparents has never seemed so fraught, so complicated -- and so important.

This Sunday is Grandparents Day. And no, it's not just a Hallmark holiday.

President Jimmy Carter signed National Grandparents Day into law in 1978, and it was celebrated for the first time the following year.

Grandparents Day, which falls on the Sunday after Labor Day, has never achieved the prominence of Mother's Day or Father's Day, but it's still a nice way to honor the impact a loving grandma and supportive grandpa can have on a child's life, especially during these challenging times.

On Monday, reporter Katlyn Smith shared the stories of grandparents who are helping their grandkids with e-learning while parents work.

Connie Landwehr, a retired teacher from Arlington Heights, is among them. A few days a week, she helps her grandson with virtual classroom work at her kitchen table.

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"Hopefully, he and I will develop even a better relationship, and we'll get through it together," Landwehr said.

And during the pandemic, caring gestures go both ways.

Families have stood outside nursing homes and waved through windows when in-person visits were banned. They've celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and holidays as safely as they can online or with socially distant drive-by parades.

Grown children and grandchildren have run errands to keep vulnerable grandparents out of crowded grocery stores, and they've offered patient tech help so Nana can shop online, chat with family members on Zoom or discover the joys of binge-watching "The Crown" on Netflix.

Some families gather regularly in person; others try to minimize the risk with well-spaced outdoor gatherings. Still others -- for health reasons or travel restrictions -- can connect only through phone calls or emails.

Through it all, we look forward to the day when time with Grandma and Grandpa is anything but socially distant.

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