My grandfather is Tomás Palomo. He’s 90 years old and lives in Eagle Pass, Texas. I call him Guelo.
These days, he spends his afternoons alone in his home listening to his favorite songs. Later in the day, my aunt – his youngest daughter – will go straight from her job as a clerk at the local grocery store to pick him up and take him to her own home for the rest of the night. She’s the only one of Guelo’s five children who also lives in Eagle Pass.
Ever since my grandma died nearly five years ago, the rest of our family has taken turns rotating every weekend to see him. But this came to an abrupt end when the pandemic began.
He told me, in Spanish, he has felt alone:
“Because all of my family can’t visit me anymore and I can’t go out either for the same reasons. I hope that this all passes as soon as possible so we can get together the way we used to.”
Because of worries for his safety, my Guelo also stopped attending his activity center — something he loved and looked forward to everyday.
My aunt María Magdalena Carreón, or Nena as I call her, has been my Guelo’s primary caregiver. She says it’s been difficult — but was especially hard at the beginning of quarantine.
“After he stopped going to the center, I started to feel more and more pressure,” she told me. “At first I had anxiety attacks because it was like, ‘Okay I still have to work and if I get COVID-19 at work, I’m gonna give it to my dad.'”
My Guelo has also struggled with his new dependence on my Nena:
“It’s not the same feeling being in someone else’s home as being in your own, even if I’m staying with someone in the family. Still, it’s a blessing and thank God I have such great kids that help take care of me.”
Though the rest of us are far away, we all still try to stay connected through weekly FaceTime calls. Nena says this makes all the difference:
“On weekends, he goes outside with my husband and they cook their carne asada and when everyone starts to FaceTime him and he gets the calls, his face completely changes.”
We’ve celebrated birthdays and holidays over FaceTime. My Guelo hasn’t been able to hold his newborn great grandchild yet – but he’s seen him through the phone:
“I have a framed photo and they always show him to me on the phone so that I can see him whenever I want. Even if it’s just a photo of him, I still love to see it because I haven’t been able to meet him in person.”
Although our family has looked a little different since the start of COVID-19, we’ve never lost focus on our main goal: to keep my Guelo healthy and happy for as long as we possibly can.