WASHINGTON — It was in 2016 that Jamal Hinton opened his phone to a text message, “Thanksgiving dinner is at my house at 3 p.m. Let me know if you’re coming”. Confused, he texted back:
“Who is this?”
The response: “Your grandma”
Pretty sure this in fact wasn’t his grandmother he asked for a picture, and his suspicion was confirmed when he received a selfie of the blonde hair, smiling faced Wanda Dench. Sending back his own shot, he let her know he wasn’t her grandson, but of course he had to ask, “Can I still get a plate though?”
Without missing a beat, Wanda texted back, “Of course you can. That's what grandmas do ... feed everyone."
Jamal got his plate, joining Wanda and her husband Lonnie for dinner, but he also got something else, family. A found family. As loving as any other. Jamal has joined his Grandma Wanda for Thanksgiving dinner every year since. Blending their lives and building memories.
Like many families this year, they were put to the test. In April, Lonnie died after contracting COVID-19. He and Wanda had been married 43 years. It was especially tough on her. Along with losing her husband she also contracted the virus, thankfully, beating it.
With the support of family, her grandsons and the community of people that have been following their story over the years, she’s been able get through some of the tougher days. But as we all know, holidays can have a way of bringing the out melancholy. Jamal, not wanting his Grandma Wanda to be alone, quarantined for two weeks so they could spend their fifth thanksgiving together. Thankful for a misplaced text message, each other, and missing what they’ve recently lost.
If this year has taught us anything, it’s how valuable family can be. The ones we’re born into and the ones we create.
This holiday season is going to be strained. Many of us unable to have a face-to-face meal with our people. If you choose to, remember Jamal, and the effort he put into keeping his family safe and healthy. Follow the CDC guidelines and recommendations. And remember Wanda, who opened her table and heart to a stranger. Why? Because that’s what grandmas do.