Newman essay photo

HP Staff Writer Alexandra Newman, center, is pictured with her grandparents, Priscilla and Stoney Newman.

Many a Michigander spends most of their time avoiding, or at least trash talking, Ohio.

But this year, it’s been the only place I’ve wanted to be.

When I moved to Michigan in 2017, it was worth being just 4.5 hours away from my family – until the coronavirus pandemic.

I would visit about four times a year; sometimes for holidays, sometimes for graduations or baby showers, but always to give my grandma and grandpa hugs.

I was terrified when it started to be known that COVID-19 was disproportionately affecting older people. What if this virus took the most important people from me and I can’t be there?

This story became so common. I thought it was just a matter of time before someone killed my grandparents with their carelessness.

Grandma and Grandpa (my dad’s parents, Priscilla and Stoney) were my free child care for the first three years of my life, and I lived just 20 minutes away from them until I went to college.

Their little farmhouse near an airport west of Dayton is a place I could probably find if I lost my memory. Their phone number is the first one I memorized and always one of the first ones I call after good news.

My grandpa, 92, ended up in the hospital in August for something non-COVID related, but I thought we were losing him. I was convinced. I called and talked to him for a few minutes and he sounded so frail. I warned my sisters to get in calls too, before it was too late.

Grandpa was back home later that week, but I knew I needed to do whatever it took to visit.

I started planning when would work to quarantine for two weeks and get tested for COVID. I started coordinating with my mom, and it fell into place in October.

I was able to safely spend Grandma’s 80th birthday with her and Grandpa.

We didn’t do much but eat cake and watch “Jeopardy,” but I am so thankful that in the midst of so much sadness and fear, I got to spend time with my two favorite people.

There was still some risk, but it feels like so little when you can say you did absolutely everything you could to keep each other safe.

Grandpa was sad I couldn’t spend the night, so I owe him a sleepover party once we’re all vaccinated.

My heart aches for those who lost their grandparents this year. I count my blessings in Ohio every single day.

Alexandra Newman is a staff writer at The Herald-Palladium.