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NPR Arts & Life

A Grandmother's Poem Reassures Us With Humor And Grace

This year my grandfather turned 90 and my family planned to celebrate with a big birthday bash. It's not often that my whole family comes together, and I was excited. But then the coronavirus pandemic came. My grandparents isolated at home, the birthday party got canceled and a general anxiety about the health of the older generation exploded all over the world.

Working in the news, I'm regularly confronted with haunting stories, and wIth coronavirus pandemic coverage, it's been a constant deluge since March of dire imagery from the hard-hit places. But one day in April, I received an email from my grandmother — something a bit different.

It included a small photo of a carefully handwritten poem — with no explanation. I had to zoom in to read the slightly pixelated text. And what I found — a poem about my grandfather and his canceled party — brought a smile to my face. Seeing how people I worry about are confronting this worldwide phenomenon with love, grace and humor reassured me that despite the long road ahead, we will get through this. Until then, my grandfather will just have to stay 89.

Here is the poem, illustrated by LA Johnson.

Staying 89: Oh yes -it's fast coming -that special day -When Alfred turns 90, on the second of May.
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Then along came the "Virus" - and what a dismay - When IT made it quite clear IT was planning to stay!
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Alyson and Tom - at 6 ft will sing loud -To make up for the voice of the missing crowd.
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Daisy and Wilbur may bring some presents(For me to pick up - as they're not very pleasant!)
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Claire Harbage works at NPR as a Photo Editor. LA Johnson created the illustrations for this piece. And Patricia Harbage is a poet and grandmother.

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