“Guess what Grandma,” my oldest grandson said on a Zoom visit last night. “I’m stuck at home with the coronavirus, so I’m reading your book.”
Joel and I had thought we’d be together this week, that he’d come to Ohio from Illinois to spend spring break with me.
But instead of talking as we rode the bike path or grilled hamburgers or played ping pong, we met virtually.
“What’s really cool,” Joel said, “is that I was just learning about your time in my modern American history class.”
His teacher, Joel told me, had covered Sputnik and the polio vaccines and the Cuban Missile Crisis and Civil Rights. And just when school closed for the pandemic, they were talking about the Vietnam War.
“That was a bad time, Grandma,” Joel said, “a really bad time. And you lived in it.”
And, he continued with the hint of a snicker in his voice, “You lived during Flower Power, with the hippies.”
Joel wants to go back to school. Mr. Kauffman just talks to us, he said. He makes history alive and interesting. I want to hear more.
In my book 𝘠𝘰𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘚𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘰𝘭, Joel is at page 70, just ready to read about the afternoon my teacher Mr. Deaton dumped a stack of Orwell’s book 1984 on top of his cluttered desk. I still remember that afternoon—how Mr. Deaton raked his long hair out of his eyes and perched on the edge of his desk. He sat there in his leisure suit with bell bottom pants and no tie, regarding us for a moment like he was trying to decide what to say.
Mr. Deaton was, after all, about to introduce us to a new and troubling world, a dystopian novel that warns about what happens when times turn bad.
“What I like about reading your book,” Joel said, “is that it puts history into a story. I like to know what you were thinking and feeling.”
And what I like about Joel reading my book, is that, perhaps in some way, I can give him company for his journey.
I’m disappointed that Joel and I didn’t spend spring break eating dinner together every evening. But in a new dystopian kind of a way, we are spending spring break together.