COMMENTARY: Hugs, grandmas and vaccinations

COMMENTARY: Hugs, grandmas and vaccinations

I was too busy working to worry about the knock at my front door a few weeks back. It’s usually a delivery driver or the mail carrier.

Then, I looked out the window and saw who it was.

“Grandma’s outside!” I called to the kids.

We all gathered around the door, excited for a rare and unexpected meeting. My mom entered the house and took a quick look around. Then she dramatically ripped off her mask.

“Surprise!” grandma shouted. “I’m fully vaccinated. We can have hugs now!”

We were coping. Now we’re hoping.

If your family is like mine, you worked hard to stay connected last year. It looked very different for our close bunch who are used to spending time together often.

My mom and dad—grandma and papa to the kids—live a few minutes away. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we would see them two or three times a week. Grandma would pick the kids up from school and take them to sports and other activities.

We all did our best to cope the last year. Drive-by birthdays. Virtual happy hours. Anything at all to share time with the people we love.  But now, that coping is turning to hoping.

My mom’s dramatic gesture was a shock at first. I don’t think any of us knew quite what to do, but soon we all ran toward her for the first group hug in more than a year.

My son Mack took off his mask and smiled. Grandma almost fell over when she saw the gap where his front teeth used to be. He was the only one allowed to hug her for the past year, and even then just her leg. Grandma reached down again and squeezed him tight for a proper hug around his chest. Mack giggled and grandma laughed.

My daughter Mia went in for another hug, too, and held on tight.

We all posed for a picture. Our smiles beamed. Then we hugged and laughed some more.

For the first time in a long time, we all felt hopeful.

You can find the path to vaccination that works best for you. Once you do, you’ll want to return to normal life as quickly as possible. But we still need to be cautious.

Before her surprise visit, grandma waited two weeks after her second shot to make sure she was fully vaccinated. And she still wears a mask in public and keeps a safe distance from others. Our case rate per 100,000 residents is creeping up again, and she wants to do her part. But she’s comfortable getting out of the house. Tasks like grocery shopping and trips to the doctor are no longer cause for worry. She walks in the park more.

She’s excited to drive Mack and Mia to practices and events again. She’s looking forward to museums reopening soon.

Papa is vaccinated now, too, and planning a family barbecue.

Everyone deserves fair access to vaccine—and hope. We need to vaccinate everyone who is eligible as soon as possible. But it’s especially important to reach Black, Latinx, and other marginalized communities. The data shows many in these communities suffer more from COVID-19. They’re also getting vaccinated at lower rates than our white residents.

Smiles, hugs, and hope are on the way. Help bring smiles and hugs to even more residents when you get vaccinated when it’s your turn. And everyone 16 and up became eligible April 15. Show your love for the grandmas and grandpas and everyone in your life when you get vaccinated.

COVID-19 is our pathway to community immunity—and more mask-free living in the future. We’ll get through this together. Learn when and where you can get your vaccine at


Leah Forde and her family have the smiles that COVID vaccinations create.