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COMMENT: An extraordinary life, linking past and present

Black and brown families have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic. So have their children. According to the National Institutes of Health, tens of thousands of children have lost at least one parent or caregiver to COVID-19. Half of them are black or brown. This is part of a three-part series that examines how their lives have changed.

By Ahnayah Hughes, Howard University Press Office

At first glance, they’re just five rambunctious brothers doing what boys their age do.

They enjoy bouncing on their trampoline, riding scooters, throwing a soccer ball and playing video games. We especially love reading.

They form a particularly tight-knit group.

There’s 10-year-old Kingston, the eldest, whom their grandmother, Betty Hamilton, nicknamed “The Enforcer.” He makes sure the younger ones take their baths and say their nightly prayers, she said.

“He’s like a little relative,” said Hamilton, 65, who retired on disability nine years ago after serving 18 years at Pulaski State Prison, the women’s prison in Hawkinsville, Pennsylvania. Georgia.

Kristian, 9, has his own description of his brother.

“Sometimes he can be a bit overbearing,” he said.

Kristian is an avid reader. He loves adventure books, draws cartoons, and quickly takes the Minecraft series to the next level.

“If the others are outside, he’s somewhere inside with his nose in a book,” Hamilton said.

Kendall, 8, has autism and needs it that way, her grandmother said.

“He’s very independent and wants to take his time to figure things out on his own,” she said. “He has to do it on his own, in his own way, and he always gets it.”

Kobe, 5, is extremely smart, and he’ll let you know it, said his aunt, Carla Hamilton, 42, a registered nurse in Snellville, Georgia, 32 miles southeast of Atlanta by car. Their mother was his younger sister and only brother.

“I had to tell him to stop calling people idiots!” she says.

And then there is the baby, Kassius, 4 years old.

“I call him Cassius Clay,” his grandmother said, alluding to boxing icon Muhammad Ali’s birth name. “He’s rough and tough. He is always ready to fight and do whatever he wants.

The five boys live with her in a three-bedroom house in Eastman, Georgia, with their grandmother and grandfather, Curtis Hamilton. Curtis Hamilton who holds the distinction of being the first black National Guardsman at Eastman.

They found the eldest of their brother and their mother, Camarian, 14, who has lived there for three years.

Each is unique but bound by a common emotional scar. They share deep pain and fear left over from COVID-19.

The signs are subtle, says their grandmother. For example, if one of them catches a cold or sniffles, they rush to tell her, so she can immediately take preventive measures, or they will ask her for medicine, she said.

“They freak out a bit when someone gets sick,” Hamilton said. “When their uncle got COVID, they were upset. They thought COVID was a death sentence for everyone.

For them, it is.

That’s why Kingston once asked his grandmother, “Has my dad been vaccinated?” If he did, would he still be alive?

It was August 8, 2021, when their father, Ken Williams, a fast-food restaurant manager in Warner Robbins, Georgia, was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Their mother, Courtney Hamilton, had died three years earlier in a car accident in Perry, Georgia. She was 27 years old.

“It was a huge shock to all of us,” Carla said of her death. “You always think you have to be strong for the kids, but really, they were so strong for us.”

The couple had never married. Their relationship, family members said, was on and off.

After their mother died, their grandmother and Aunt Carla moved in temporarily to help care for them.

They were together for five months until the father moved with the boys and continued to move, five times in three years, the family said. Sometimes the boys stayed with relatives, sometimes with his girlfriend.

Still, their father set the rules and the tone, the family said. He was their main caregiver, but more than anything he was their father, a man who was constantly in their lives.

The children were living with Williams’ girlfriend when he was diagnosed. The children were quickly quarantined away from their father and kicked out of school, although they weren’t sure why at the time, their grandmother said.

Williams entered the hospital Aug. 20 at Warner-Robbins. Three days later he was dead. He was 37 years old.

“They were devastated,” their grandmother said. “For the last three years he was the only supplier for them.”

The next time the five saw their father, he was at his wake before his cremation. He was in a coffin next to another coffin which contained his 57-year-old father, Kenneth Williams, who died a day earlier of unrelated causes.

With Williams’ death, her sons have joined tens of thousands of children across the United States who have lost one or both parents to COVID-19. According to a new modeling study published in Pediatricsa child loses a parent or guardian in one in four deaths from COVID-19, a devastating consequence affecting the lives of approximately 140,000 children.

After their father’s death, their grandmother and aunt rushed to collect all the paperwork for the children – school, medical and birth records – and the boys moved into Carla Hamilton’s four-bedroom house with her children. five children in Snellville.

Kingston, 10, right, and his aunt, Carla Hamilton, became even closer after the death of his mother, Hamilton’s younger sister and only brother, in a car accident in 2018, and the death of his father of COVID-19 in August. Hamilton took in Kingston and his brother after their father died before moving to live with their grandmother in Eastman, Georgia. Photo courtesy of the Hamilton family.

The landlord, however, said their presence was a breach of Hamilton’s lease. The children were forced to move again, this time with their grandmother, who had been babysitting Camarian Hamilton, since her mother’s death.

These days, the four oldest boys are enrolled in South Dodge Elementary School and Kassius is in pre-kindergarten, his grandmother said. Camarian attends Dodge County High School.

To have the responsibility of caring for and feeding five boys thrust upon them at the age when most people retire would be seen as a burden by many, but not by the boys’ grandmother.

“I love every minute,” Hamilton said. “Having them all in the house really gives me a good sense of life. I never realized how much I stayed in the house and just watched TV. But with them here, there is always something to do.

The boys seem to like it too, according to “The Enforcer.”

“I think this is good [living with Granny]”, Kingston said. “I love living here. I love my new school. I love that most of my family lives here and we can see Cam and our cousins.

“I do my chores. I help my grandma and Pop Pop. I help with Kassius and Kobe. I just like being helpful.

Their aunt said she saw a change in the five.

“There’s a sense of relief,” she said. “They are settled. They are calm. They’re finally stable and they know they’re not going anywhere.

Outwardly, the boys seem fine, said Betty Hamilton. She noticed, however, that they don’t talk much about their parents unless it’s between themselves.

Their grandmother said the boys had told her they wanted to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

“They want the hits,” she said. “They let me know. They don’t have them yet, but as soon as I know where they can get them, I will get them.

She signed them up for consultation.

“Everyone cries differently,” she said. “It’s the first week. The counselor will meet with them individually. I wanted them to be able to talk and not be afraid of something happening to me.

“I want them to be kids and not have to worry about that stuff.”

Every year on their mother’s birthday, the boys release six purple balloons – her favorite color – at her grave in Chauncey, Georgia, 15 miles from their home, their grandmother said. This year, a month after Williams passed away, the boys asked if they could get six red balloons in his honor and release them all together.

While chatting with each other, Kingston said, “Well, my mom got a big birthday present today!”

We asked him if he was talking about balloons.

“No,” he said. “I’m talking about my father. They are together in heaven.

Even on days when the boys ask tough questions, like every time they hear something on the news about COVID-19, or have the occasional nightmare, they seem to be at peace, their family said.

“All six are together again, and I think that’s how my daughter and Ken would have liked it,” their grandmother said. “I think they’re happy because they know that’s where they’ll be now.”

The Brothers Lean post on “Granny”, Aunt, One Another After Covid-19 Loss first appeared on BlackPressUSA.