Terry Blevins misses evenings spent with her great-grandchildren.

And they miss her, too. But they also miss someone else: George, Blevins’ conure parrot, who loves to talk with the grandkids and answer their questions.

Terry and George

George, a 22-year-old conure parrot, "has a big vocabulary. He talks a lot,” Blevins said. “I’d pick up my keys to go to work and he’d say, ‘Be a good boy, be a good boy, I’ll be back.’ "

“If he sees them coming, he’s all excited,” Blevins said, laughing. “He’ll come down on his stick where they can see each other closer.”

When COVID-19 cases first surfaced in Texas, experts advised families to be extra cautious around grandparents. Stay-at-home orders imposed at the end of March later mandated those recommendations, prohibiting families from spending time with anyone outside of their immediate households.

Although these steps were necessary to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, it also has meant a painful separation from grandparents and their grandchildren.

But Blevins substituted those in-person visits with regular video calls with her grandkids, and with George, of course. Now, instead of getting excited when Blevins’ 3-year-old and 18-month old great-grandchildren come for a visit, he perks up when Blevins calls her family members via a video call.

“It’s fun to see them get excited, and it’s fun to see George get excited,” Blevins said. “I know he’s been missing all the interaction.”

On Mother’s Day, Blevins will be celebrated by her 13 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Inez mom records songs to stay in touch with family

Like Blevins, Diana Slavik, of Inez, uses technology to connect with her daughters and her grandchildren. Slavik has 11 grandchildren, who range in age from 2 to 24 years old.

To stay connected with them, Slavik recorded videos of herself playing the piano while singing some of her favorite songs.

Slavik recorded versions of some of her favorite church hymns, songs from her childhood, and even popular favorites updated with lyrics fit for a pandemic. For her younger grandchildren, Slavik recorded a version of the catchy children’s song “Baby Shark” with new lyrics.

“When I did ‘Baby Shark,’ I wrote them different words. It was like ‘Wash your hands doo doo, doo doo doo doo, help your mom, doo doo, doo doo doo doo,’ ” she said laughing.

Music has always been an important part of Slavik’s life, since she first learned to play the piano as a child.

After she retired from a career with the Victoria school district, Slavik has sung and played the piano for church services. And during the pandemic, music has taken on a particularly important role for Slavik, allowing her to connect with her loved ones during a difficult time.

“It’s the way that God speaks to me, is through music,” she said. “For me, music is healing and helps me get it out and feel positive after that.”

Ciara McCarthy covers public health for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can reach her at cmccarthy@vicad.com or at 580-6597 or on Twitter at @mccarthy_ciara. To support local journalism at the Advocate through Report for America, go to VictoriaAdvocate.com/report.

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Health Reporter

Ciara McCarthy covers public health and health care for the Advocate as a Report for America corps member. Questions, tips, or ideas? Please get in touch: cmccarthy@vicad.com or call 361-580-6597.

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