by Sue Ann Rybak
Chestnut Hill resident Kara Maletta-Howe, 36, said her family was already practicing social distancing to keep her mother Linda Maletta healthy in the safety of her Oreland home during the coronavirus pandemic. So when Mayor Jim Kenney announced a stay-at-home order for all city residents on Sunday afternoon, March 22, she said, “the first thing that came to my mind was that it would be the last chance to visit my mom for a while.”
“My sisters, Gina, Liza, and I have 12 kids between the three of us and they all are very close to our mother, Linda Maletta, whom they call Grams,” she said. “Our mom is 69 years old, so we know how important it is to do our part in keeping her healthy during the Coronavirus Pandemic.”
Maletta-Howe, whose husband is a Philadelphia Police Officer, said in addition to being “housebound” due to COVID-19, her mother has been at home recovering from knee surgery a few weeks ago.
“We were already keeping our distance from her but were still dropping by to bring groceries and have short, outdoor visits,” she said.
Sunday night around 5 p.m., Maletta-Howe, the mother of three children, sent a text to her three sisters suggesting they drive by their mother’s house with signs and posters.
Maletta-Howe described what happened next:
“I wanted the kids to yell and wave out the car windows as we processed by her house,” she said. “I thought it was important for her to know that she wasn’t forgotten.
“By 6:15 p.m., the three of us arrived at an empty parking lot by her house in Oreland to quickly discuss our plan. My mom had no idea as we wanted to surprise her. My brother-in-law, Brian [Sannicandro] and I snuck down my mom’s street, so we could record the parade as well as her reaction. I called my mom and told her that I had left groceries at the door.
“Then, I quickly rushed her off the phone, so I could begin recording. As she opened her front door the three cars drove in circles around her cul-de-sac. All the kids waved and held their signs out the windows. The horns were beeped and my sister, Liza played ‘It’s a Small World’ from her car. We have a big family Disney trip coming up that we are all hoping we don’t have to reschedule.
“My mom watched in tears as she waved back. Many of the kids cried too. I think it was really a bittersweet moment for my mom. She was so happy to see everyone and touched by the gesture but not being able to hold or hug her grandchildren has been unbearable.
“Everyone is doing their best to navigate through this uncharted territory, but I can’t imagine doing it alone. Our dad, Anthony Maletta died in 2005. We all usually see my mom several times a week for morning coffee, school pickups, family get together etc., so even a week or two apart feels like a lifetime. The group text messages, FaceTime calls, and drive-by visits to my mom’s house help us all to cope but it doesn’t seem good enough for a family as close as ours.”
Maletta-Howe said “It’s hard to tell your four-year-old daughter ‘No, you can’t go near Grams,’ when all she wants to do is give her a hug.”
She said it breaks her heart to see her daughter crying because she wants to give her grandmother a hug and isn’t allowed.
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