Back in 2016, Arizona grandma Wanda Dench and husband Lonnie sent out their annual invitation by text to family members in celebration of Thanksgiving, inviting them all for dinner.
The text read; “Thanksgiving dinner at my house on Nov. 24th at 3:00 p.m. Let me know if you’re coming. Hope to see you all. Of course that includes Amanda & Justin.”
However, unbeknown to Wanda, her text message was also sent by accident to 17 year old Jamal Hinton, who instantly knew that it couldn’t be his grandmother, because his grandma didn’t know how to send a text message.
When Hinton responded, “You’re not my grandma,” along with a laughing emoji. Wanda replied with a photo of herself to confirm if whether she was Hinton’s actual grandmother.
Hinton likewise, responded with a photo of himself, along with a playful request, asking Dench if he could stop over for dinner anyway. Without hesitation Dench replied; “Of course you can. That’s what grandmas do … feed everyone!”
That was 6-years ago, since their first exchange in 2016; both Dench and Hinton have enjoyed their annual Thanksgiving traditional dinner together. However this years Thanksgiving festivities was bittersweet, in that Wanda’s husband of 43 years had passed away in April from complications caused by COVID-19.
“I didn’t believe I would have to go home without him. Even when he was in the hospital, I thought he would get better and come back to me. He was my soulmate. He was my biggest cheerleader.”
“I wasn’t looking forward to it at first because Lonnie wasn’t going to be there. The past seven months have been so difficult, but this was really important to me,” Dench, 64, told CNN.
Hinton shared this year’s Thanksgiving photo on Twitter with the simple caption, “Thanksgiving 2021.” Beside the new image was a picture from 2019 in which Wanda’s husband Lonnie appears.
“I want to say thank you to all of the people that sent their blessings and their condolences and their well wishes for me,” Dench said in the video.
Adding; “It’s still going to take a lot of time…but when I get visits from these guys, it really perks me up.”
This year Hinton’s girlfriend and Dench’s daughter and grandson, joined in for Thanksgiving dinner. The small group decided to celebrate Thanksgiving on Friday so they could get tested for coronavirus before celebrating with their own families.
This is year 6❤️— Briana Whitney (@BrianaWhitney) November 25, 2021
Wanda & Jamal still celebrate Thanksgiving together after the mistaken 2016 text.
Today I sat down with them for a personal interview reflecting on the past, joy & loss, and what’s to come for the two of them.@Jamalhinton12 @wandadench https://t.co/rIF0s9a49T pic.twitter.com/BUPlzzqaG5
Dench lamented; “I can’t even explain how much joy I had, having good food with my favorite company. We laughed, we had a great time, and we reminisced about the past. It was so good for all of us.“
Hinton, 22, acknowledged that, “At first it was sad. We had a photo of Lonnie at the table with a candle lit, and we were all shaky in the beginning but it lasted five minutes before we were back to ourselves.”
Adding; “We just told jokes and stories and shared our memories of Lonnie, so it was amazing.”
Hinton recalls the first time he showed up on Dench’s doorstep, thinking to himself that he just weaseled a Thanksgiving dinner from a person he never actually met. He was worried there would be awkward silences or moments where he wouldn’t know what to say.
However, the moment they all met they quickly became dear friends.
“Whenever we met, we would spend four or five hours, just talking and talking. It was never awkward, Wanda and Lonnie became two close best friends to me,” Hinton lamented.
Hinton continued expressing his affection for his accidental grandma adding; “There’s nothing about her that is mean, or uncaring. It feels like I have told her my whole life story, and she always listens and shares her own story. She’s just the most loving person. She’s pretty much perfect.”