At first glance, they are just five rambunctious brothers doing what boys their ages do. They like bouncing on their trampoline, riding their scooters, tossing around a football and playing video games. One is particularly fond of reading. They are an especially tight-knit bunch.
There is Kingston, 10, the oldest; Kristian, 9; Kendall, 8; Kobe, 5, and the baby, Kassius, 4. All five boys live with their grandmother and grandfather, Betty and Curtis Hamilton, in a three-bedroom house in Eastman, Georgia. Curtis Hamilton holds the distinction of being the first Black National Guardsman in Eastman.
They have been reunited with their brother/mother’s oldest child, Camarian “Cam”, 14, who has been living there for the past three years. Each is unique yet bound together by a common emotional scar. They share a pain and a deep fear left by COVID-19.
“They panic a little when anyone gets sick,” Hamilton said. “When their uncle got COVID, they were distraught. They thought COVID was a death sentence for everyone.” To them, it is. It’s the reason Kingston asked his grandmother one day, “Did my dad get his shot? If he did, would he still be living?”
It was Aug. 8, 2021, when their father, Ken Williams, a manager for a fast food restaurant in Warner Robins, Georgia, was diagnosed with COVID-19. Their mother, Courtney Hamilton, had died three years earlier in an automobile accident in Perry, Georgia. She was 27. The couple had never married. Their relationship, family members said, was off-and-on. “It was a huge shock for all of us,” her sister 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 kids were living with Williams’ girlfriend when he was diagnosed. The children were quickly quarantined away from their father and kept out of school, though they didn’t know exactly why at the time, their grandmother said. Williams entered the hospital Aug. 20 in Warner Robins. Three days later, he was dead. He was 37.
With Williams’ death, his sons joined tens of thousands of children in the U.S. who have experienced the loss of one or both parents to COVID-19. According to the National Institute of Health, a child loses a parent or guardian in one of every four COVID-19 deaths, a devastating consequence that is affecting the lives of an estimated 140,000 children.
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.
“I’m loving every minute of it,” Hamilton said. “Having all of them in the house really gives me a good purpose for living. I never realized how much I stayed in the house and did nothing but watch TV. But with them here, there’s something to do constantly.”
The boys seem to like it too, according to “The Enforcer.” “I think it’s good [living with Granny],” Kingston said. “I like living down here. I like my new school. I like that most of my family lives here, and we get to 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 grandmother said that the boys put her on notice that they want vaccinations as soon as possible. “They want the shots,” she said. “They let me know that. They don’t have them yet, but as soon as I can find out where they can get them, I’ll get them.”
She has enrolled them in counseling. “Everybody grieves differently,” she said. “This is the first week. The counselor will meet them on a one-on-one basis. I wanted them to be able to talk and not be scared something is going to happen to me. I want them to be kids and not have to worry about things like that.”
Even on the days when the boys ask tough questions, like every time they hear anything on the news about COVID-19, or have the occasional nightmare, they appear to be at peace, their family said.
“All six of them 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 this is where they’ll be from now on.”
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