Arizona grandmother Wanda Dench will spend Thanksgiving with Jamal Hinton for the sixth consecutive year. Jamal Hinton is a young man she received by text and mistakenly assumed she was talking to her grandson.
Hinton, at the time, was an unknown person, sitting in his high-school classrom.
She will also sit at the holiday dinner table for the second time in a row with an empty chair to signify the seat that Lonnie, her beloved husband, occupied when he died in April 2020 from COVID.
The inspiring relationship between Wanda and Jamal began in 2016, when her wrong-way text made her an internet star.
Dench thought she was sending a Thanksgiving invite to her grandson, but the teen who received it didn’t know her from Adam.
Jamal, then a 17-year-old high school senior, was in class when the invitation showed up on his cellphone. He didn’t recognize the phone number, so he wrote back asking who sent it.
“Your grandma,”Dench responded. “Grandma?”Hinton responded. “Can I have a picture?”
That’s strange, Dench thought. She took a selfie at her desk and texted it.
Here is where things get very funny.
“You not my grandma,”Hinton stated. “Can I still get a plate tho?”
Dench was embarrassed by her error, but she quickly recovered.
“Of course you can,”She replied. “That’s what grandmas do … feed everyone.”
Dench can be described as white. Hinton is Black.
The teen took screenshots of the conversation and uploaded them to Twitter. They were retweeted more then 150,000 times.
Dench didn’t know Hinton had posted their exchange online.
Her phone went black. She received 600 text messages in a matter days. There were also dozens of voicemails. Her phone number was shown in the screen shot.
She had to change her number.
Hinton and Hinton have always celebrated Thanksgiving with Dench, his girlfriend, and their family ever since. Even last year when Dench wasn’t feeling like celebrating, he still celebrated. Her husband, who had died from coronavirus complications the spring before, was also killed.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” Dench, now 64, recently told Inside Edition Digital. “I knew it was going to be tough with COVID, social distancing, quarantines, masks. Jamal and i were talking about it.”
They decided to keep it small. “It was just five of us. My daughter put my husband’s picture on the table with a candle,”The group celebrated with absent and present friends.
Dench is going all-out this year. For 12 people, she’ll be cooking a turkey, a green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, and a ham.
Hinton of course will be there, along with his girlfriend, Mikaela. Dench explained that Hinton, now 21 years old, is a successful water-softener salesman. He is a fine youngster, and Dench said that he is proud to be a grandmother.
She believes this year’s holiday gathering is going to be bittersweet.
“We were married 42 years. he was definitely my soul mate,”She stated. Last year “was emotional for me, but I know he was there in spirit. He just loved all the news media attention Jamal and I got,”She said.
“I miss him everyday. I tell him I love him every day. I wish he was here to be part of it. I know he is around me all the time, so I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and moving forward,”Dench stated.
Hinton unexpectedly entered her life and brought joy to her and her husband.
“To meet someone as special as he is, the friendship we have developed, is priceless,”She said.
Hinton “mature for his age. He’s very caring and attentive to people,” Dench explained.
“I used to wear a lot of pink. One year, he bought me a pink sweatshirt and I said, ‘How did you know about the pink?’ And he said, ‘You wear it all the time, and you always seem to brighten up when you wear it.'”
Dench claimed that they were close friends despite the generation gap between Hinton and her, as well as Hinton’s girlfriend.
“They changed my life. I’m just in awe over them,”She said. “I don’t have anything to worry about with this generation. They’re going to be just fine.”
She may be a little different for Thanksgiving 2022.
“I’m going to push Jamal to have it next time,”She said it laughing.