Three days shy of the two-month date of confirmation of the first case of COVID-19 in The Bahamas, and even though he’s currently not working, one father has found the “silver lining” to the curfews and lockdowns. For Elijah Bowe, as the world battles to contain the spread of the global public health pandemic, it’s all about the quality time he has with his 17-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn.
“I’m taking away all the positive parts about this whole pandemic. We’re together every single day. I haven’t spent this much time with my child since she was an infant,” said Bowe.
“I’m just taking advantage of the fact that I don’t have to go places or to work. You’re forced to stay home, so I’m getting to learn more about her that I didn’t know. A lot of things we do are centered around food.”
Bowe, a chef at a high-end restaurant, said his daughter has always expressed an interest in culinary arts, but over the course of the last two months, he said, he has gotten to learn more about what she’s passionate about. And he’s found she’s better than he thought she was.
“She had an assignment to make something with yeast and she made a cinnamon roll and for me, it was on par with any bakery or anything I could do. It was so good,” said the savory chef.
Since then, he’s gone grocery shopping and Kaitlyn has asked him to bring snacks, but thinking about what he saw her do, he told her no and to bake her own cookies. She made her favorite – chocolate chip. She’s kept the house filled with treats, whipping up cupcakes and brownies at a whim. Her dad has taken to sharing her goodies with her biggest fan, her grandmother Yvonne Clarke, and neighbors to ensure that neither he nor his daughter overindulge.
During this coronavirus downtime, he’s also learning there are foods his daughter does not care for, which took him by surprise.
“I’m learning her palate is a lot more sophisticated than I thought. But then we eat a lot of high-end food because I take her to the restaurant with me and she has a good knowledge of food.”
Bowe said this experience is giving them the opportunity to chart the way forward in terms of her career. Kaitlyn plans to pursue studies in culinary arts upon graduation from high school.
The father and daughter take advantage of their time at home to cook together. They also take all of their meals together, something he said was impossible prior to non-essential businesses being forced to shutter, due to his chef’s responsibility at a high-end restaurant, as well as Kaitlyn’s high school schedule and activities.
“I work, and she has to go to school, so we don’t often sit down together and eat, but now, every day we sit down and eat together, watch TV and clean the house. It’s a bad situation but you have to find the good in it.”
And it’s just father and daughter. His wife, Melanie, and Kaitlyn’s mom died five years ago next month.
“We have to try to find the silver lining in all of this, because we ain’t really got no control over it. But I take this opportunity to go in the yard, sit under the tree and do absolutely nothing. We were always close, but this has brought us closer together.”
One thing he said people would find surprising is that Bowe enjoys whiling away the time under the mango tree in his yard. From time-to-time he picks a fruit to enjoy as he just sits. Rather than being engrossed in electronics all day when not doing her virtual school lessons, Kaitlyn sometimes joins him under the mango tree and they enjoy the fruits together.
“And now me and her pick our mangoes off the tree, and it reminds me of when I was a child [growing up in West End, Grand Bahama,] so it makes me feel good,” said Bowe.
Just as he’s enjoying this time with his daughter, Kaitlyn said she enjoys the time she’s getting to just be with her dad as well.
“I like it a lot, because usually he’s at work. This means I get to spend more time with him,” she said.
And just like her dad is learning new things about her, she said she’s also learning surprising things about her dad.
“I’ve learnt he loves to eat mangoes – a lot. And he’s just a lot of fun to be around,” she said.
“I’m just taking advantage of this situation that we’re home together because I don’t know if or whenever we’re going to have this much time together on a regular basis,” said the single dad. “We kind of getting through this together.”
The father and daughter also find themselves with the time to engage in discussions about plans for Kaitlyn going off to college. While her dad is making plans for her, Kaitlyn is also making plans for her dad, and is preparing him to have a dog move into the house to keep his company when she’s away.
Even though his daughter is at work with him after school lets out, he’s usually busy in the kitchen and doesn’t have the time to help with schoolwork as he would like. Bowe said during this downtime he now has the time to help Kaitlyn. But he also said he has a great support team to step in when things get over his head. His sister Tanya Bowe-Wildgoose, friend Michelle Griffin and sister-in-law Gayle Bowe are all teachers.
“At the beginning of all of this, I sent them a text and reminded them that they were on call,” he said.
The single dad said he not only used the time to connect more with his daughter, but to get closer to God as well and become more spiritual. He said things can change very rapidly and people can find themselves in a bad situation. He said the country is in a bad situation currently.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis in his national address on Sunday said unemployment is expected to soar to a staggering 30 percent in the near term as 25,000 people have either been laid off of have lost their income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even when they say we’re out of the woods we still have a lot of recovery to do. I’m in the hospitality industry, not to mention I work in a high-end restaurant,” he said.
Bowe, the executive chef at Graycliff Restaurant, described the time he’s had to spend exclusively with his daughter and not have to go to work as “paradise” – but at the same token he said when it’s time to go back to work he will be first in line.
“I just miss working period, I can surely say.”
The Bahamas had 93 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths, 39 recovered cases, six hospitalized cases, 43 active cases and had completed 1,653 tests yesterday.
Worldwide there were 4,247,709 confirmed cases and 290,838 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard.