In January of 2020, we took Evan to an accepted student visit at Case Western Reserve. It included an orientation session, tours, and an overnight in the dorms. After the orientation, we watched as he walked away for his overnight. Ron and I looked at each other. We got a sense of what it would be like to leave him at college. We felt like it was the beginning of the end of his time at home.
That turned out not to be the case, as he decided to go to OSU, and he canceled his dorm contract to live at home last year since his classes were online. So much of the past eighteen months is a blur, working from home and avoiding anyone outside our circle. Every day was the same. There is a lot I don’t remember, or want to remember, about this time. But some things will stay with me.
Once school started, we adapted to the rhythm of Zoom life. I had check-in and check-out calls each day as well as meetings. The boys had Zoom schedules with quick breaks. Evan’s break was at 12:30. I would often sit down and eat lunch with him. He made toast a lot. At times, you would find us making scrambled eggs, or later, Instapot mac and cheese.
On weekends, especially Saturdays, we would often watch a movie. We went through a lot of them. Nomadland. One Night in Miami. Judas and the Black Messiah. Minari. Sound of Metal. Those were the good ones. We watched a few series, too. Dirty Money. Who Killed Malcolm X. Underground Railroad. Each time we sat down to eat lunch, each time we sat down to watch something together, each time I smelled his toast, I focused on his quiet presence. I was living on borrowed time. I was being given a gift, this extra time with him. I was savoring it because I knew it was coming to an end.
Obviously, it won’t be the first time we have adapted to separation. Kindergarten was a big one; I missed Evan terribly. Ron traveled half the time on business, and Evan was my best helper and companion. He had a dry, adult sense of humor even then. Knowing I was having a tough time with the transition, my neighbor Jill dispensed with all the “he’s a big boy now” lectures and just said, “It’s OK; you’ll still be close to him.” That was just what I needed to hear.
This summer after I returned to the office, we have gone days without seeing each other. I leave for work before he gets up, and I am in bed when he gets home from his job. And now we really are moving him into his dorm. I know he is ready to go, if for no other reason than so his mom will stop calling him most days between 10:30 and 11, saying “Hey, could you do me a favor and hang the laundry out?” or calling at five and asking him to turn on the oven or the Instapot. I know he is ready to be around people his own age. But I will be missing him any time I smell toast, scramble eggs or hang the laundry. I am thankful for this borrowed time, and I will still be close to him.