I am creating an online journal during the Coronavirus social distancing so I can look back and remember how my thoughts and actions might change during this time. This is Day Four.
Tuesday, March 17
It’s the day I’ve been waiting for! I finally get to drive to Taylor University to pick up our son who is a freshman.
His college didn’t officially close for the semester. Instead, they are sending students home early for spring break, then doing e-learning until after Easter. They also suggested that students might want to pack up all of their belongings, just in case they don’t return during this school year.
I headed out at 6 a.m. to give me plenty of time to help him pack his room and help his friend who was going to ride with us. By 8 a.m., two hours into my four-hour drive, I had already had two cups of tea and a smoothie for breakfast, so I needed a bathroom break!
A day before, the governor of Illinois had ordered all restaurants to go to drive-thru only and had closed rest areas. I wasn’t sure what that would mean for restrooms or what the restrictions were in Indiana.
I pulled up to a McDonald’s and walked hopefully toward the door. I saw a sign instructing customers that the restaurant was now drive-thru only. I pulled the doors. They were locked.
I turned to see an older man walking toward the doors as well. I told him they were locked and asked for suggestions on finding a restroom. He looked like he was about 85 years old, with friendly eyes and a big smile.
He told me he comes to this McDonald’s every morning to spend time with his friends. As I got back in my minivan and he got back in his red pick-up truck, my heart ached for him. I wondered if he lived alone or if he had a wife at home. I thought about what his day would be like now, and for many weeks to come, stuck at home without his McDonald’s buddies.
I sat in my van and cried for a few minutes, realizing the impact this could have on people who are lonely or alone. I thought about my son and other college students who were having an amazing experience their first year away, and now were suddenly being told to pack up all of their belongings and head home.
When I got to Taylor, I headed into the student center and was immediately taken back by the sight. We’ve only been social distancing at home for a few days. But already, it was so strange to see so many people so close together, crowded around tables eating.
I thought about what a huge jolt it was going to be for these students in a few hours when they had to clear out of their college life and enter into the isolation we are just beginning to experience in our homes.
As I helped my son pack up his room, I realized the wisdom of closing colleges and universities. We stuffed unopened packages of Clorox wipes into his bags from when we dropped him off back in August. No offense to any 19-year-olds, but they aren’t exactly the most neat and clean group of people!
After seeing all of the young people gathered in the student center, the restrooms and the dorm rooms, I thought about how quickly a virus could spread among people living so close together. And once they were sick, who would care for them?
The longer I was there, the more anxious I got to leave.
It was sad seeing students saying good-bye. They gathered in circles for prayer. They were hugging each other in the hallways, not sure if or when they would be reunited. Parents were parked along the side of the street, trying to squeeze their suitcases and bags into their cars.
It was hard to make this transition with so little time to prepare mentally and emotionally for what was really happening.
At the same time, I was so thankful to get my child back. Once we were all together, it felt like we could really begin our self quarantine.