I’ve worked from home for most of my life. My office is in the basement at the bottom of the stairs. Aubrey’s is next to it on the way to the storage room where I keep my chocolate. As an unrecovered cocoa addict my path to a chocolate fix carries me past my daughter’s bedroom door. I would look in and say hi and share some chocolate. Alyssa’s room sits to the other side of the stairs. I would open her door which is always louder than it should be and scare her to death. Then I’d say hi and throw her a piece of chocolate.
Back to work I would go and the days and weeks and years passed and my daughters grew into young women. They became budding filmmakers and won every award their senior year of high school. On that high moment they were to graduate, go to college and move into life. A month later the world sank into a global pandemic. Schools were cancelled. Trips were cancelled. Our family visit to Disney World never happened and we all collectively sat at home.
Through the summer I would walk by Aubrey’s door and say hi and pass out chocolate. Then I’d walk over to see Alyssa to share. Without fail my interruptions would startle and probably annoy but I liked to see my daughters.
Autumn came and schools rightfully fearful of a virus that continued to harm our friends and family around the world cancelled in person classes and education moved online. The freshman sons and daughters of our friends gradually moved back home as dorms became quarantine centers when roommates tested positive.
Worried about the possibility of infection and with classes online, our family never bothered to seek out student housing and Aubrey and Alyssa never moved out. Their freshman year at Utah State was spent in the basement on computers. Not knowing what to be worried about, we limited contact with family. Interaction with friends was limited to FaceTime and Instagram chat. Our family Christmas party in 2020 was held outside in my sister’s backyard with masks.
My daughters’ Freshman year was taken from them by Coronavirus. They would sit in their rooms and take online classes and do homework. I contrast that with my freshman year at Utah State which was filled with social interactions and a new world out on my own. I met my wife that year. I made new friends. They wouldn’t meet their professors or sit in giant auditoriums filled with bored students listening to a bored professor. They wouldn’t go to the Howl or cross the quad on the way to class. It’s a bit heart breaking. They won’t know to miss it because it wasn’t an experience they would have.
I would walk past Aubrey’s room to get chocolate then pass by and share some with her. I would visit Alyssa, always scare her and share some with her. The weeks became months and then came the summer of 2021. Everyone except Brennan was vaccinated and we felt a bit more free to resume a normal life whatever that means anymore. In June I was hiking with a buddy who told me he was thinking of selling his house in Logan. It’s right next to Utah State University. I couldn’t have been more lucky. USU would be opening back up in the Fall and Aubrey and Alyssa needed a place to live. I bought it before it hit the market. Inspired by HGTV we spent the later part of the summer ripping out carpet and baseboards and then painting and stressing over whether the flooring would be ready. Working kept my mind off the countdown timer that started ticking away in the back of my mind every time one of our children was born. It’s the countdown every parent ignores when their children are young, you forget about it through high school during the disagreements and late nights of homework. The clock has years on it, then it has months, then weeks, then days, then you find yourself emptying your child’s room into a truck or van or car and as they drive away the number silently drops to 0. Their childhood, their young adulthood, their time at home in the room next to your office is done.
I’ve heard plenty about what the pandemic took from everyone. There’s the loss of travel experiences, the loss of in person school opportunities. For some it’s been a tragic loss of a loved one taken too soon by a tiny, indifferent strand of RNA. We’ve lost out on plenty but I’ll never take for granted the extra year I got to walk past Aubrey’s room to share some chocolate and then to scare Alyssa and do the same.
I can’t complain. My daughter’s live in a house right by Utah State University just 4 miles from our home. We can see them anytime. I’m in Las Vegas this weekend with my Aubrey, Alyssa, Jenna and their friends. Yesterday we wandered around the mob museum, visited Bauman Rare Books and got cookies at Honolulu cookie. We spent the evening with thousands of other screaming young ladies listening to Harry Styles first concert for Love on Tour at the MGM Grand. As I write this I’m sitting here waiting for my daughters and their friends to finish getting ready so we can leave Las Vegas and head home. I still get time with my girls.
Now we’ll head home. I’ll take them home. Not to my home but to their home. The next day I’ll work. I’ll walk to the storage room to get chocolate and pass Aubrey’s room. It will be empty. For a moment the oxygen will leave my lungs as I restart my heart by reminding myself that my girls aren’t girls anymore but grown, capable women setting out on their own life adventures.