MARCH 19TH UPDATE ON THE 3/18 POST BELOW: (please scroll to the bottom of the page to share your comments)
Henry made it to Seattle safely! After a very easy 2 ½ hour drive with hardly any cars on the road, I got to Seattle at 6pm. Henry landed at 5:50pm and was through customs by 7pm. I ate a sandwich and some fruit and called to my sister, who lives down in Oakland, while I waited. She asked me if I thought it was dangerous to be in the car with him since he was being instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days. I told her this was a better option than making him take more public transportation and potentially infect more people.
When he got into the car we did a virtual hug. Was I being overly cautious? It was very difficult for me to not hug and kiss him. I was/am so very relieved he is home and not feeling ill, and I am a hugging type of person. But I was imagining all the airplane germs on his clothes, and I figured, as we all are now, better safe than sorry. It’s a new paradigm we are in... Someone said to me today, “It’s is an act of kindness to employ social distancing.” I agree, and that helped alleviate my guilt for not hugging and kissing my son.
Henry said he didn’t want to listen to the radio, and he didn’t want to talk about corona virus. Instead, he told me about all the kids studying abroad he had been getting to know and some of whom he will hopefully stay in touch with. Then of course, we talked about the corona virus. He asked questions about what was going on here, and I tried to bring him up to speed on where things stand here in the US. He told me the UK was catching up; NTU had decided to go to on line classes only as of Monday evening.
Eventually he reclined the seat as far back as it would go and closed his eyes. I kept the radio off and listened to my son sleep for the next 40 minutes. One of the most beautiful sounds in the world.
The minute we got home he went straight down to our basement level where we have a guest bedroom and bathroom. This morning I brought his breakfast down to him. We are trying to adhere to the self-quarantine... which according to the John Hopkins Medicine website means:
Using standard hygiene and washing hands frequently
Not sharing things like towels and utensils
Staying at home
Not having visitors
Staying at least 6 feet away from other people in your household
In our house this also means that it’s probably best/easier if he lets me bring him food as opposed to him being in the kitchen touching everything. It’s easier to cook than clean every surface constantly.
Henry needs to decide if he wants to stay here, or go to his dad’s house. His dad will most likely be more relaxed about all this than me because he is more relaxed in general, and his house is smaller and mid-remodel, so it will be harder for Henry to self-quarantine in as a result. I am fine with whatever he chooses to do. I will worry either way, so I need to let go and not worry either way.
I am in a virtual writing class, and today the title of the webinar was “Gratitude in the Shadow of the Plague.” It was a wonderful way to look at how writing, and literature, can be a way of connecting, holding space, and ultimately saying “thank you.” So thank you all for staying with me and reading, and I will keep trying to share words that have meaning and offer connection.
ORIGINAL MARCH 18TH POST:
I haven’t been able to focus on work lately because one of my sons is in the UK and trying to get home. He is all I can think about. However my work is writing, so writing this makes me feel like I am working, while still letting me think about him. If I keep thinking about him, then I can keep sending positive energy into the universe to pray for his safe, speedy, and hopefully healthy return.
In early February Henry left for his study abroad semester in Nottingham, England. He had the normal anxiousness one would expect before embarking on such an experience, but mostly he was excited and expectant. At that time, Corona virus felt far away and people were still making beer jokes. Henry’s travel there went smoothly, and life as a student abroad began. His classes and professors were great, and he was having a great time going to pubs and clubs and making new friends. He was supposed to be there through mid-June, and I made plans to go visit him in early April.
Then five weeks into his study abroad things began to shift.
It started March 9th with a cryptic travel ban notification from his home school, Montana State. Henry was already overseas, so it didn’t seem to apply to him. Nottingham Trent University was “business as usual,” and the British climate was not one of crisis. There was a stark contrast between the attitudes of his US school and the UK school, but it didn’t feel like he was in imminent danger.
Check out this Twitter post: https://twitter.com/GenevieveRobert/status/1237382441834291200 This link will take you to a new web page that plays this funny video. I couldn't figure out how to get it to play here. Please come back to this post to keep reading after watching!!! :)
On March 11th, President Trump issued his EU travel ban, excluding the UK and Ireland. I told Henry he needed to begin to prepare mentally and emotionally that he might need to come home early. His dad (my ex-husband) was less concerned and urged him to stay. My husband (his stepdad) told him we didn’t need to make a decision yet.
On March 12th Montana State sent an email “recommending” all students abroad come home, but they also said there would be no refunds and course credit would have to be worked out between the students and their overseas institutions. By contrast, Nottingham Trent was still was open for business and the International Student Exchange Program threatened to charge him an additional $2500 if he left early. Henry was in a double bind. Should he stay or should he go?
Growing increasingly concerned, I said, “Come home.” Henry said some of his new international friends were leaving, but he was still reticent to throw in the towel. He told me his dad was talking about flying there to see him and said they could “explore Scotland together.” I rolled my eyes (to myself) and cancelled my trip. What’s a kid to do when his parents are so far apart ideologically?
On March 14th, Montana State announced they were moving to all on line courses and told students to not come back after spring break, and Trump extended the travel ban to include the UK and Ireland. Henry was stressed about being able to continue with NTU on line and get course credit, or he wanted a refund. But as the global reaction to COVID-19 escalated rapidly, we became less focused about all that and 100% focused on just getting him home safely. On Sunday, March 15th, my husband and I booked him on a direct flight on Virgin Atlantic from Heathrow to Seattle for Wednesday, March 18th. We also booked him a hotel room at an airport hotel for Tuesday night so he would have more time to troubleshoot if anything changed.
My ex bought him a four-hour bus ticket from Nottingham to Heathrow. Henry was about halfway to London on the bus when he learned Virgin had canceled his flight, along with all flights to the US other than those going to LA, Atlanta or New York. I stayed with Henry on FaceTime, while my ex-husband got on Expedia and booked him on British Airways direct to Seattle for tomorrow, and my husband, Alex, worked with Virgin to re-route him to LA. Henry had two plane tickets, plan A and plan B.
When I went to bed at 10:30pm last night he was waking up. At midnight my time, 7am his time, he had checked in on his Seattle flight (yay! it wasn’t canceled!) and he was going through security. A bit later we FaceTimed as he was roaming around Heathrow waiting for his gate to be assigned. He had run into a friend from NTU who had arrived by bus at 3am. She said most of the international kids had decided to leave NTU today. He said, “Mom, I’m at least glad I got to come here for a little while. All my friends back at MSU have to go to on line courses too, but they didn’t get to have an overseas experience like me and have all the fun I had.”
Now it’s 8am here, 3pm there, and I just FaceTimed with him for a final time before he takes off. Yes... I know I am being an over-the-top mom. He told me when he gets home, after self-isolating for 14 days, he plans to go off the grid backpacking and fishing in Montana for 3 weeks. I am pushing thoughts of bears coming out of hibernation out of my mind. Life keeps happening, doesn’t it?
I know you all have stories unfolding too. I hope you’re all healthy and faring okay with any bears in your life. I received an email that said:
“We are not alone. There will be losses, sadness, fear and grief. Love is a force field. Living strong right now requires us to reside in our hearts with the people and causes we love; it means providing tangible expressions of our caring, and it means not turning away from suffering, whether it’s our own or that of others. Collectively, we are in a crash course on compassion, wisdom, and love.”
I won’t rest easy until Henry lands in Seattle. But I will keep trying to do my best to use “love as my force field,” and stay present in compassion, wisdom and love. You’re all in my thoughts and prayers.
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