It’s Sunday afternoon and my 22-year old daughter is moving into her newly rented apartment.
All week long, I’ve felt the weight, the shift, the grief of this ending. She returned home in mid-March 2020 when the pandemic forced her out of a house near campus, rented with five other college seniors. Back then we thought it’d be a few weeks or a month and then life would return to normal. Obviously, we were wrong.
No one in my nuclear family got Covid-19. But the restrictions, the forced changes, the worry impacted us, like it did a lot of other humans. In 2020 our son moved to the dorm for his first college semester. The reality of masks, social distancing, and forced time in his dorm without a roommate was no life at all, and he returned to live at home his second semester.
So, for almost 17 months the four of us made it work, dividing chores, supporting work and school schedules, and spending a lot of time together.
As she packed, my daughter asked to take some of our coffee filters. When I reached for the package, I mused that soon after the four of us started hunkering down together, I ordered a 4-pack of 350 – that’s 1400 coffee filters. They are almost gone. “That’d be a good blog title,” she said.
Fourteen hundred filters for fourteen hundred Aeropress coffees, for hundreds of coffee breaks together. When we look back on this pandemic, I’m pretty sure all of us are going to fondly remember the late morning coffee gatherings if we can’t fondly recall a lot of other things.
Our young adult children didn’t need us in the same way younger kids needed parents during the pandemic. But they did need the space our coffee breaks and meals provided to vigorously debate politics and other national and local issues. They needed the safe spaces of our living room, porch, and patio and the presence of me and their father to express fear, disappointment, grief, anger, and hope. They needed to process plans for their lives during Covid-19 and now as life is somewhat opening up.
Our children are both in transition. Our son is returning to college this month; our daughter starting a new job. By the end of August, our home will be much, much quieter. And fall is coming too.
I’ve had more trouble getting and staying asleep these past weeks. I know it’s my body and brain registering these shifts along with the worry about the Delta variant. I tend to feel and process life deeply. Years ago, when I was in steady therapy and fussing about recurrent insomnia, my therapist said, “Your body knows when something’s happening, even if you don’t.” Decades later, I’ve learned to accept this tender, sensitive side of me that disturbs my sleep. It’s my harbinger, telling me to listen to what’s going on and be with it, to feel whatever emotion is begging for attention, and to drop the old, old storylines that something is wrong just because I’m feeling a strong emotion or dealing with something challenging.
My parenting role is changing as both our children leave home and that’s cause for a little sorrow and also some joy. I’m confident our children will move into their next stages of life and figure them out.
I’m also tired of the intensity of these past 17 months – the house that couldn’t stay clean; meal planning, grocery shopping, and food prep for whole-food eating that keeps us healthy; the coordination of cars and schedules, the lack of solitude and quiet. I’m weary.
And I am also grateful we got to know each other better as adults who belong to the same family. We grew closer as a family; we became a true shelter for each other through a troubling time. My worry about not being a good enough mother faded as I watched our engaged young adult children pitch in, make the most of it all, figure out challenges and show up for the warm togetherness of coffee over and over. We bonded in a deep way that would not have been possible if the pandemic hadn’t forced our daughter home and if our son had stayed in the dorm. I know we aren’t going to get this time we had back. I know that it was priceless.
So, yes to the sorrow of an era of intense togetherness ending.
Yes, to the reality of uncertainty as the pandemic is far from over.
Yes, to the possibilities for growth and new adventures for all of us.
Yes to the life force in our children as they grow and change.
Yes, to the changing slant of light with shorter days.
Yes to 1400 coffee filters.
Brenda Hartman-Souder, LCSW-R
photo by Alex Chernenko, Unsplash