“Olivia, come here.”
“Do you love me as a grandma or as a good friend?”
“Well, you’re technically my grandma, but I love you because you’re my best friend.”
“That’s what I thought.”
During my first semester at college, the days leading up to Thanksgiving Break were filled with anticipation. I jammed sweaters, a small fan, shoes that I never wore, and folders into my suitcase while my mind wandered to Cleveland, Ohio. I wasn’t quite finished with my fall studies, but I was more than ready to see my best friend again.
Everyone promised that the months away from home would fly by. I did eventually find a rhythm on campus. I made some friends who shared my interests in computer science and/or public service. I joined a few clubs that broadened my career aspirations, marveled at the work of Partners in Health in my global health class, continued hosting virtual activities for my hometown Senior Center, and kept family members on speed dial. But I could never fully shake the persistent longing to buy a plane ticket and finish the semester from home.
Pictures, videos, and Zoom lunches with Grandma were often more painful than sweet. Just when I thought I had conquered my homesickness, I would think back to the night we laughed at how terribly I styled her hair. Or I’d watch a video of her swinging the baseball bat in my driveway, and she would ask me, “Where are you? When are you coming home?” Then I’d break down again.
But I made it; November 14th finally arrived. I entered and exited three airports, got in the oh-so-familiar black family car, and, donning my blue disposable mask, hugged my best friend tightly.
The next couple of weeks were a frenzy of making up for the lost time. We were attached at the hip — waking up and eating meals together, going on walks, tossing around a ball in the front yard, knocking out jigsaw puzzle after jigsaw puzzle at the kitchen table, trying new word games on the tablet, and, of course, chatting about boys. It felt so good to be home. It felt so good to be with her.
Final exams and project deadlines were just around the corner, though. Our routine was unsustainable if I was going to finish the semester strong. As December rolled around, my father reassumed tasks such as getting Grandma up and making breakfast, she partook in more unaccompanied activities, and I dedicated more of my day to school work. It wasn’t easy. Interruptions were frequent, and I battled intense guilt as I watched her nod off during my economics class, bored and frustrated by the puzzle in front of her. But we made it through again.
Winter break was our reward. I could not be more grateful to experience my favorite holiday with my grandma in a way that we never have before: hanging ornaments together, stealing cookies that my mom and sister made, and digging through our stockings on Christmas morning. I also know that I have a challenging semester ahead. With only seniors and juniors invited back to campus, I’ll be learning remotely for more than just a few weeks. I need to figure out how to strike a better balance between my academic obligations, outside social life, and my time with Grandma. Winter Break was important for not only establishing better habits but also finding other ways for her to stay happy and engaged, independent of my involvement. This time is a gift, and I never want to waste a moment.
Spring break isn’t so far away now, right!?!?!