Covid-19 audio diary: reflections on the ways life has changed

I was with a group of high schoolers outside of Legacy Hall. It was my first tour guide training session for my new job with the Admissions office. I felt my phone vibrate. “Important Coronavirus Update for the Mercer Community” it read. 

The other tour guide raised his hand to his brow to shield the screen from the sunlight. “Huh?” we both said. The email was long and confusing. Were we getting kicked off campus? We didn’t know. 

I called my mom. “Just wait it out and see,” she said.

A few days later, I got the news I’d been hoping wouldn’t come. Classes were to be held online effective immediately and students were advised to return home. 

The next morning, I packed up my truck. With a turn of the key, the engine roared to life. It was ready for the trip home. I couldn’t say the same for myself. The road to Atlanta was eerily empty, save for the lone 18 wheeler. Thoughts like “What if they cancel our formal trip?” and wondering when I’ll see Ford, my roommate who lives out of state, again. 

My family was elated to see me. My puppy wouldn’t stop jumping on me and my elementary aged sisters pestered me to death. “We have plenty of room,” my Mom said, an inside joke from the “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” movie. 

After playing Mario Kart with my sisters for the umpteenth time, I decided to pay my grandfather a visit. He was asleep in an armchair with a copy of the Atlanta Journal Constitution in his lap. “What have you been up to this week?” I asked. 

“Not much. I haven’t been able to see Carolyn [his wife] for a week” he said. 

My grandmother, who has dementia, is in an assisted living care facility and the staff  prevented him from seeing her until the outbreak is over. He visited her seven days a week, and now had nothing to do. 

Every time I visited him last semester, he asked me if I had been to Nu-Way in Mercer Village. I’d been waiting to go with him, so I decided to take a day trip to Macon with him. “I’d go a long way for a Nu-Way” the sign read. 

Afterwards I took him on a tour of campus. His favorite part of the tour was seeing the mural of his cousin, “Papa Joe”, a longtime dean, in the University Center. 

The trip lifted his mood, but I could tell my grandmother was always on his mind.

People frequently ask me how online classes are going. “I hate it” I say sarcastically, though it’s how I feel. It’s hard to study when your puppy barks at every bird and squirrel and downtime is consumed with your sisters asking to play.

 “Do some dishes or something useful” my mom says.

I got the devastating news that my summer internship at a local TV station was cancelled. It was something I worked so hard for and was so excited about, and it was gone.

A virus that started in another part of the world had taken my freshman year from me. I would have no fraternity formal, no more lunches on “Fried Chicken Wednesday” in the Caf with my friends, and no internship.

Though I’m a little jaded and disappointed, it’ll all work out in the end.