Path follows a baby bird leaving his nest in the tree, twisting and turning through the branches, and returning back to the nest with a bag in hand. The mother bird is standing in the nest, shrugging.

What A Difference A Year Makes!

Last summer, I was preparing for my older son’s departure for his freshman year at a university over 800 miles away. While I shopped for dorm necessities, attended local meet-ups in Chicago for parents and students, and plotted how everything would fit into our car for the 12 hour drive, I was simultaneously excited to see him embark on this new stage of his life and a little sad that he would be leaving home.

A sudden change of plans...

Unfortunately, my son’s freshman year came to a grinding halt in March when he was told to go home for spring break and finish the rest of his spring semester at home. By March, he had adjusted well to college, made friends, and joined activities. I had even visited him on Parents’ Weekend and was happy to see him so settled, meet some of these friends and see the places where he spent his time. He got good grades during his first semester and was excited about an upcoming summer internship in another country.

I breathed a sigh of relief and felt like he was “successfully launched,” which was something I had hoped to see ever since the day I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at the end of 2013. Alas, the summer internship was canceled due to COVID-19 and while he eventually secured a different virtual internship, he has spent this summer in our house, mostly in his childhood bedroom.

My son will be continuing college online

We recently found out that his university has decided, due to housing constraints (almost everyone lives on campus and off-campus housing is extremely limited and expensive), that only freshmen and juniors will return to campus for the upcoming fall semester. Sophomores like my son and seniors are not scheduled to be on campus until the spring. My son will be joining the many college students who will be continuing the remote learning that started back in March. In other words, continuing to spend a lot of time in his bedroom.

So many new unknowns to navigate

While I am glad he will be safe, I definitely feel bad for him that his college experience, along with those of many other students, is so changed. I’m also dealing with some of my own issues related to his return home and the current uncertainty that exists everywhere in the world.

Here’s my child whom I thought was “launched,” back in our family house. I feel like we have gone backward through no fault of our own. All of the satisfaction I felt at seeing him succeeding at his college is now tempered with questions. How long will he be home? What will his college experience be like? Will there be jobs available in his chosen major of international and public affairs when he graduates? What will the world be like?

Nothing is really settled now

My relief at having lived long enough with lung cancer to “launch” my older son has changed into increased worry and uncertainty about his future. I no longer feel the same way I felt at that Parents’ Weekend; nothing is really settled now.

My younger son, a senior in high school, is about to start applying to colleges as well during this crazy time. As a parent, despite a lung cancer diagnosis or not, I guess the anxiety never really goes away!

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