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The Seemingly Last Visit
It is very emotional, but no one in my family would understand because they wouldn't have seen all the things that I have written. I'm a very guarded person and almost never show emotion. I hate being this way, so for an English assignment, I wrote about this to help get it out. Many could relate to this feeling of incomplete assurance to see their loved ones again or facing the unknown reality of the future. But it taught me to look around and see what I do have to help me. I hope this helps us all to get through the pandemic and look around at what we do have to carry us through to the end of it.
We were truly unsure of what was going to happen, if we were making the right decision or a grave mistake. But to our father, it was the right thing to do before it was too late. It was March, and the spreading Coronavirus had hit America. We were embraced by a new fear of uncertainty in what was going to happen. We chose to take the chance and go visit our family in Toronto, for we didn’t know how much time we had or when we would see them again.
It made me internally emotional thinking about those memories that you keep in the treasure chest of your heart. All the short and long trips, the summers spent with our dear grandparents, the mouthwatering meals that our grandmother made for us to enjoy as a family, and hanging out with our aunt, uncle, and cousins. That is something that you could never take away from me, and yet, the ones that I were yearning to make in the future were ripped away by a virus.
I could barely keep myself together during school. It was a Thursday, and we decided to leave that evening and come back on Sunday. We wanted to be able to spend as much time together as we could, even if it was only one more day, so we skipped school on Friday. I always hate missing school because of the homework, but this time, it felt like school was the least of my worries. Even that day felt awry, that there was this feeling of unexpectedness suffocating our focus on learning. The day seemed to drag on with this weight until the bell finally rang.
I thought we would never make it out of the door, but after the final packing for a family of 5, we were settled and ready to get on the road. But the moment we left our driveway, the tension rose again. The disquietude was the most unforgiving of all. My father was the only one who seemed certain of the decision to cross the border while cases were slowly rising and lockdown was inevitable. My mom wasn’t sure and was still struggling to understand that this may be the last time she could be with her parents and brother for a while. My brother was 100% convinced that he was going to die if we went and was begging to the point of tears not to go. Thankfully, my sister was only a year and a half, so we had one less side to contribute to the argument. I truly couldn’t comprehend what I felt because there were only two options: risk my safety and see my family for one last time before everything shuts down or stay at home and feel guilty for God knows how long because I was too afraid to go before time ran out.
We got off at the Cranberry exit and parked at the plaza with my doctor’s office to sort things out. Those few minutes of consideration felt like hours of debate. After repeatedly expressing our personal opinions and thinking deeply on the subject, we made up our minds to go see our family. It sort of thrilled me in a sense to travel during an unknown time, feeling like you're on an adventure not knowing what to expect.
Tim Hortons always brightens the mood in my family. The comfort you get from drinking the same double-double coffee and boston cream donuts never gets old. And then the memories came back, hitting me like a bitter chill. The many car rides to and from Canada always had something memorable about them. The food, the music, the conversations and laughter that we experienced, they all revolved around family. I decided that I would enjoy every part of this trip like I never had before.
The nearly six hours of driving passed by until we reached the exit. I took in all the familiar sights, sounds, and people that I’ve experienced my whole life. Toronto was my home away from home.
My heart began to race as it always did when we passed by the same gas station near my grandparents house. The feeling of being so close made me hyper and yet anxious, which I’m still trying to understand. Finally, we turned onto Grandravine Drive.
“Chellam!” my grandfather called me as he was walking down the driveway. His bear hug was a deep warmth in the cold night.
“Hi Amma,” grandma said and gave me her usual light embrace. As I stepped into their house, I breathed in the smell of fresh food and sighed. My grandma always had something ready for us to eat even if we weren’t hungry. As we got settled down, sleep was tugging at my eyes and I was overrun with exhaustion. Walking upstairs, I headed to the same little room with the ancient bunk beds standing side-by-side that we always sleep in. My mom and uncle used to sleep in these, but they’re still here for us. As I laid my head on the pillow, my thoughts and feelings settled into tranquility.
The next morning, I was greeted by the light from the window and the sound of airplanes. Stretching, I got up and got ready for a new day. There truly isn’t much you can do, though, when the latest news is that a novel virus from China is spreading across the world. As I headed downstairs, I already knew that breakfast was waiting for me as it is every morning in this house. My grandma is always busy in the kitchen making us exquisite meals, which I feel guilty about all the time because I feel like a useless loafer in their house. I opened the kitchen door and greeted her as always. Then we started with our usual conversation of “How are you doing?” and “How is school?” and “Are you listening to mommy and daddy?” Then I get to hear a nice, long speech from her about something that I should or shouldn’t be doing. Even through all my groaning, I secretly enjoyed this moment as it lasted. My grandma knows how to say these things in such a stern but loving way that I seem to enjoy every time. No one else can talk the way she does.
The day went by fast with schoolwork, food, and TV. Then we got the call. School was going to shut down. “Wait, are you serious?!” I asked. Reading the email, I felt at ease and filled with incomprehensible excitement. The day ended on a good note and I could start the next with a little less worry.
Saturday was always a slow morning in the house. It was a time when you could be a lazy animal and not get in trouble for it. The news was constantly being checked for updates on COVID-19 and the border. We were still troubled by the nearing deadline of the border closing but wished in our own way that we could be stuck in Canada, even though we knew that wouldn’t happen.
“RING!” My head turned to the door, expecting to see my favorite cousins running through the door. Ava and JJ always take over the house with their tumultuousness. But you couldn’t forget Uncle John and Aunty Nadia. They are the life of the party, which we really need because no one else is, so things start to get exciting when they’re around. They decided to come over to enjoy that evening with us because they also realized that we may not see each other in person for the foreseeable future. It’s a hard fact to get over still.
The evening was quite enjoyable, being filled with food, play, and chatter. Dinner was dosa and many different curries. I still wonder to this day how my grandma manages to make so many different things in such a short amount of time on her own. I’m usually not a big fan of dosa because it is an Indian dish and I’m closer to the Sri Lankan side of my family. So it was quite strange to eat it, but my grandma made it good. She makes Indian food once in a blue moon, but somehow it still tastes like the best cuisine I’ve ever had.
Enjoying a big meal with my family is my favorite part of something I’m still trying to decipher. I feel that I can’t categorize it into something with words, but it’s more of an indescribable feeling.
I wished that evening could last forever, but it didn’t. It was getting late, and time for the day to come to an end. The farewell was more difficult for some than others. Ava and JJ were the last people I thought would cry, but they did. They already missed us and they didn’t even understand how much bigger the situation actually was. They knew we would be going back to Pittsburgh, but they didn’t know that we may not come back for an indefinite amount of time. I’m glad that they’re too young to know because it would be too difficult. The hugs were too short, almost as if we did believe we could see each other soon. I wish they would have lasted longer, but all it was was a few goodbyes and some laughter that I could not enjoy like I used to. The door closed and their car left the driveway on that bone-chilling night.
Sunday came dreadfully fast and I was feeling confused. How did we get here? The morning was fast and uneventful, packing suitcases and preparing for departure. And then we were ready to leave, just like that. I took in the rooms of the little semi-detached house that I partly grew up in all of my life. The living room that entertained us, the dining room that fed us like kings and queens, the kitchen that was filled with the aroma of cooking, the basement that was filled with photo albums and sewing, the small room filled with the two bunk beds that my brother and I shared for as long as I remember, and the various other spaces. I kept these locked in my mind.
There were many difficult goodbyes that I’ve had to experience, especially after summer vacation with my grandparents. But I’ve never felt a more painful adieu than the one I’m facing now. But the words and embraces that I received were the ones that I needed. The reminders to be good and to stay safe and that we would see each other again assured me that it would be ok. I was able to encircle each one of them with my arms for just long enough until I felt like it was alright. I’m not one to show emotion, so it all turns into thick, tangled knots inside me. I was afraid they would untangle and I would let it all out, but they didn’t. They held firm like they always did, no matter how much I wish I could just let go.
After the few short minutes passed, my family piled into the car and settled in once more for the trip back. We opened the window and said our last few goodbyes before backing out of the driveway, waving and watching as they grew smaller and smaller behind us.
The drive home went by with Tim Hortons, talking, music, and the usual pitstop at the Crosby gas station. And then Exit 73 came into view. Before I knew it, we were pulling into our driveway and our travel was over.
I climbed up the basement stairs with luggage in hand and opened the door to the main floor. Being at home felt comforting, but not the same way as it did in Toronto. I sighed, thinking of living life normally again in this quiet neighborhood. In this place where we had no family near us, I had to find comfort again, but in what? And then, I hear my family bustling downstairs unloading the car. And it was like my eyes were opened, that I had people who were close to me that I could get through life with. I knew they were always there, but realizing that I could choose to make every moment count with them relieved me of those deep thoughts inside of my head. I could see now that I had my mom, dad, brother, and sister to get me through the ups and downs of what’s to come. Being at home just made life a little more heart-warming.
“CHRIS, STOP STANDING THERE. GET DOWN HERE AND HELP US.”