Moving forward in times of uncertainty

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We unpack the suitcases, the boxes and the bags.

We make the bed. Figure out which chests of drawers to use. How to arrange things in the bathroom.

It’s move-in day at college for my son, our youngest child.

Because Indiana is one of the many states on New York’s list of coronavirus hotspots, he and I had to spend 14 days in seclusion and take COVID tests before we could move him into his dorm. We camped out at my sister’s place in upstate New York and waited for the days to pass.

When we arrived at my sister’s, my mother bestowed on me a treasure trove of family keepsakes. Among the gems were my grandfather’s yearbooks from his college days.

Grandpa was a southern Indiana boy and the first in his family to go to college. It took a lot for him to get through.

As we waited out our time at my sister’s place, I thumbed through the yearbooks, searching for photos of and references to my grandfather and my grandmother, who attended the same college.

Grandpa was 60 when I was born, younger than I am now. My grandmother died before I came into this world. Seeing them young, fresh-faced, innocent and hopeful on their yearbooks’ pages was a revelation.

My grandfather was born at the very end of the 1800s. He started college in the days following World War I, when the Spanish flu pandemic raged.

I think about what it must have been like for the grandfather I adored and the grandmother I never knew as I help move their great-grandson into his dorm.

We work without pause because this move-in must be accomplished within a short window of time to avoid too much clustering in the building. Students can bring only one parent with them to keep the numbers under control.

It feels odd not to have my wife here. Raising our children has been a shared journey. Seeing one of them launch feels like it should be a shared moment.

My son Facetimes her to show her his room.

As mother and son chat, I listen to students yell greetings to each other outside the dorm.

I think about my grandparents and their great-grandson, both starting their college careers in times of trouble and uncertainty. Much has changed in the century since Grandpa first walked to his college. The fact that my son and my wife can share live videos while they talk shows that.

But some things are eternal.

I know my great-grandparents must have wondered, as my wife and I do, what the world would hold for their children. What challenges would confront them. What opportunities they would find along the way.

My grandparents saw their southern Indiana college that was less than three dozen miles from where they were born as a gateway to the larger world. Studying there would open new possibilities for them and their descendants. It did.

Every generation of the family since them has sent children to college.

My son chose this school because he wants to study business in a bustling city. He wants to walk hard streets and learn how to swim with sharks. He will because he’s smart and he’s tough…like his great-grandparents.

After we finish unpacking, he buys me lunch at the student dining hall. As we eat at an outdoor table, he talks about the things he wants to do and see in New York.

Then it’s time for me to go. We hug. I tell him his mother and I are proud of him. Then I watch him — my son, my grandfather’s great-grandson — stride back to his dorm.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. Send comments to [email protected]