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PORTLAND, Maine — The Devon family is dealing with their fair share of pandemic problems — and then some.
They’ve got a high school senior missing out on graduation and everything that goes with it. Another child is facing an uncertain freshman year in the fall. Mom is out of work because of the lockdown and they’re down to one vehicle after someone smashed into their car on the street over the weekend.
But it’s OK, they’ve got this.
The Devons are making the best of their locked down days, actually relishing their time together. They know it’s their last few months at home as a family unit before their oldest son leaves home in the fall.
“The two most important things are the punching bag and a handle of gin,” said Jim, the family dad, chuckling at his own joke Sunday morning.
The punching bag is for the kids and their frustrations.
“The gin is for us, of course,” said Elise, his wife, finishing the laugh line.
The family’s list of pandemic-complicated challenges is long. It starts with their son Arun, 18, a senior at Portland High School. He hasn’t seen his school, teachers or friends in person since mid-March. Soon, Arun’s high school career will be over — but without the traditional pomp and circumstance. It will just end.
“I never got the chance to say goodbye,” Arun said. “It’s a very complicated thing that we’re all slowly coming to terms with.”
As of now, Portland High is planning to hold graduation ceremonies in August but it’s unlikely to be any kind traditional mass gathering. Prom is off for now, as well.
“Our senior class was putting a lot of time into planning [the prom] before it all just completely crumbled,” Arun said. “I feel cheated. I was going to have my long-distance boyfriend come to it. I was excited for this rite of passage.”
Arun will also miss other graduation traditions like marching practice, scholarship ceremonies and the National Honor Society induction.
“That’s all toast,” Arun said. “Everybody’s frazzled. Everyone’s confused.”
Arun said online learning has been weird and chaotic. Exams in his four AP classes have been a trainwreck.
“The website crashes when kids try and turn their stuff in,” Arun said.
Arun was accepted to the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto for the fall but isn’t sure he’ll be able to attend with the international border closed. It’s also unclear if the college will even hold in-person classes at this point.
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The pandemic is affecting younger brother Seamus, 14, as well.
A King Middle School student, he’ll miss his own eighth-grade graduation exercises. Seamus’s swim team season was cut down to just two weeks and his first scheduled dance since sixth grade was canceled. Seamus hasn’t been able to see his orthodontist in months either, likely adding to the time he’ll spend in braces.
Seamus doesn’t even know if he’ll get to go to Portland High School in the fall or if classes will just continue online. That stress is real, he said.
“Quarantine has given me way more time to think about it, too,” Seamus said.
Both Devon kids have only seen their friends online, mostly while playing group video games.
“I set up Skype calls so I can see their faces and I sit and play video games for hours,” Arun said. “That’s my social contact.”
“As parents, you let go of any limitations on screens,” Elise said.
Jim works in information technology and has been able to work from home during the current situation but Elise just finished a masters degree in business administration. She was applying for jobs while substitute teaching. Now, the job market is frozen and there’s no school that needs a substitute.
With all of that, things are surprisingly OK, they all agree.
Jim said while it’s frustrating seeing his oldest miss out on senior year milestones he remembers enjoying, he and Elise are trying to find things for the family to do together.
“We’ve spent a lot of money on Amazon — including this punching bag thing, and skateboards and pads and helmets,” Jim said. “Our goal is to keep them — not happy, that’s not the right word — to keep them occupied and thinking about things other than what’s going on. Because it’s scary, it’s frustrating. It’s really screwing up our lives. We’re trying not to focus on that.”
Instead, the Devon’s have concentrated on time with each other, romping on the beach with their shelter dog, Marlee, barbequing on their rooftop deck and making this Mother’s Day special.
“As horrible as this is,” Elise said, “when else would we have had two months to spend with just us, the family?”
Time at home also has given Arun an opportunity to perfect his crepe-making skills and try his hand at baguette baking. A few days ago, Seamus knocked on his door and asked for help with making deep-fried Oreo cookies. They had fun with it and the results were delicious.
“To have this last hurrah, to spend this constant time with my family, before I have to go away — I’m pretty happy about that,” Arun said. “It’s like I get to soak in my family — I mean, it sucks but at the same time, I get to maximize family time before I go.”
Like everyone else, the Devons have no idea what the future has in store for them but they know what they have right now: each other. That’s enough.
“The world has changed,” Arun said. “But it’s OK.”
Watch: What does returning to normal look like?