June 20, 2009
Father bridges the miles online
Dana Wavle will not be home in Cortland for Father’s Day Sunday, but his family will make do by using computer technology to bridge the 700 miles to southeastern Indiana, where he moved in January.
The good news is, he will be home Friday for his oldest son Nate’s graduation from Cortland High School.
Three days later, Wavle, his wife, Sharon, Nate and the couple’s other sons, Dan and Joshua, will pack up their Hickory Park Road house and make the final move together.
Wavle has lived in New Albany, Ind., the past six months after he accepted a job at Indiana University Southeast, just across the border from Louisville, Ky.
He and his wife, who have been together since they were Homer High School students — graduating in 1981 and 1982, respectively — had lived in Cortland for 13 years.
Wavle worked for Key Bank in the region and in a management position for Fays Inc, then worked for SUNY Cortland as executive director of the Auxiliary Services Corp., which manages the college’s dining services and book store.
He is now IU Southeast’s vice chancellor for administration and finance, overseeing accounting services, physical plant, dining and conference services, university police and the campus cultural center.
Wavle has come home every two or three weekends, flying out of Louisville. Otherwise, the Wavles have used technology to see and hear each other.
Sharon Wavle says this has been a blessing, compared to 1981 and 1982, when Wavle was a freshman at SUNY Geneseo and she was a high school senior. Then, they had to write letters and talk via telephone, which was expensive.
Now, the couple and their sons can share videos and photographs via Facebook and YouTube. The family has seen Wavle’s new campus and life in their new town. Wavle sees the boys’ school concerts.
The five speak via Skype, a free cam and audio communication system, seeing and hearing each other on a computer screen as if speaking face to face.
But it has not been the same.
“We’re all ready to get back together,” Sharon Wavle said. “We thought when Dana left we’d get into a routine and adjust without him, but it hasn’t really happened. Families who go through this for longer periods have my respect — like military families.”
The move will bring further changes.
Nate will be a freshman at IU Bloomington, in premedical studies. Dan will be a junior at Floyd Central High School in Floyds Knobs, where the family’s new home will be. Joshua will be a third-grader in a new school.
But Dan has already tried out for his high school’s marching band via YouTube video, securing a spot as a snare drummer. Cortland High does not have a marching band. Dan has also begun taking lessons with his new percussion teacher, via computer.
“Josh says he’ll miss his friends but he’s eager to make new ones,” Sharon Wavle said.
“The guys have seized this as an opportunity.”
Sharon Wavle is a computer science professor at Tompkins Cortland Community College who teaches online. She plans to continue that.
On Friday, Sharon Wavle called her husband at his office and he hooked up to Skype, filling the living room computer screen with his face while the lower left side of the screen showed what he was seeing: Sharon and Joshua in a chair, Nate and Dan kneeling.
Dana Wavle’s voice boomed in the room.
“Here’s my office,” he said, moving his laptop so the family could see where he works and the view from his office window.
“He usually does Skype from home,” Sharon Wavle said.
Wavle said he is glad for changes in technology the past five to 10 years that have made it possible for him to connect with his family as best he can.
“A faculty member here does the same thing, but her husband is in a different time zone,” he said. “At least we’re in the same time zone. I work until 6:30 or 7, keeping occupied. When they move here, I’ll go back to 6 o’clock.”
Wavle came home for the year-end Cortland High School concert band performance, where Nate and Dan played a xylophone duet. But he had to settle for a video of Nate’s drum solo in the jazz band concert.
Nate had a farewell gesture of his own from about 50 fellow students, who wore red T-shirts to school on June 11 with his senior portrait printed on the front. Between front and back, the shirt said, “It’s a Good Day to be a Wavle Summer 2009.”
“They met me at my parking space and carried me into school,” Nate said.
With his father gone, Nate has helped with errands since he can drive, and he and Dan baby-sit Joshua if needed.
On Father’s Day, Dana Wavle usually spends the day with his family, going to church, then walking or bicycling around the neighborhood. This time, he will have to see them via computer.
“It’s one thing to talk by phone, another to see somebody while you talk,” he said. “It helps a lot.”
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