After spending most of 2020 apart, Penn State coach James Franklin and his family have reunited again in State College. Sort of.
Franklin is living in an apartment above the garage of their home, continuing to separate (though not nearly as far) from his wife and two daughters because of COVID-19. The most contact he allows himself revolves around daily attempts to scare his family by appearing outside windows wearing costumes or a mask. Life still isn't the same, but it's a start.
"If anybody has any costumes or scary masks you want to lend me...," Franklin said as Penn State began spring football practice in March. "That's been pretty fun; scaring the heck out of my wife specifically but also the girls."
Franklin's wife Fumi and daughters Shola and Addison spent last season living at a family home outside of Pennsylvania, a choice the Franklins made because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Addison has Sickle cell disease, a blood cell disorder that can compromise immune systems and places those with it at greater risk for hospitalization if they contract COVID-19.
Pennsylvania recently updated its COVID-19 vaccine timeline, saying that all commonwealth residents will be eligible by April 19. Franklin said, however, that he's doesn't expect that to change his family situation in the near future.
In March 2020, the Franklins decided that they would live separately while Franklin worked with the football team. Until Christmas, Franklin had spent only a few days with his family in eight months. The strain was evident throughout the fall.
"One of the things I have not done a great job of handling personally, that I have to be honest with myself and honest with the team about, is I have not done a great job of managing my family being gone. I have not," Franklin said in November, when his team was 0-3. "They're my fuel. I go home, they're able to pour into me, and I've not done a great job of that. At the end of the day, I have to. I have to manage those things."
Earlier this year, the family returned to State College, which Franklin called a small return to normalcy. Though Franklin is tested daily as part of Penn State Athletics protocol, he's still living separately as a precaution.
"I always knew I was a family guy. Obviously going through the last year magnified that," Franklin said Monday. "We're in a better situation now, [but] still not what I would describe as ideal or back to normal. ... About the most contact I have is, I'll go over when I get home from work, and I stand in a different window of the house with my hood up and mask up until someone notices, and I usually scare the heck out of them. Then they scream, and we laugh and they slide my tray of food out the door. And I say thank you through the glass, take my tray of food up over the garage and eat dinner."
Franklin did say that "everyone is doing great" and appreciates being at home again. And yet...
"We're still not back to normal," he said, "and I'm not completely sure when that will happen based on my family's circumstances."
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