The image was clear enough, even if it cut out from time to time. We could still hear his voice. It came to us across the miles and miles of trackless void that serves as the space between us. We chatted about things both pertinent and, at times, impertinent. This trip would be a long one and we needed to stay in touch if we were going to be the kind of support that would be most useful. Not just supplies: food, clothes, oxygen. From where he was, he looked at the same moon we did, but that seemed impossible.
Then again, the way he sat with his back against the corner of his room with his pillows propping him up just high enough for his chin to rest on his chest, we had a familiar view of our son. In his bed. Surrounded by electronics. Half-lidded eyes and slow smirk on his lips. He told us that he was tired but getting ready to do a little work before he went to sleep.
This wasn't a transmission from a voyage across the solar system. He wasn't stranded on a planet, left behind by the rest of his crew. His roommate came in and started rummaging for a cable he needed desperately for his laptop. He could just pop down to the book store and buy a new one. If it was still open.
This was our first Skype chat with our son from his dorm room. My wife and I felt instant relief seeing his face, and we took turns voicing concerns and affection. It was an act of faith for us both that we didn't overload on either side. The mother ship had been making regular connections with our voyager, but I had been out of radio contact for several cycles. I wanted to make it seem as natural as possible without seeming aloof. I wanted to appear caring without being sappy. I wanted it to seem normal.
It didn't seem normal, as much as it appeared that he was just hanging out in the back room as he had for so very many evenings in the past, this portal gave us a view into the future. Long distance. We promised to talk again, when he had time. He's a busy guy these days. Going to class. Hanging out with his friends. Living his life. On another planet.