British Columbia

Couple separated by U.S.-Canada border during pandemic arrange date on Zero Avenue

Jan Collins of Abbotsford and Graham H. Robins of Lake Samish, Wash., have been dating for six years but now travel restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic are keeping them apart. They still meet, even while keeping to either side of the U.S.-Canada border.

Jan Collins of Abbotsford and Graham H. Robins of Lake Samish, Wash., have been dating for 6 years

Jan Collins, left, and Graham H. Robins have dated for six years but recently have been kept apart by the closure of the U.S.-Canada border from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Graham H. Robins)

These days, romance for Jan Collins and Graham H. Robins is a bit like a Johnny Cash song: they walk the line.

In this case, the line is the U.S.-Canada border which is keeping 71-year-old Collins — who lives in Abbotsford, B.C. — apart from her boyfriend, Robins — who lives on Lake Samish, Wash. 

The border has been closed to non-essential travel for over a month and anyone crossing the border is required to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

"You can't even hug each other," Collins said. "It's so frustrating, especially at our age. You go this far in life and you can't even have a relationship with your significant other."

Jan Collins said she and her boyfriend, Graham H. Robins, joked about meeting across the border but it wasn't until they saw people doing it for real that they decided to try it themselves. (Jan Collins)

But the two of them found a way to be together on Sunday going on a date, physically distanced by Zero Avenue, the road running along the border.

They grabbed chairs, parked their cars on opposite sides of the border and were able to talk and be together for the first time in weeks.

They weren't alone, either. As they enjoyed each others' company, they saw that other families kept apart by the pandemic had had the same idea.

So close, yet so far: Jan Collins, foreground, and Graham H. Robins on their date separated by the now closed U.S.-Canada border. (Jan Collins)

Apart for weeks

Collins and Robins were last together in early March. They had just spent almost three months in Mexico, where they own a home.

Robins returned to Lake Samish and Collins returned to Abbotsford and self-isolated for the required 14 days. 

During that time, the border was ordered closed. Their normal routine of frequent visits with each other was finished

"When it comes to weekends, I lose track of what day it is, because there's no plans to see her," Robins said.

Jan Collins, left, and Graham H. Robins were in Mexico shortly before the border closed. (Graham H. Robins)

They had joked about meeting up at the border, Robins said, but decided to go for it after Collins saw people trying it while she was driving to White Rock.

"It's like being on the phone, but you're in person," Robins said of when he saw families talking to each other from opposite sides for the first time. "It was interesting. Quite different than normal."

'It's just going to play its course'

Collins said it's hard to think about how the pandemic has taken away their freedom to be together whenever they want.

Robins says he follows COVID-19 news closely and is optimistic that signs of progress in stopping the disease's spread could have the two of them back together sooner rather than later.

"If I thought crying or getting mad could make it stop, I'd do that. But it's not going to," he said.

"It's just going to play its course."

Until then, they plan to keep meeting just across the line.

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