If you went up to any of Tim Broekema's students and ask them about him, they would say something along the lines of, "he's a hard ass, but really cares about you and improving your work." Broekema has been working at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky, for almost 20 years as a professor in photojournalism. His work is always been his life; Broekema spent his career out in the field working for a variety of newspapers such as the Rhode Island Journal and Chicago Tribune as photographer and editor.
But nothing could've prepared him for the events of this past year.
Tim Broekema looks out his back porch door at his garden while drinking his lemon juice his wife makes for his every morning.
Broekema gets out of his car in the Kroger's parking lot early in the morning to get groceries.
The invasion of the COVID-19 virus changed his entire lifestyle. He set up his office in his bedroom and taught in his living room or even outside if he ever needed extra space. He leaves the house as little as possible, either for his weekly grocery run or to pick up some materials for some home improvement projects. Over the summer and into the fall, he worked on a freelance gig creating a video for a new golf course right outside of town; he chose that job over a few offers because he knew most of the content collection would happen outside, where the air and space would keep him safe from the threat of COVID-19.
>Broekema uses his phone to trace where the sun will rise for a moment he hopes to include in his freelance project.
^Broekema walks across one of the bunkers on the golf course he is doing a freelance project on.
Broekema teaches his seniors from his bedroom in his home. He's made every class online for the semester.
Earlier this year, his mother, Marilyn Broekema was declared cancer-free right before COVID-19 hit the United States. One month later she was re-diagnosed, and this form was much more aggressive. Despite the intense chemotherapy treatment, things seemed to be turning for the worse. The last time he had seen her was over a year and a half ago, and he knew despite everything going on, the time was now.
But there's more.
"The decision to go see her was driven by the first set of cocktails that she was doing in her chemo; her second round of chemo treatment was not working well. And then my brother said, if you're going to make the trip, you should probably think about doing it sooner than later."
Broekema's light turns on early Saturday morning as he gets ready for his road trip to Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Broekema fixes his travel tea mug before taking off.
Broekema makes sure the bluetooth in the car is connecting to his phone. He got a rental because it would be cheaper than driving the family's gas-guzzling car.
Broekema looks in the rearview mirror as he drives on the highway. The plan was to drive up in the morning, visit in the afternoon, then come back overnight.
Broekema smiles as he drives down the roads of Kalamazoo, Michigan, the town he grew up, met his wife, and had his two children in.
Birds flit around the birdfeeders in the backyard of Dave and Marilyn Broekema's house.
Broekema greets his mother with a hug.
Marilyn Broekema takes a moment for herself.
Broekema grasps his mother's hand.
On this trip, Broekema learned his mother had switched chemo treatment and was working with a physical therapist. She had already started to feel better. She even was allowed by her physical therapist to go up and down the stairs with assistance.
Broekema walks to the Lake Michigan's edge at North Beach.
Broekema took a stop at North Beach in South Haven, Michigan on his way out of town. It's the beach he took his family to back when they lived in Kalamazoo. He collected a bottle of sand to bring back to his wife.
Broekema walks back to his car to drive eight hours to get back home.