It’s been a hell of an emotional week. He was a walkin’ talkin’ bundle of nerves, often on the cusp of tears. He had to say goodbye to his very sweet and universally adored girlfriend, which was a gut-punch for everyone within fifty yards, and wrote all of us letters that attempted to express his feelings and gratitude. And when he bid the dog goodbye, yesterday morning, I almost lost it myself. Andy is 13, and our boys barely remember a time when he wasn’t around.
But, at the same time, he was excited. It’s a good school, and this is a great opportunity for him. And all teenagers look forward to the days when they’ll have more freedom. So, it was a big sack o’ conflicting feelings.
I was doing OK with it, until Tuesday evening. Then I began to panic. Nothing will ever be the same again, I knew. And I didn’t care for that. The older boy is 18, and we’ve been making every life decision — down to what we have for dinner and at what time — with him and his brother in mind, for nearly 20 years. They’ve dominated our thoughts since before they were born.
And now he doesn’t live here anymore. Of course he’s barely been home for the past couple of years, and I think that’s how nature kinda sorta prepares us. But it doesn’t prepare us completely. On Tuesday night I found myself pacing around the house, looking out random windows, and running my hands through my hair.
As we drove to the school yesterday morning it was almost normal. We talked and joked around, as we usually do. But there was an anxiousness hanging in the air. Is this the last time? Will this ever happen again? I knew he’d be home in six weeks, and a long time over Christmas and next summer… So, I realized I was overreacting. But it’s not an easy thing to turn off.
Toney and I talked about the roommate. None of us had met him, or knew anything about him — beyond his name. We couldn’t find a Facebook page for the guy, which concerned us. What 18 year old doesn’t use Facebook? I hear it’s going out of style with the younglings, but they’d still have a profile, right?
I hoped he was a gigantic nerd. Toney was surprised by this, and I told her I think nerds are safe. Cool-cat hipsters are dangerous… so I had my fingers crossed for a rosy-cheeked dumplin’ child, wearing a vintage Pokemon shirt. Then I made a super-obscure My So-Called Life reference: “I hope he’s more Brian Krakow than Jordan Catalano.”
Yeah, I know. I have a lot of nerve calling anyone else a nerd. I understand this.
I’d never been inside the dorms. Toney had, but I wasn’t with her on that visit, for some reason. And holy crap! I’m not kidding, it’s like a freaking Hyatt. The lobby is insane, there are plants and framed art everywhere, and huge hotel-style elevators.
His room is really nice, with a private bathroom, and granite countertops. There’s central air, with their own thermostat, and an incredible view from a big window. It’s a long way from the dorm rooms I visited during the 1980s. Those were like prison cells with Bon Jovi posters. This was more like an upscale hotel room. The photo above is where our oldest boy is now living.
And the roommate? He seems OK, as far as I can tell. He and his mother were there when we arrived. He brought his electric guitar — some kind of crazy Yngwie Malsteem situation — and a NASA-caliber gaming computer. He has a beard (I thought it needed to be mentioned), and is from Maryland. The mother wasn’t exactly bubbling over with friendliness, but the kid seemed OK. Time will tell.
We got the room set up, and Toney and I went to Wal-Mart to buy some last minute stuff. Like a fridge. We were hoping ol’ Yngwie would bring one, but he didn’t. So, we put it on the list, and headed to Wally World.
And what the hell, man? What’s the story with all the Amish? I had no idea. But we passed several horse and buggies along the way, and Wal-Mart itself was teeming with people straight out of the 1800s. It seems weird, right? Amish at Wal-Mart? Or is my understanding of such things way off?
As we were in line, waiting to pay, there was an Amish woman in front of us. And she was buying all sorts of things that blew my mind. Like Cheez-Its. WTF? Also, lots and lots of Kotex products. And a huge jar of Miracle Whip. None of this stuff seems in character to me. The Amish eat Miracle Whip??
But we bought yet another $200 worth of crap, and took it back to his room. Then we went to dinner, and there was weird electricity in the air. Everybody knew the official goodbyes were right around the corner, and something strange started happening: we began sniping at each other. You’d think we’d be extra nice at a time like this, but no. A full-blown argument was about to happen, until Toney put a stop to it. “Enough!” she said, and it brought everything into focus.
We had a nice meal, and our two boys took a walk, presumably telling each other goodbye in their own way. Then it was time.
I tried to keep it together, but only did a so-so job of it. I haven’t cried in years, on account of my coal-black soul, but after we hugged our son, and he walked away from us… some ancient emotion took hold and I actually shed a few tears. I didn’t know it was still possible; I thought I’d long ago burned everything out.
When we got home we called him, and he was watching Netflix. And I talked with him again this morning. So, I guess we can make this thing work? We’ll see how it goes.
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