August 22, 2009
Things have continued to hum along nicely since — the hum the world makes as it spins slowly off its silver sprocket.
"You might not want to be around on Wednesday," the wife warns, of the day before we are to leave.
"That will be the day of maximum meltdown," she predicts. "She’ll be right on the edge."
Honestly, my wife is the one I’m worried about. The little girl seems all right with leaving for college, and me — I’m a rock, 175 pounds of U.S. steel.
But the wife? This will be very hard on her.
For the last 18 years, she has made a hobby of her daughter, shared in her joys and accomplishments. Now her hobby is headed 2,000 miles away.
So, I try to be a calming influence, which comes naturally to me. When my beautiful wife frets over something minor, I assure her with, "You know, you have plenty of more important things to stress out about."
At last count, I said this 57 times in two days. My ability to be a calming influence may well have been overestimated.
"She needs your medical card," the wife says.
"How about a quart of my blood?" I say.
"Just give me your card," she says.
My wife is in no mood for joking. In fact, last time she laughed was after she fell into a glass of Champagne at an Easter brunch. The year? 1992.
"Give me your dental card too," she says.
So basically, the little girl is going off to college with everything I own, plus her mother’s sense of contentment, plus a new laptop computer. That one set me back a bundle. This laptop is skinny as a summer dress, almost translucent. With the right software, it could power a minivan to the moon.
So be it. For I long ago dedicated myself to my children’s happiness.
The other night, four fathers took their four daughters out for a farewell dinner. Lots of steak, lots of laughter. Over the course of the evening, the young women learned:
— The best way to tie a dorm door shut from the outside.
— Thursday is the best party night of the week. "Monday’s good too," one dad noted.
— If you choose to drink, stay away from frat house sangria.
Oh, there were other helpful tidbits, about GPAs and roommates. The girls learned about all the services available at the typical school library. One dad, a Colgate grad, told of a "dinner of the Vikings," or some such, in which he was clobbered in the face by a ham.
Needless to say, the girls are now very excited about their first year of college.
Here are a few of the things I will miss about the little girl when she begins college next week:
— Her smile.
— Her spirit.
— The way she answers the phone.
— The way she keeps her head down on ground balls.
— The way she strikes a penalty kick — then laughs.
— Her wacky-funny friends, in and out of the house all the time.
— Her wacky-funny friends’ parents.
— The way she’d undercook the brownies, just right.
— The way she’d help me download pictures to my computer, then ask for money.
— The way she’d peel an orange.
— The way she’d decide to have a party with three hours’ notice, and it’d still turn out great.
— The way she’d never finish her cheeseburger, then offer me the rest.
— The way she’d sit on the couch, hugging her knees, and watch the most god-awful TV shows you could ever imagine.
— The way she laughed till she cried.
— The way she cried till she laughed.
See, it’s not that much. But I keep recalling one incident that captures what our youngest daughter means to all of us.
When she was 5, I drove her and her siblings into the mountains one night to see the Hale-Bopp comet.
It was a grand adventure — we sang, we complained — and after an hour’s drive we parked the car, spread a blanket and sat back to wait for the celestial show.
All we saw that night were clouds, just clouds — thick and gray as battleships.
"Daddy?" she finally said, shivering in the mountain air.
"Thanks for bringing us to see the clouds."