Friday, September 10, 2010

My eldest cousin sent along a note recounting her feelings about taking her oldest to college. It got me to thinking about my send off to college and how that event, like much of my adolescence was confused and complicated by my mother’s illness.

The plan was for my brother Kenny to fly in on Thursday, then Friday the three of us would drive most of the way, about 500 miles in all and then take a hotel for the night as the dorms opened on Saturday. I was very much looking forward to going off to school; I was tired of my life in my hometown, tired of taking care of my mother’s finances and dealing with her illness alone.

Wednesday morning it came apart. Kenny called to say he’d been called away on an emergency and it would be a week before he would return. On such short notice, there wasn’t anyone else, Leah was in Europe, Grace worked for a magazine and was on deadline and Dad was in South Africa with plans to meet me at school on Saturday evening. We tried some neighbors and friends but no one was available.

Mom said not to worry, she’d get me there. I worried. Thursday evening she broke down crying and said she couldn’t make the trip and then shrunk into the standing fetal position that she assumed when I would unleash my temper at her. And it was coming, but it passed as I realized that wouldn’t solve anything. I thought for a moment and then found the phone book and looked up the rental car companies in town.

The first one I called told me that they wouldn’t rent a car with a remote return of that distance. I told the second that we’d keep the car two days and return it there. Mom protested that they’d never rent the car with me as the driver and I told she’d be listed as the driver, but she couldn’t…she didn’t have to.

Friday we picked up the mini van and at the house I took my stuff that had been packed in mom’s and put it in the rental. At 3 AM I left and drove straight through except for gas and potty stops. It was all freeways and not a lot of traffic, so I arrived before 1 PM. There was a line of cars waiting to unpack, but by the time I finished checking in I needed to wait for only two to finish before getting access to the curb. Opening the back I stared at my stuff and played a girl card. There were a couple of guys hanging around, probably checking out the freshmen girls. Horny guys have few uses, but one of them is hauling your boxes up to the room.

My roommate, Marsha, and her parents were beginning to unpack when I arrived, I’d exchanged emails with her and we spoke on the phone. They were nice, all perky and polished. They asked about my parents and I told them that they were attending to a few things; I wasn’t interested in getting into that conversation. I had the guys put the stuff in my room and we left as I needed to return the car. One of them borrowed a car and followed me to the airport rental car return, where a huge cluster developed since the car wasn’t to be returned there. Finally I gave them the keys and said it was their car and problem.

I was hungry and offered to buy the guys’ dinner to thank them for helping me. They agreed and brought me to this kitschy place near campus. It was a student dive with a great burger. As I finished eating, fatigue overcame me and all I wanted to do was get back to the room, so I excused myself and walked back to the dorm.

In the elevator to my floor, I met Karen; she was a sophomore and was helping with the freshman orientation. I liked her immediately and we became best of friends. She got the Cliff Notes version of my day and she offered to help me get some stuff unpacked so that I could make up the bed and go to sleep.

Prior to entering the room I knocked on the door, to warn my roommate, but she was out. I stepped into the room and looked around and whispered, oh my god…

To Be Continued



Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've reminded me of both my own drop-off at college and dropping off my own daughter when that day came. I remember the Oh-My-God moment, and I also remember my wife's (and daughter's mother) managing to keep in the tears until daughter was shrinking in the rear-view mirror. The moment was especially poignant because she was standing at almost exactly the same spot I'd stood 20 years earlier as my parents drove off.

2:03 PM  
Anonymous VJ said...

Always an interesting story to reminisce about. But there's no chance of repeating the same with me. Mine was a similar cluster f*ck, but only on the 1st go. Later on mum was actually reasonably useful & learned how to drive a truck tolerably well. But probably not all of the issues you had to deal with Kim. But an interesting perspective for sure. Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

7:44 AM  
Blogger Pete from Cal said...

What I got out of this post is being reminded how strong you were even back in your college years; taking care of your mom and yourself all by yourself. Kudos to you Kim! The mentioning of your mom almost brought me to tears...

Hope you will have time to write the continuation of this story soon. Thanks.

12:17 AM  

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