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On a related note (because Jillian was in show choir for three years), I keep expecting Glee to disappoint me ... and it keeps not disappointing me. It's nice to know they're still making shows that are both smart and fun.


SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK



Someone asked me the other day why I haven’t written a column about my daughter starting college. Good question. I should answer that question with – an answer.

I dunno.

Maybe it’s because I was feeling rather down and emoish about it. This is my youngest, my baby, striking out on her own for the first time with no more help from me than half my home’s electronics, a cell phone that I pay for, and a fistful of money.

Maybe because it made me feel old; here I am, a guy who usually thinks of himself as a young man when my back isn’t giving out, discovering the people I share so many interests with are actually a generation behind me.

Maybe because I’m scared. She’s there, I’m here, and what do I do if she needs me? Not that she’d admit it if she did.

Maybe it’s because I’ve become more and more worried that, for one of the few times in American history, the world I’m handing down to my kids is becoming worse, not better, than the one I inherited from my parents.

Maybe because I’m still in denial about the fists full of money thing. By the way, do you know they actually buy plasma down in Fort Wayne? It’s true. Be warned, needles are involved.

Well, this is supposed to be a humor column, doggone it – I don’t have time to be emoish. I’m not sure if emoish is even a word. But I’m not sure sending Jillian to college was funny, so much as it was … strange.

Jillian is attending Ball State University, which is about a two hour drive from home: close enough to get back and forth on occasion, far enough that I – that is, she – can get alone time without worrying about the other generation hanging around all the time. Okay, I’ll admit it – some quiet time is nice, every now and then. I enjoyed it for all of a week. She, on the other hand, loves her roommate, has a meal card, and doesn’t have to worry about a parent barging in for any reason whatsoever.

If it wasn’t for classes, college would be perfect.

I, meanwhile, spent half my annual income completely outfitting her life. I mean, it was like setting up a new apartment from scratch – was there nothing from her old life that she couldn’t take along? She got a new refrigerator. Mine is 20 years old. She got a brand new MacBook Pro computer, twice the size of my little old iBook. I fail to understand why she couldn’t take the old stuff, and leave me the new stuff.

Do you remember the old country song, “Convoy”? We convoyed down Interstate 69 to Ball State: We had two cars, four vans, a semi, a flatbed with the bigger items, and a 5,000 gallon tanker full of Coca-Cola. Then we showed up at the school, only to be trapped in a traffic jam of a thousand other shell-shocked parents piloting U-Hauls around a parking lot meant for five hundred.

These days, a quarter in the parking meter gives you – twelve minutes. Yeah, right, we can get her unloaded in that time.

Thank goodness, the people at Ball State have done this rodeo before. We got a hand cart and a key to the freight elevator, since – for reasons that have never been explained to me – the regular elevator only goes to the sixth floor of the eight story building.

The biggest problem we had during unloading was a group of female students, practicing
their flag routine in the open area between the parking lot and the dorm entrance. It was hot that day – 92 degrees. I’m talking shorts and sports bra hot. That area became a high impact zone of young males carrying stuff while trying to watch, and old males carrying stuff while trying not to watch. More than one guy went home that day with a black eye, depending on how closely their wives were watching them.

Still, all in all, it went pretty smoothly -- until we saw her room.

It was tiny. Tiny. It was the size of her room at our house, which is so small that you can touch the wall at each end without jumping off the bed – and it’s a twin bed. The place had block walls and one tiny window, and she was sharing it with another girl. It reminded me of a typical jail cell, which I guess makes sense, because money comes out of my paycheck for people who stay in those, too.

I turned to her and said, “Yeah – all that stuff will never fit in here. I think they accidentally put you in the broom closet.”

That’s when something amazing happened. Jillian, the person voted most likely to be buried under a landslide of her own stuff, developed a sudden and heretofore unforeseen ability to organize. By the end of the week she not only had all of her stuff inside, she had it put away in places where she could actually find it again, with enough room left over for her roommate to unpack.

I was impressed. Suddenly I was looking not at a school kid, but at an adult college student who within weeks had her very first regular job, and who in five years or so will start paying me back for all the time, sweat, and cash I’ve invested in her over all these years.

Okay, let’s not get crazy with that idea. But at least she’s finally figured out how to clean her room.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
kevenn
Sep. 17th, 2009 01:02 pm (UTC)
Aw, I'm glad she's loving college so much. My last three years were the best. :)
ozma914
Sep. 18th, 2009 11:11 am (UTC)
I'm hoping that for her, too. There are all too few college graduates in our family ...
irish_injun
Sep. 17th, 2009 01:32 pm (UTC)
If I had met you when I was younger and had a sense of competition about writing, I might have given up and become a plumber! You are THAT good!
But now I am old and my joints creak too much to crawl under a sink, and my fingers are probably in better shape than any other part of my body, so I will continue to play at my keyboard.

My heart goes out to you. It's a special joy to have an inside look at your love for Jillian. Thanks!
ozma914
Sep. 18th, 2009 11:11 am (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it! I tried plumbing once; the scars to both house and person eventually healed. :-)
(Deleted comment)
ozma914
Sep. 18th, 2009 11:12 am (UTC)
Thanks, glad you liked it! And I'm stoked too. :-)
gillo
Sep. 17th, 2009 08:02 pm (UTC)
I'm glad it's going well for her. But it's strange, leaving them at university. When we took F her first time I remember feeling mostly jealous that I couldn't go again.

Currently we have both girls at home - but by this time next year, probably neither. Where are those baby girls?

Enjoy your alone-time. Try, at any rate. {{hugs}}
ozma914
Sep. 18th, 2009 11:17 am (UTC)
I never got to college -- one of my biggest regrets, which I never passed up on an opportunity to tell her. So yes, there was a certain amount of jealousy for me too, along with the worry!

I'll be honest with you -- I really do like alone time. I wouldn't want to see an unlimited amount of it stretching out ahead of me, you understand!
curiouswombat
Sep. 17th, 2009 10:33 pm (UTC)
I recognise the feelings so well - right down tot he rather small room the only difference was that UK students rarely share rooms - so at least she only had to fit her own stuff in!

Make the most of the next three years - it'll go amazingly quickly.
ozma914
Sep. 18th, 2009 11:18 am (UTC)
Oh, yes, one thing I know is that it'll go amazingly quickly! It has already. *sigh*
vovat
Sep. 19th, 2009 11:12 pm (UTC)
I think it's typical to take too much stuff the first time that a person moves into a college dorm. I never brought any refrigerators or couches, and I still think I managed to streamline things more in the second year.
ozma914
Sep. 20th, 2009 07:31 am (UTC)
I was thinking the same thing -- I'm sure by the end of the year she'll think of things she hasn't really needed.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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