Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hanging Out A Little While Longer

What the heck, I'm on a roll. And a pie is cooling in the laundry room with a timer to put it in the fridge in an hour. So let's knock out one more Oberlin story and finish this interminable story about our trip there...

I think Ben was expecting us to leave just after breakfast on Sunday morning, but he didn't flinch when as we were walking back towards his dorm I told him we wanted to hang out with him for a few more hours. Not the slightest flinch. He took us to his room where we printed out our Southwest Airlines boarding passes, and then he took us out to Wilder Bowl where we found a warm, sunny spot of greenery and sat down.

Actually, I sat down. Ben and Trudy laid back on the grass. He curled up a bit, closed his eyes and seemed to be sleeping after we had been chatting a while, although he would periodically chime in on the conversation without opening his eyes.

And then after a while, we all sat up and talked. I couldn't resist it. There were some pearls of fatherly wisdom I wanted to share before we left town. Pearls about making good use of this time in his life. Pearls about studying as hard as the Music Conservatory students practice. Pearls about ... I don't know what all else, but you get the idea.

And then in a flash, several hours of hanging out had passed and it was time for us to leave for Hopkins International airport.

"I'll go with you to the car," Ben said. "You don't have to walk alone."

So he walked us back to Tappan Square, where we had parked along Main Street. We hugged goodbye. We told him we're proud of him. I said to work hard. And then we got into the rental car and waved goodbye.

I sat behind the steering wheel watching him walk across the square in his disheveled shirt and his flip-flops. He pulled out his phone to check his messages. And he didn't look back again.

I sat there watching as he walked on the grass under the leafless trees to the far side of the square and then crossed Professor Street and was gone.

I sat there watching my son, my only child, walk back into this new life that he is making for himself in this place I hardly know, making brand-new friends, doing brand-new things, figuring it all out for himself.

Tears streamed down my cheeks.

"Do you want me to drive?" Trudy asked.

"No, I'm fine," I said, and I started the car.

...So there you have it: our Parents' Weekend trip to Oberlin College. And now, about that pie in the laundry room.

1:31:22 AM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments:  

Finding His Own Way

On Sunday morning, we were supposed to meet Ben at the Black River Cafe at 10:00. But he went to a dance marathon after the swing dance, whereas we went back to the hotel to get some sleep. So we weren't particularly surprised when there was no Ben there.

The weather had been fantastic that weekend (given the cold weather the week before), and that morning was the warmest since we arrived on Thursday night. So we walked the half-block back to Tappan Square and found a bench in the sun and sat down to wait.

A few minutes passed, and we saw Rachel and David across the street. They waved and came over to where we were sitting. Ben had invited them to breakfast. They reported that he had gone over to Keep Cottage after the dance marathon and spent the night there.

Keep Cottage was two blocks north from where we were sitting, and as the four of us turned our heads in that direction, there he was, walking towards us with his hands in his pockets and his long hair looking like ... looking like he just got up a few minutes before.

"Does he study?" my mother asks me after reading these stories. "Does he get grades?"

Yes, of course he does. And he did talk about them a little. But we didn't want to spend our time grilling him about those (obviously important) things. It's his first semester at school a long way from home. He's been tossed into a completely new world and has a little exploring to do. And the thing of it is that his parents have way more visibility into how he is doing than my parents had into what I was doing during my first semester at the University of Illinois 30+ years ago. So even though we really wanted to ask him those questions and more, we just didn't need to grill. I just need to be patient for a little while longer, give him some space, let him start finding his own way.

Find his own way within limits, of course. But ragged hair and wearing the same clothes on a Sunday morning that you had on Saturday night are well within limits, as I see things right now. Especially since it was only 10:10. And especially because we were just so happy to see his sheepish, smiling face.

There'll be time for questions later.

12:57:40 AM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: