As I began to write this entry I was planning to write a tear jerker, a piece that would not just tug at the heartstrings but would stretch them to the breaking point. Well, as you will see, that didn’t quite happen…but I figured out why. Everyone has a coping mechanism of some sort, an instinctive reflex that helps them keep going when the going gets tough. During ConnieLou’s bout with cancer this past spring, I realized that my coping mechanism is laughter. Finding things to make us laugh helped with the stress of the situation. Now that doesn’t mean that I became a stand-up comedian and told jokes endlessly. Instead it usually came in the form of a ‘one-liner’ poking fun at a particular situation. I guess that makes sense as I have a bit of a sarcastic streak and I’ve been accused of being a smartass more than once. With that said, as I began to write and the words began to flow my coping mechanism began to kick in and the idea of a tear jerker sort of went out the window. Oh well. So…you can probably put the KleenEx and Sham-Wows away. Well, maybe keep one KleenEx or a sleeve handy since ConnieLou tells me there are still a couple of emotional moments to be had. Read on…
I wasn’t prepared…
I thought I was, but it turns out I wasn’t.
For those expecting a tale of one of my normal outdoor or cooking misadventures, you may be disappointed because that’s what this entry isn’t. Instead, it’s a dad’s reflection on moving his youngest daughter into her dorm, uh, OK, ‘residence hall’ for her first year in college.
ConnieLou and I have always known the day would come that the girls would leave the nest and head out on their own. They’re both in school so technically they haven’t completely left home yet, but for nine months out of the year, they’ll both be away and doing their own thing.
When we moved Ashley into her room at Young Harris College there was excitement and, of course, there were some tears…but it seemed to be more of the beginning of a new adventure and less of the end of an era since Jenna was still at home to keep us company and to keep us amused and aggravated…both of which she relishes in doing. But we knew the day would come that Jenna would head off to school and they would both be out of the house…and that day sneaks up on you.
We started doing all the normal college prep stuff with Jenna over a year ago. She took the SAT and ACT exams, looked up colleges on the internet, requested literature, went for college visits, submitted admissions applications, got accepted, picked a college (Flagler College, BTW…Go Saints!…well, except when they play my Mountain Lions), paid the deposit, paid the tuition, paid room and board, ordered textbooks and bought all the cool stuff for her dorm room…basically we did all the normal stuff with all the normal excitement. And in the backs of our minds we knew that move-in day, the start of her first semester and our first long stretch in an empty house was rapidly sneaking up on us…and I wasn’t prepared.
Sure, I was physically prepared. We’d bought all the stuff, sorted all the stuff, condensed all the stuff, packed and repacked all the stuff, loaded up all the stuff, drove all the stuff and the owner of the stuff to St. Augustine, unloaded all the stuff and arranged all the stuff in said stuff owner’s dorm room. We even made a run to the store to buy a little more stuff.
What I wasn’t prepared for were the mental things, like backing out of the driveway and realizing that two cars were leaving but only one would come home. I wasn’t prepared for that first ‘this is it’ moment when you open the door to an empty dorm room and look inside. I wasn’t prepared for the wave of emotions that I unsuccessfully try to hide as we turned to leave after that last goodbye hug before heading to the car to leave. Nor was I prepared for the long, quiet ride home…well, quiet except for the occasional sniffles and boo-hoos from the passenger seat…I had a pretty good idea those would be coming.
While Jenna’s leaving home and going off to school is, in a sense, the end of an era, in reality, like it was with Ashley, it’s the beginning of her own adventure, first college and then life. And…it’s even the beginning of a new adventure for me and ConnieLou as we chart a new course in life without kids in the house and learn to be a couple again while the girls are away..
Oh, and for what it’s worth…I already have a pretty good idea that part of my course in life is to amuse and aggravate ConnieLou…both of which I relish in doing.