What is beyond that gentle curve of the water? Where are those wild geese flying off to? What is that hippie-fellow thinking about?
Join the mystery; you are part of it, Em.
It seems like just yesterday that I sat here writing about my Emily on her 18th birthday. The previous post to that one was reflecting on her high-school graduation. After getting over the fact that I just don’t write much anymore, I figured I’d better get to work on a post concerning her college graduation.
Words cannot describe how proud I am of her for sticking to it and graduating. I realize that I’m projecting my issues a bit, but it is not an understatement to say that her graduating college has been the number one priority for me. Yeah, yeah, morals, ethics, blah blah blah…I’m telling you that finishing college was the only thing that mattered to me. The other stuff was going to come anyway. She would be a good person whether she finished school or not. Tragic movie-style scenes used to play out in my head: I’d be dying in the hospital bed and whoever was standing beside me there at the end (sometimes Annette was dead already), I’d groan, “…whatever else happens, I don’t care…just make sure she finishes college…”
So, she’s done it. She has a Bachelor of Health Science – Respiratory Therapy. She’s been hired at Barnes Hospital here in St. Louis, she’s found herself a great little apartment in Maplewood and she is on her way to a great life. I officially pronounce her a Category 5 Hurricane.
I was scanning a bunch of pictures for a dvd that I’m making for Mother’s Day and when I came across the one on the left there it reminded of the one on the right.
On the left that’s my Aunt Lois, Uncle Russ and Mom (Alice) about 1942 I’m guessing.
On the right is Emily, bronze sailor and Maria. This is from one of our trips to the Pensacola Naval Air Museum. I just realized that this picture was four years ago when Maria was heading to college and Emily was heading into her senior year of high-school. Now, we just received an invitation to Maria’s college graduation and Em is heading into her last year of college. Yikes!
Emily gave me a Mizzou T-shirt for Christmas. I wear it with pride because she is a student there, of course, but also for another reason. In 1977-78, I was a student there. Well, more accurately put, I attended a few classes there.
This was a very sad chapter in my life. Even now it’s hard for me to imagine how I could have found myself in such a tragic, empty place. Oh, wait; that’s right I was 18! And, with a maturity level of probably 14. I was profoundly shy and withdrawn and this was, in the end, what did me in. I simply wouldn’t communicate, to anyone, what I really wanted. I needed permission from others to act, so I would pathologically construct circumstances to somehow gain this permission. After a year of this, well, at least I simply left. And, not finishing college would be a decision that would haunt me for…well, until my daughter gave me a Mizzou T-shirt. Oversimplification? Yes, of course, but I smile big when I put it on.
(Note to young people: this kind of brilliant introspection only comes with time. Listen to your parents and you’ll avoid much trouble.)
With the new year upon us, my thoughts turn to young love. When a girl and guy fall for each other; in love for maybe the first time.
What is love? Why, glad you asked. As a certified old married guy, I hold the secrets to love. Yes, that’s right, all you have to do is ask, and the secrets I will share.
First, though, some poetry. What could I say that the great poets haven’t before? Little, I’m sure.
Sweet little Sheila You’ll know her if you see her
Blue eyes and a ponytail
Cheeks are rosy She looks a little nosey
Man, this little girl is fine
Never knew a girl Like my little Sheila
Her name drives me insane
Sweet little girl That’s my little Sheila
Man, this little girl is fine
Me and Sheila go for a ride
Oh-oh-oh-oh Feel funny inside
Then little Sheila Whispers in my ear
Oh-oh-oh-oh I love you Sheila dear
Sheila said she loves me She said she’d never leave me
True love that will never die
We’re doggone happy Just me and her together
Man, this little girl is fine
It all started Friday afternoon. I left work a little early so as to renew my license plates. They were already overdue, of course. The DMV near my house has closed, so I happily drove to the nearest location, which is not-so-near my house. I joined the line of similarly-natured folks and soon enough noticed a hand-written sign on the wall reading, “We do not accept Credit or Debit Cards.” Now, first of all, can the state of Missouri not afford a real sign? And second of all, why not? Anyway, I left. What do I care, I have a pleasant evening and weekend ahead of me, I’ll just come back in the morning and get this all straightened out. So, the evening rolls around; Annette is visiting her sister, Emily is coming home tomorrow (Sat.) for a family wedding, and I have the evening to myself. And thus is began.
Still Friday evening the phone rings and it’s Emily. She had told us that she had a ride to St. Charles and we would then pick her up there sometime Saturday. She tells me that she’s arrived at her destination and is calling to give me directions for tomorrow.
I say, “Where in St. Charles are you?”
She answers, “High Hill.”
I exclaim, “High Hill? High Hill, Missouri?!”
She says something like, “I guess so.”
I explain, “That is not St. Charles!” as if that would somehow mean something to her. She really can’t conceive of logistics of what now awaits me. There was already a wedding Saturday night to get to, then Church on Sunday morning, of course, and then Annette had invited her mother and aunt over for dinner Sunday evening. So, a trip to St. Charles, OK, I can squeeze that in. But, High Hill MO? And, of course, we’d have to get her back there sometime when? Why Sunday night, of course, after our dinner guests had gone.
So, Saturday morning rolls around and I take off for Nowheresville Missouri, leaving Annette at home to ready herself for the wedding and the house for Sunday night. It was a pleasant enough trip; I pick her up and on the way home we stop for gas. Annette had asked me to get a quart of oil and put it in the car, so I did that.
Saturday night, the wedding was wonderful. How shall I describe Tara? I call her my niece. She’s my cousin’s daughter. But, that cousin is, and largely has been, absent from all of our lives. So, I tend to look at her through my Aunt Beth’s eyes; she Beth’s grand-daughter. I choked back tears at the wedding, when her dad walked her down the aisle and stood next to her during the ceremony. I always liked that part of the ceremony: the father stands right between the bride and groom for much of the early part of it. The father is symbolically between bride and groom. Only after asking the father, “Who gives this bride away?” does the father then join the rest of the family in their seats. Nowadays, as Tara’s dad did, you answer, “Her mother and I do.”
(The Cardinals were polite enough to wait until after the reception to start their game, so we went home and I got to watch them clinch the series against the Padres.)
Sunday morning comes, and as I’m sitting in Church next to Annette, we hear the Pastor say, “And don’t forget, the Church Picnic is this afternoon.” We both look at each other and if we were cartoon characters, there would’ve been a balloon over both our heads that read, “Crap!” I’d forgotten about the picnic and I was supposed to help with it. She glared at me for a moment and then mercifully said, “You’re on your own.” So, after Sunday School I went to the picnic and she went home to get ready for our dinner guests. Upon returning home from the picnic, I was walking into the house and noticed that Annette’s car was badly leaking oil. I went inside and announced, “Your car is badly leaking oil.” She immediately said, “Did you put oil in it yesterday?” I reflected for a brief moment and then that balloon appeared above my head again. “Crap!” I had neglected to put the oil cap back on. Turns out she has some experience in this area and took the news quite well.
Well, the dinner went fabulous and afterward, we all piled in my old ’91 Corrolla that has expired plates, and drove to High Hill, Missouri. Great family time, eh?
It’s been very different around here since Emily has gone. Annette and I are both prone to spontaneous crying; just for no reason, really. My emotions go from reminiscing over the little girl to praying that God will guide her in these turbulent years. If there’s one thing that I wish the most it would be that she learn to lean on God at this point in her life and not spend a lifetime figuring it out like yours truly. With that, all other things will come in their due time.
I apologize for not writing more often and also for this repetitive entry. I confess that it’s all I think about. I probably worry needlessly, I know. I think I’ll feel better when she’s past this first stage; when she gets in the groove, past the I-want-to-come-home phase. I hope everybody will write or email her. Please call or email me if you don’t have her addresses.
(I also know that it’s quite possible that I’m the one with the problem and she’s doing great and will continue to do great. So, write or email me!)
Well, Emily is safe and secure in her dorm room. Her roomate is a friend from high-school and her good friend Alex and his roomate (another Metro kid named John) are close by. When Alex came over to the girls room, for some reason I felt very comforted. I like Alex. He’s an Eagle Scout, you know. We said our goodbyes rather quickly, which felt appropriate, and were on our way. Christians have a phrase to describe why Jesus came when he did which very much describes our feelings right now: The time had fully come.
The time has fully come for this. I think Annette, Emily and I all feel this to be true. Sure, we have our moments of crying, but we know she’s where she should be.
It’s been a whirlwind summer, and today was the zenith. Sleep tight big girl, our thoughts and prayers are with you always.
We’re on our way to Columbia to drop Emily off. It’s a big day for all of us. Say a little prayer for her would you?
Friday night, we dropped Emily off at Alex’s house, chit-chatted a bit with his mom & dad, then said our good-byes. She’s off on her road-trip with her good friends Alex, Max and Leah. Our emotions run up and down like a rollercoaster. Annette could go from anger towards her teenager to crying over her baby in the space of a few seconds.
Saturday night we actually went out. Like, you know, out. We went to the Pageant on Delmar to see Butch Wax & the Hollywoods. Emily’s former French teacher’s long-time boyfriend is the trumpet player and he gave us a couple of tickets. Annette’s working as their real estate agent too.
Just going out as a couple was nice. After finding a couple of seats, we both had a glass of red wine and really enjoyed the show. It was the band’s 20th anniversary show so they had former members and special guests coming up throughout the night. Billy Peek came out at the end and played a few songs to remind everyone how a Rock N Roll guitar is supposed to sound. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard someone use a wah-wah pedal effectively. Billy Peek and the keyboardist from Butch Wax were good friends with Johnny Johnson and they all got together for a tribute. Billy did Johnny B Goode and dedicated it to Johnny Johnson.
Many emotions throughout the evening. There were folks there of all ages; lots of kids too. As I watched a guy carrying his little girl down to the dance floor, I spontaneously started to cry. I remember as if it were yesterday when my little girl would ask me to carry her from the car and up the steps to our apartment on Dover. I would tell her, “Em, as long as I can lift you, I’ll carry you up these steps.” Soon I was warning her that one day, I would no longer do that. How I’ll miss that little girl.
It’s seems I’ve been warning her throughout her life of the day when I wouldn’t be the one carrying her. I’ve looked at it like a job; I must prepare her for life. All I’ve really wanted was to make her better than me. I believe I’ve done that. Annette and I are mysteriously complimentary personalities with each shoring up the other’s weaknesses, and I think Emily will benefit from that too. There are some areas that we’re both weak in, and if you’d like to hear two grown-ups bellyache, you should hear us fretting over the terrible things we’ve done to our daughter.
Today, she turns 18. Out of state as she’s been so many times before. With her birthday in summer, it isn’t uncommon for her to spend it away from home. She’s quite well traveled thanks to her extended family. Lot’s of time in Colorado, once to Quebec, once to the east coast. Once to the Ozarks with her second family, the Porchs.
Just got off the phone with Emily; they made it safe to Woodland Park. I’m very happy she’s with Jennifer tonight. I know she feels very comfortable out there and if she can’t be with us tonight, on this very special night, I’m very glad she’s with friends that she loves and family that love her dearly.
For the record, Em, your mother and father love you very much and nothing could ever lessen that love. Happy Birthday big girl!