Mouths of babes: ‘Don’t cry Daddy, you’ll see me again’
It took only 2,343 miles in the car but I have successfully delivHUHG YRunJHU DDuJKWHU WR WKH finH folks at my alma mater, the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, to start her college career. (That, by the way, is a lot of “Iowa” in one sentence.)
Those of you with college-aged children are familiar with this little physical and emotional exercise: Parents pack the car with everything that ZiOO fiW — in RuU FDsH iW ZDs WZR FDUORDGs — DnG transport it to a college dormitory. Some colleges are bigger, some are smaller. Some are close, some are far away. For the geographically challenged among us, Iowa is somewhere out past West Jablip, Middle of Nowhere.
The important detail for me is that it’s a long way from where I live.
But the experience is similar in that no matter what size the college or university, parents are leaving their child with a bunch of kids they don’t know to be on their own and start the next phase of life.
I say phooey to that. Why do babies have to grow up anyway, and then go off to college in magical, IDU-DZDy SODFHs fiOOHG ZiWK FRUn, cows and the world’s biggest truck stop?
So along with 4,500 other freshman over a two-day period last week, we moved Younger Daughter into Burge Hall on the campus of the University of Iowa. It is one block from where I lived 30 years ago, and if my old memory serves me, I believe during my time there we affectionately referred to Burge Hall as “The Zoo.”
Swell. Now there is a comforting thought for a parent, huh?
I was also pleased to learn that young, college-aged gentlemen are still complete imbeciles, because fathers have always been comfortable leaving their daughters a thousand miles away in the company of doofuses and clowns.
Case in point: One evening after moving all of Younger Daughter’s sWuII inWR WKH GRUPs — DnG WKHn WDNinJ inYHnWRUy DnG finGinJ RuW we still needed to go to Target and purchase several hundred dollars’ more worth of “college dorm room sWuII” — ZH ZHUH ZDONinJ WKURuJK the lobby of Burge Hall on the way to the elevators.
Consider the thought process on this: Here was a father walking with his daughter through the dorms. Some jamoke with those high black socks and baggy gym shorts approached me. Here is how this conversation unfolded:
Jamoke: “Sir, can I get on the elevator with you and go upstairs? My buddies live here and I don’t so I don’t have access to go upstairs.”
Me: “What did the security folks at the front desk tell you?”
Jamoke: “That since I didn’t live here, I’d have to wait for my buddies to come downstairs, and that I should just wait in the lobby.”
Me: “Son, I think it’s a very good idea for you to wait in the lobby.”
What I considered suggesting was that he wait in the lobby in one of the dorms at the University of Alaska. Idiot. After admitting to me that he GiGn’W bHORnJ uSsWDiUs in WKH fiUsW place, this jabroni saw me walking with my daughter and actually thought it was a solid plan to ask me to welcome him onto the elevator and escort him upstairs? To where all the young women lived? Knucklehead. I should have just pinched off his head and handed it to him. And hey, pal, lose those stupid-looking black socks. You’re never gonna get any girls with that ridiculous fashion statement. And while you’re at it, pull up those baggy pants and stay off my lawn.
Despite that, the rest of the move-in was uneventful … until it was time for Old Dad to say goodbye to Younger Daughter.
I could feel the tsunami of emotion building in my chest at the hotel that morning, and that feeling turned on the faucets before I ever got to campus. Once on campus, I decided it might be a good idea to walk around a little to gather myself.
Turns out that didn’t help at all. The more I walked around, the more I pondered that Younger Daughter would be taking the same paths where I had walked 30 years earlier. The education and experiences that I got at the University of Iowa were now hers for the taking.
By the time I got to the dorms, there was a trail of tears and snot through most of the campus. I didn’t realize that one nose could manufacture that much unmentionable stuff.
:KHn ZH finDOOy PHW in WKH ORbby of Burge Hall, I was readily idenWifiDbOH. , ZDs WKH RnH sWDnGinJ in the puddle.
“Don’t cry Daddy, you’ll see me again,” she said as we embraced.
It would not have been out of the question for somebody to call an ambulance for me at that point.
So I got in my car and pointed it east toward Philly. I put in a Beach Boys CD, supplemented that later with a Dan May CD, and headed home. Those wonderful and talented musicians kept me company in that lonely car and helped ease the excruciating heartbreak that I was experiencing on the long drive back to Philadelphia.
Many of you have been through the same thing. And certainly there are more heartbreaking situations in life than leaving one’s child at college. But this situation was mine, and it completely owned me.
She says she’ll be back at Christmas. I think I’m going to put up the tree this weekend and wait by the door.
Mike Morsch is executive editor of Montgomery Newspapers and author of the book “Dancing in My Underwear: The Soundtrack of My Life.” He can be reached by calling 215-542-0200, ext. 415, or by email at email@example.com. This column can be found at www. montgomerynews.com.