• off to college •

• off to college •
The girl went off to college today. Off to Boston, so far away. I have to work, today, as every day, so everybody here went to see her to her dormitory, which is to say, that is, everybody but me.
How to say goodby. Not easy for me. And then, there’s that thing – whatever it is, which does not let us talk easily. How did Salinger put it? Love and squalor. That which, one day, came between us, and stayed, inexplicably. Squalor and love, without remedy.
And then, there’s that other, other thing. Some call it “flattening of affect”. I call it that “Charles Bronson thing” – where, when you are churning inside, the worse it gets, the calmer you seem. More than that, I am. Calm. Not unfeeling, but really, really calm. The eye of the storm. That’s me.
Needless to say, that’s a problem. When everybody else is hugging the breath out of each other, and bawling, with big boo-hoos, and making plans, and promises, and saying, “‘Till then!” I am just looking on, wondering what the hell’s got into them. To say the least, it’s strange.
Not great with big goodbyes. As I see it, my job has been to get her ready, ultimately, to say, “Arrivederci.” Have a happy. Take your awesome tools. Get out there. Grab it. Yours, all yours. Go. Get. It. Yeah, that thing there: that extraordinary life. So.
Later today, as I was helping a neighbor-lady trundle her bins to the street, I don’t know why, but I tried to relate it to her, this cognitive dissonance thing, but she shook her head with disdain, and said, “Typical.” Presumably, of me, as she walked away.
Typical. Really? Me? Maybe.
So, 9 a.m. come time to say goodbye. The car is all packed. The girl is checking the gas, I guess, to make sure it’s full, I guess she’s gonna drive. Good for her. I taught her that.
She’s got to go, now. I’ve gotta go, too.
“Doctor’s appointment,” I say, as I lightly hug her. She smells of washed cotton and vanilla, maybe, and, what was that other thing – oh yes – surety. My sweet girl. All confidence, and competence. God, the miles we’ve been through, she and me. Heh. Yeah. Well. Time to go.
“Be well, okay?” is all I can say.
“You too.”
“Left you a note, there, in the car. See you.”
And that was it.
Man, oh, man. Pretty thin. See you. Be well.
But then, there’s the note. My note. Maybe it will help:
“Well, you are going off to college, now, your first step to starting a new life for yourself. Things are going to be very different for you: don’t expect perfection, at first – things have a way of working themselves out. That you have the necessary strengths, smarts, and skills to make the most of your opportunities, and to realize your dreams, you have ably demonstrated, since, well, since always, as far as I can tell.
I am proud of you.
~ Tim Burchfield



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