If you have read me, you know that most of what I write is about experiences that I have had, good or bad in my life. Most circle my family and friends and this piece wont be much different in most ways. It will be different in some, however as I am not speaking of experience this time. I am writing about new things that I have learned. First’s if you will.
My son, Justin was accepted into a Summer College program through Cornell University for those who will be entering the medical field in college. So for the past week, I have prepared for the soon departure of him to a new place for him and me. We spent time doing and preparing and going through many firsts.
Laundry was the most comical off all for certain. Justin had only experienced the clean smelling, folded laundry that meets him at his bedroom door each Friday night. He had never met the dirty, foul-smelling and funky looking clothing that meets my hands before that delivery. Justin and I spent an entire evening devoted to the art of zen. He sorted, measured, switched, hung and folded. He handled “delicates” though not with the utter glee that I have as the clean piles get higher. He passed with flying colors and was promoted to apprentice before the next day.
Packing was no small task. Between the list that the University gave and the overwhelming amount of clothing that Justin required for every situation possible, we were two suitcases heavy, a kickback amp, bass guitar, cables, mixer, fans, tennis rackets, books, laptop and backpacks…..we were full and ready. Let me tell you, he did none of the packing. Not a first for him or myself. Even his sister, Darien helped. Justin needed a flashlight and none could be found, so she ran to her room and brought down her favorite flashlight given to her many years ago. This was packed right in with the rest of his gear and it sits on his desk, very smartly. It is blue and mumbles the sounds of a hippo when you use it. If you look in the picture below, you can see it sitting there in all it’s cuteness.
The real firsts began once we hit campus. Cornell had check in at the dorm down to a science and my stomach kind of hated it. Every move we made toward getting him comfortable in Mary Donlon, the more I knew I was on the way out. I’ve never felt so lost so quickly before. Justin was more and more excited as the minutes ticked by. We ate in our first cafeteria, activated the laundry card and carefully made sure we made it to Bailey Hall at 2:00 pm for the first lecture.
During the next two hours we were introduced to TA’s, RCA’s, Dorm Hall Leaders, Summer College Director’s and most importantly, the Dean. If Justin choses to go to Cornell after high school, I am hoping that he choses American History as an elective and somehow is fortunate enough to have this man teach him. His convocation was enlightening, funny, engaging and more than informative. He was truthful, compassionate and stern when he felt words needed to be told firmly. He spoke to the parents first and told us we had one role:
At first my heart physically jumped and then thundered as all the 750+ students in the room cheered and clapped, including my son. Then I collapsed inside and fell as I watched my son smile from ear to ear with great satisfaction. I felt his elbow in my side as he jabbed me jokingly. I sucked it up. I listened to the Dean. I listened and learned some first’s. I had to learn that:
Justin would be fine – Justin was here because of great parents like all of us in the room – Justin would be cared for and taught and they at Cornell would remember that Justin was in fact, 17 – We parents would have great parental substitutes who would allow the students to grow and set them straight when they needed it. I learned I had to let him go. I did that once before in my life and regretted it ever since. I was hoping today I would not be filled with that same regret.
The Dean would then direct his talk to the students, where he encouraged them to do what they came there to do. For in fact, this would look really great on their résumé, or really bad, depending on the decisions they made during their stay. He made a point to encourage them to study and do their work during the day. Studies have proven that this strategy works. Then, those that studied and finished their work could tempt those weaker to go out at night, which would lead to poorer decisions for the others, lower grades for the night timers and they would get a 2 for 1. Ah Capitalism at it’s best.
It was probably the best 20 minute speech I have heard in years. I know the students walked away with great respect for him as did we, the parents. Each group then broke out to meet their individual Professors and TA’s and we finished the time grabbing papers and getting back to the dorm for last goodbye’s. I really don’t remember much of the last few moments I had with Justin. I was concentrating intently on trying to be sober in my sorrow that I know I hugged him and I soon left him to his new room-mate, Dan and what would surely be the time of his life.
I spent the night with a great friend, who kept my mind off of the pain I was feeling inside and we ate, drank a little and walked and more importantly, talked. We used a map, not a GPS to find our way to Lake Cayuga and watched the sun as it was beginning to set on the first of many new days I would have in my life. We spent the evening with that map shopping and spending a night I wont forget for some time. I don’t remember falling asleep, though I know I did. Thank you, Sheri. Once again you were there during a time in my life when I needed you most. Someday I hope to be there for you, in a time that you need me like that.
The next morning, we drove one last time to the dorm to drop off a forgotten item to Justin and to see him one more time. I’m not quite sure what I was thinking he would be like: maybe miserable, sad…take me home…..etc. He was handsome, showered and visibly very happy and very grown up. Though I know he didn’t want to, he let me hug him one more time before I went on my way and walked back into his dorm. I hugged Sheri, and we both drove away in opposite directions. The drive home was long and sad and tears came when I didn’t expect them to but I wasnt filled with regret this time. I was filled with sadness of just missing him. Fear that he would get hurt. Pride that he was in the middle of an Ivy League school getting a terrific education and he WANTED to spend his summer studying about the beginning of medical history.
Since this day of firsts, Justin has had many…his first 2:30 am pizza with friends on Saturday…his first 3 hour lecture with notes on a SUNDAY, his first RCA meeting and check in at midnight. His first lecture with his medical Professor on Monday and his first paper due Friday, worth 25% of his grade. To my knowledge he is dutifully working on it now, during daylight so that he can take Dan and crew out later when they need to be doing theirs….
If you are wondering how he is doing now? He is tremendous and happy and having the summer of his life. Me? I’m holding my cell phone in my hands waiting for that call that will come sometime each night. For now it is holding me over. There will never be anything like having him here. One thing is different this time. I have no regrets, another first.
- Things I did today instead of writing my lecture (svluna.wordpress.com)