Maryland...and the future.
For the surprises it will bring, whether immediate or down the road. She'll grow from all of them. She thinks they'll all be happy, and she should. But they won't be. And she'll deal.
We're off to Maryland tomorrow!
Not an overly exciting comment out of context, is it?
Well, tomorrow morning, we are off to Maryland. College Park, to check out the University of Maryland, my daughter Erin, her friend Molly, and myself. I've been on college visits over the past few months with Erin, to several colleges. They do start to blend together after a while, even though all decidedly have their differences. The one main theme running through all the visits, for me anyway, is that they all makes me want to go back in time. To go to college again, dorm-livin' and all. Knowing what I know now, of course. If I went back just to "do it all over again," starting from scratch...well...what a waste THAT would be.
I had a sledge hammer hit of irony when Erin and I visited the Albany area a couple of months ago.
Erin and I had toured Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs (we could perhaps mortgage our lives and send her there,) and were back in the hotel for an hour or so of rest before heading out for dinner. We had a tour of SUNY Albany scheduled for the next morning, then the drive back home home. We were lazing around the hotel room, fighting over the tv remote. I relinquished the remote, took the laptop, and turned it on to check my e-mail.
I had an email from Tammy. Tammy, a good ol' wild-ass girlfriend of mine from college days back in North Carolina. No one would appreciate that description more then Tammy, by the way. But Tammy and I, in all the years since college, really hadn't kept in too much contact in the past twenty-or-so-years, not since she came up for my wedding to Paul. The infrequent contact we had since then was usually to relay news of a not-so-pleasant nature. Divorce, etc. Not always, but the email I received that late afternoon: "Tried to call you, hope you get this email, please call my cell ASAP, ***-***-****," woke me up.
I left Erin to the TV, went down to the hotel lobby and punched her number on my cellphone. Tammy answered, and we had a very fleeting "Oh my gosh, how are you doing??" moment before we both remembered that there was something to be told. Obviously, there was an important reason why Tammy had called me and emailed me.
Our friend Lila, who was as good a friend to either of us in our college days as we had been to each other...her husband, Jack, had committed suicide.
Lila was my college roommate. We hadn't stayed in even as tenuous a touch as Tammy and I had. No reason, no hard feeings, just hadn't. We'd last seen each other when she and Jack and their two kids had come up to New York to visit family, and we met up in Manhattan for a day. Mid 90s. Erin was 3 1/2 or so, and I was pregnant with Ian, which I only know now in hindsight.
I knew Jack. We all knew Jack. Jack came along mid-way through our college days, a transfer student. Not a transfer from anywhere exotic, just Raleigh. He insinuated his way into our group, and immediately had an eye for Lila. He liked all of us, and we liked him; he was a barrel of laughs, a real rogue, but he had an eye for Lila. And you could tell it was a genuine eye, a genuine attraction. His actions toward Lila stood out amongst all the horny baloney that most guys exuded. And his timing, though inadvertant, was perfect, as he came on the scene just as Lila was coming off a relationship with a guy who was not a nice guy. Not an evil guy, not an abusive guy, but not a nice guy.
Lila was not in the mood to be starting anything up with anyone new. But Jack was not to be deterred. He knew this was his moment, and he had to grab it. He never acted too forward or too overt in his attentions, but just enough. He was THERE. He liked Lila, and Lila knew it. Tammy and I liked him, and thought he would be perfect for Lila, and Jack knew it, and used it. This was ok, because his intentions were pure. I know this sounds unlikely in this college-age drama, but it was true, we knew. And we had a trained eye in these matters. Tammy and I were Jack's biggest advocates. We helped pave his way to Lila's heart, and he never once let us down, and on a beautiful New Year's Eve night in the early 80's, they were married, in front of all their family and friends. What a party.
I got married some years later, and Tammy came up to New York for that. Lila and Jack couldn't. Jack, not Lila, called that morning, on that fateful day of mine. He gave me his and Lila's best wishes, and made a boatload of inappropriate fun of me that morning as I stood there in my parents' kitchen in my wedding dress. I have incredibly fond memories of that phone call.
And almost in a flash, the years went by and he is gone. I don't know much about it. I don't know how; I don't know why. I know they had their two great kids, now in college and beyond. I know from the obituary Tammy forwarded that he did all the things a "stand-up" citizen should do: coached Little League, joined the Kiwanis Club, all that nonsense. And meant it. If we had run into each other in these ensuing years, I would have made happy fun of him for it. And he would have loved it.
I sent flowers to the funeral. It was too sudden, I couldn't get down there. I got a note back from Lila, thanking me. And crying out "I still can't believe he's gone after 25 years! Please call me."
I wrote back to Lila. A long letter. Writing is what I do best. But I need to call. And I will when I figure out what to say.
I think of all this as I take Erin on to visit another college. To start on the next chapter and next big adventure of her life. I am so excited for her. For the surprises it will bring, whether immediate or down the road. She'll grow from all of them. She thinks they'll all be happy, and she should.
But they won't be. And she'll deal.