Friday, August 28, 2009

In The Shallow and Sandy Water

The speed with which time flies is among my favorite "this is beyond my ability to comprehend but never beyond my ability to be amazed by" concepts. Bad days last forever. Good ones pass by in an eye blink. A long time comin' indeed.

Days stacked upon each other - or perhaps more properly laid next to each other end to end - inevitably get grouped into weeks and months and, finally, years. And in spite of the longer track we construct for time to run around, the unit of measurement seems to have scant little ability to restrict its speed. Just about the time we awaken to the realization that it has indeed been a year worth savoring, we are singing its praises as we watch it fade from sight in our rear-view mirror.

Six years ago on this very day, Margaret and I became the parents of a collegian for the first time. It was on this date, which fell on a Thursday, six years ago that we moved Suzanne into Seton Hall University as part of the wave of freshman who descended upon South Orange. If memory serves me correctly Suz moved into a freshman dorm named Xavier Hall. Candidly I do not recall the name of the building. My memories are more focused upon the number of stairs one had to walk upon entering the building carrying what I think was every item of personal property that my daughter had accrued during her first 18 years on the planet. It took only a couple of hundred trips to lug all of the treasures she had deemed indispensable from one of the several vehicles we utilized that day and up the stairs into the matchbook-sized room she shared with her roommate - a young lady whose name - if forced to at gunpoint with my life in the balance - I could not recall.

You have a sense that your wife and daughter have over packed for this moment when University personnel start queueing up around your mountain of belongings while whispering things to one another such as, "We have one every year - this year it must be her" before coming over to inform your child, who can on occasion can drive the anxiety highway all the way to the state of apoplexy that she and her gear seem so over-the-top that she and it might just end up on the 6:00 o'clock news. There is something to be said for a mid-level bureaucrat at an educational institution - where in 2003 freshman and their parents were paying upwards of $32,500 to attend - deciding to use your daughter as the punch line of his inane jokes. It was not a nice something that had to be said - but said it was. And remarkably, once reminded of the frail thread that holds together our human existence (some of us more than others) he had significantly fewer bon mots with which to regale the crowd.

I am quite confident that for Suzanne the past six years have passed in a fashion such that when she looks back from where she is now, preparing to begin the second and final year of her Master's Program, to where she was then it seems both a very long time ago and not very long ago at all. From my vantage point it most certainly seems to be more than a bit of both.

There are times when your children are little as if they appear omnipresent. Other than when you secret yourself away in the sanctuary of the bathroom, there they are - asking what it is you are doing and peppering you with countless questions and requests and pleas for one such thing or another. And every so often - when they are young and especially relentless in their pursuit of knowledge of all things great and small - you hear the little voice in the far reaches of your brain saying softly, "When will they be grown up and off on their own?"

And as all of us blessed with the gig of being a parent know, the answer to that question inevitably is, "Sooner than you would like them to be." For whatever it is they choose to do, all of our children are in fact born to run. And run they shall - just as far and as fast as their dreams will carry them. As it always has been and as it always should be.


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