By Mike Morsch
It took only 2,343 miles in the car, but I have successfully delivered Younger Daughter to the fine folks at my alma mater, the University of Iowa, to start her college career.
Those of you with college-aged children are familiar with this little physical and emotional exercise. The important detail for me is that the UI 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.
Why do babies have to grow up anyway, and then go off to college in magical, faraway places filled with corn, cows and the world’s biggest truck stop?
So along with 4,500 other freshmen over a two-day period, we moved Younger Daughter into Burge Hall on the UI campus. 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.”
Now there is a comforting thought for a parent, huh?
I was also so pleased to learn that young, college-aged gentlemen are still complete imbeciles.
Case in point: One evening, Younger Daughter and I were walking through the lobby of Burge Hall on the way to the elevators. Some young guy with those high black socks and baggy gym shorts approached me.
He asked: “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?”
Him: “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.”
After admitting to me that he didn’t belong upstairs in the first place, this guy 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?
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. Once on campus, I decided it might be a good idea to walk around a little to gather myself.
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 UI were now hers for the taking.
When we finally met in the lobby of Burge Hall, I was the one standing in the puddle.
“Don’t cry Daddy, you’ll see me again,” she said as we embraced.
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.
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, who played baseball and earned a journalism degree at the University of Iowa, is executive editor of Montgomery Newspapers, Fort Washington, Pa. Comments: email@example.com.