Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Back to College
A Facebook friend (a student from long ago) shared this meme today about young people heading off to college. It got me thinking ...
When my older brother (Richard) and I "went off to college," we simply walked up the hill from our home in Hiram, Ohio, and entered our classrooms at Hiram College. Richard probably could have gone anywhere (he was class valedictorian and had won all kinds of awards), but Dad was teaching at Hiram, so we got free tuition. In my own case? I'd sort of cruised through high school, paying less attention to schoolwork than to more important matters like basketball, baseball, school plays, and the like. (Actually, my involvement in those things--not to mention school newspaper, band, choir, and other activities--helped me greatly during my subsequent teaching career: I found it easier to relate to kids with all kinds of interests).
So what I'm saying: Richard could have gone anywhere; not I.
Anyway, I "went off to college" in the summer of 1962, a couple of months before the regular academic term began, and took English 101 (Prof. Charles F. McKinley, a wonderful man who lived into his 90s and who remained a friend), realizing about halfway through that summer school class (as I've noted here before, I think), that about half of my classmates, having failed English 101, were repeating the course. So ... that first day I walked up Hiram's north hill (about a quarter of a mile), walked into Hinsdale Hall (RIP), sat in Dr. McKinley's class, and tried to read Macbeth again--something I'd not quite managed to do my senior year in high school, even though it was assigned. I just didn't get Shakespeare--and was positive I never would.
Our own son left for college in the late summer of 1990. It had been a tough summer for him. His beloved grandfather (Joyce's dad) had died that summer of lung cancer--and his grandmother (Joyce's mom), whom he also loved fiercely, was sliding into the Alzheimer's that would eventually kill her. By the end she knew no one, not even Joyce, who visited her with a profound devotion that puts tears in my eyes even now. By the end, Joyce's mom no longer knew what eating was--what food was.
Steve was heading off to Tufts University, north of Boston, and since my two brothers lived in the area, we were happy about his choice. It also meant we didn't have to drive him to school--which would have been difficult: Both of us were teaching full-time and had already started classes. My brothers would meet him at Logan Airport and handle his move into his dorm.
As the day neared for his departure, Joyce and I became increasingly emotional. Our only child. A great kid. And we'd had the unusual experience--both Joyce and I--of having Steve as a student. I had taught him in 8th grade English at Harmon Middle School (1985-86 school year), and Joyce had taught him twice at Western Reserve Academy--in English II and in AP English.
We had stayed very close with Steve--there had been no adolescent rage (not that we saw), no slamming doors, no profanity, none of it. Oh, sure, there were some "issues" about the car now and then but mild. And Steve had continued to enjoy our company, often joining us for movies on weekends while he was in high school. (By the time I was midway through high school, I was an ad for Raging Hormones and thought my parents were clueless ... I had that exactly backwards, of course. I socialized with my parents in those dark days only when I had to--and often in a sullen, snotty way).
Steve had always loved movies, by the way--right from the first time we took him (babe in arms). When he was an infant, he would cry when the movie was over. (People sitting near us thought that was cute.) We also liked to watched TV shows together--like The Rockford Files--but he liked ones I never could get hooked on--like Knight Rider (1982-86) and some others.
One of our favorite films was The Professionals (1966), a Western with Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, et al. that we watched, oh, 18,700 times. When I thought Steve had finished his packing for college, I slipped a VHS (remember them?) of the film into his bag. (Only later did I learn that he'd opened the bag to put something else in--and had found the tape. Oh well. Trailer for the film.) We both still watch The Professionals, now and then--now on Blu-ray. (You can probably stream it too--haven't checked.)
The day came. The drive to Cleveland Hopkins Airport. The tears. The hugs. The promises. The tears. The surprises (we gave him some extra $$). The tears. The tears. The tears.
And then he was heading onto the plane. The tears. And we were driving back home. The tears. And waiting for his call. The tears. The call came. The tears. To bed. The tears. The memories of eighteen years. The tears. How could it have possibly gone so fast ... ?