Saturday, August 30, 2008

She's Gone

I remember packing for college and it involved dumping a few drawers from my dresser into an old foot locker that was my father's in WWII and throwing it in the back of the station wagon. My, how things have changed.

What you see above is a Surburban that I borrowed from my cousin in exchange for the Prius. It is packed to the max with what my daughter considers to be the "essential" items needed to begin college life. I don't know what the cubic footage of a Surburban is with all the seats down but for the front two, but it is more than my Audi wagon by a bit.

We carved out a little cave for the Wonder Dawg as you can see here. This was taken at a rest stop somewhere in Wisconsin. The girl looks happier than she felt at the time. I had gone in to do the basic reststop business and came back out to find one wistfull girl and one old dawg who was happy to have someone scratching her no matter what the reason.

The lead up to the move had been quite exhausting on all involved and it was no surprise to me that my daughter came down with a cold after burning her candle at both ends over the past few weeks as she attempted to pack up her life (not just for the college move, but also for the house sale) until the wick sputtered out and disappeared in a puff of smoke. She sniffled and sneezed all the way to Madison and was therefore not her best when it came time to move all of that gear into a room designed to accomodate two basic prisoners with a washcloth and a toothbrush between them.

As it turned out, we met her roomate in the parking lot of the dorm as we were starting to haul in the first bucket load of gear and the two of them got a chance to meet in the flesh after spending months talking to each other on facebook. The roomate had flown in a couple of days before and had moved most of her stuff into the room (not meaning that it was put away) before we even arrived.

While my daughter heroically muscled load after load into the dorm and up the elevator to the fifth floor, I stood guard over the SUV and the remaining gear and kept a cautious eye on the Wonder Dawg as she lay in the shade like a sensible person. After the last load was put in the big, wheeled cart, I put the dawg back into the truck, locked it up, and hoisted the two frame members for the futon couch that seems to be "de rigor" material for any incoming college freshman and followed my sherpa daughter into the bowels of her dormatory.

As you can see below, the room is not yet ready for Better Homes and Gardens.
That's her in the shadows under her trendy "lofted" bed. As you can see, I did a spectacular job of assembling the futon couch (hey, I'm an engineer) and after snapping this photo, I abandoned the field of fire, having declared victory, and retired to an air-conditioned pub under the excuse that I needed to take the dawg somewhere cooler (I parked in the shade). And that's where I stayed until it was time for one last dinner with my oldest.

I have to say that I never expected to be in this position. Long ago, I believed that I would be lucky to live long enough so that my children might be able to remember me at all. Seems that I was a bit premature - which is fine with me, but it causes me to re-evaluate my position on a frequent basis.

Anyway, my girl is now officially in college and now I have to pay the dues. I was about to write some stupid saying, but have decided that I will just end by expressing my profound thanks that we have all made it this far.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Moving Stress

(Picture is of the boy in front of his "to be" bedroom window. In the background, you can see the house I grew up in.)

I am back in the Twin Cities after leaving my son in Duluth. He and his aunt drove up on Saturday with a packed pick-up truck as I followed behind in my pokey prius with the left overs. We set up in our temporary apartment in the same complex where my mother lives. After a brief argument over who got the bedroom and who got the fold out couch, we set up and got down to the business of feeling adrift and unanchored.

By Tuesday, when he started school, we had fallen into a semi comfortable routine similar to the odd couple of the play. I tend to retire to the bedroom early and he stays up until all hours conducting his electronic relationships.

His first day of school produced one grumpy teenager as everything was substandard to the school he had just left (the one that was soooooo boring just last spring). After dropping him off this morning (his second day), I headed south towards our other home where my daughter had been holding down the fort for four days trying to pack for her journey off to collage.

What I found when I arrived home was a house that looked like it had been ransacked on the lower level (teen territory), a dog who was very puzzled by all of the disruption in her schedule, and one very stressed out girl. She had amassed a pile of goods out in the garage that will accompany her to Madison that will exceed the capacity of the Audi, even if we can put the futon and bike up on the roof. I will have to take my cousin's offer of a suburban land barge and see if we can cram everything into that.

And, as if you need more, the girl informs me that she is getting sick. Oh yea. I get to spend five hours in a small enclosed space with a wildly contagious sicko after avoiding illness (well, mostly) for a long time now.

I will be glad when this is over. I have bad feelings about having to split my time and attention between the needs of both children. I feel like a bad parent for not being there for my son, but at the same time, I have to take care of things with my daughter as well. No one is to blame and no one is doing anything wrong, but the timing and the circumstances demand decisions that will short shift one child while supporting the other. The frustrations are very close to the surface and we need to be extra careful about being kind to one another. Tears are just below the surface.

Once the girl is ensconced in her dorm, I will leave and find a place to crash for the night. I don't think I can do a down and back trip of that distance in one day. I might also have the dog with me as we don't have any alternatives lined up at this time.

It will be interesting for sure. Hopefully, things will settle down a bit after this little flurry. I will still be doing the shuttle between cities and houses, but the ratio will change with me spending more time in Duluth and less down south. I am not sure what to do about the mail yet. I don't have a permanent address up north, but I don't plan on visiting the southern house more than once a week and I don't want the mail to stack up in the mailbox out by the road all week. Maybe I can get the construction crew to hang a box up on the outside of the northern house and make the official residense move to there.

Decisions, decisions, then more decisions. Who knew there were so many different kinds of toilets? Or shower controls? I am about ready to just turn it over to someone else and say "Pick out nice things - but inexpensive."


Friday, August 22, 2008

We're Baaaaaaaaack

Actually, we've been back for a while, but this is the first real chance to sit down and write. As I do so, there is a party going on outside my door. Some of my son's friends organized a surprise going away party for him and as I took him out this afternoon on a shopping trip for his long promised cell phone and some other stuff, the friends gathered at our house and set up for the party.

He never suspected and the expression on his face as we walked through the door to a rousing chorus of "surprise" was a Kodak moment for sure. That was about five hours ago and things are still going strong.

So, a recap of what's been going on since the last update. We did the Blues Fest in Duluth and spent a week full of blues and family. There were dinners, poker, sun, ships, blues, more food, more blues, more beer, more blues. When it was all over, we bid adieu to Duluth and moved about 40 miles east and a little south to a cabin on the Brule River in Wisconsin for a week of relaxation, moving water, samores, fires in the fireplace, canoing on the river, rapids, picnics and lots of just kicking back and doing not much at all.

From there, it was home to face the music. We had a week to get my son packed up and moved back up to Duluth to start school and a few more days to get my daughter packed and moved to Madison for college. Right now, out house is a pile of boxes, bags, and piles of things that are not yet sorted and packed away.

Tomorrow, my SIL will drive down from Duluth in a pickup truck to help move the boy. Hopefully, we will be able to get the stuff he needs right away in one truck and my car for the move north. Since the house itself is not ready yet, we will be living in one or more alternative locations until we can move into the house. Our first temporary spot will be a guest apartment in the same complex my mother is living in so we will have lots of opportunity to spend time with her which will be good for all of us. After that, I hope we can move into the mother-in-law apartment in the lower level of our own house which is not seeing the level of remodeling as the rest of the house. We shall see if that works out.

After moving the boy, I will stay in Duluth for a day to take care of business up there before returning to the Cities and making ready for the move to Madison with the girl. The question there is whether we can get everything loaded into the Audi wagon (or on top). Yes, we have de-mothballed the White Whale for the Madison move. The Prius has been terrific so far, but we need the cargo capacity and the roof racks for the futon couch and the bicycle. Hopefully, we will be able to stuff everything else into the cargo bay. We will see.

Still no bites on the house sale. When all of the moving commotion settles down, I will have to schedule a meeting with my realtor and see if we can get things moving.

Last Thurday, I went down to the Mayo for my monthly checkup and to pick up a new supply of the study drug. Everything went smoothly and there were no surprises. I feel good and am glad that things continue to trend in a favorable direction.

In closing, I want to share a little of the tranquility I found on the river last week. I started every day with a cup of coffee down on the dock before others rose from their beds. There was usually no breeze to disturb the surface of the water. All was serene and quiet. The only sounds were the occasional blurp of a rising fingerling. On a couple of occasions, I was witness to a passing bald eagle flying up or down river. It was magical. The photo does not do it justice.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Da Fest

It is once again Blues Fest time in Duluth. This annual event has turned into a time when our family gathers in a mini family reunion with all of the in laws and outlaws who can make it, showing up for a multi-day infusion of the blues in all of its various flavors. The crowd basks in the sun, drinking questionable beer, eating decidedly unhealthy treats (like hand dipped, deep fried cheese curds - actually quite yummy) as they watch the big ships drift by carrying the stuff that keeps our economy rolling.

Some even dance. Like this young lady below, though I think she could have found a feistier partner.

From here, we will travel a few miles east into the heart of northern Wisconsin to one of the premier trout streams in America - the Brule River. There we will spend a week at the cabin of an old friend and relax before returning home for the big packing push that will see both kids out the door and onto their respective educational paths for the next year.

I'll try to post from the cabin, but that will mean a trip into town in search of a WIFI connection. See you later.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Stitches Out and Hitting the Road

I finally got my stitches taken out from my thumb surgery last Monday. What a relief. Now, I can wash my hair without little pokey things sticking me in the scalp.

We are shortly off for a little vacation up north. It's time for the annual Blues Fest down by the Bay and the family reunion that accompanies it. It is a time for sitting in the sun, drinking questionable beer, and listening to the blues as the big ships drift by out in the channel. Four days of music and nuttin much else.

It is a time when those of my family who are able to make it back to the old home place do so and we all wind up camping in some kind of lawn chair circle while the music plays on. I can't remember when this informal reunion started, but it's been going on now for some time.

My son is already up there - spending time with cousins - both local and from out of town. My daughter and I leave tomorrow to do the same. It will be a while before we return and internet access will be spotty. I'll try to upgrade as I can.

After the Blues Fest, we head to a cabin on a river in the adjacent state for a week of relaxing. It is a time of listening to the wind whispering through the tops of tall pines, of crackling fires, of sitting on the dock watching the world flow by, and some walks of solitude, remembering those who have gone before.

This will be the last bit of quiet and peace that I will enjoy for some time. When our week on the river ends, it will be back to chaos as I try to figure out how to move two siblings in opposite directions at approximately the same time. Bear in mind that neither one has done a bit of serious packing as of yet. This will not be pretty.

So, if you see me, or talk to me on the phone and I seem a bit distracted, or agitated, or maybe even homicidal, it's just the time we are going through and I'll be better - maybe sometime in October.