Thursday, December 20, 2007

College Graduation

The week following the funeral found me at exhaustion level and battling a nasty cold. I worked on keeping up with thank-you notes for the memorials that continued to trickle in by mail. Many of the sympathy cards included personal notes with kind words and memories of Father-in-law, helping to keep him near in heart and mind. Amazingly, too, since his death, several other area folks have passed away, like a domino effect.

Then last weekend arrived, with a whole slate of activities on tap. On Saturday, my son graduated from Iowa State University with an Electrical Engineering degree. His girlfriend, my younger daughter and son, and I, made the journey to Ames for the commencement program at Hilton Coliseum. Husband stayed home to take care of the cows, as usual.

Once in Ames, though, before we went to Hilton, we had to get our Envoy hooked up to a U-Haul trailer at a business east of town. That took awhile because we had to go back into Ames to buy an adapter for plugging in the cord for the lights. Finally, we had the trailer attached and lights working, and off into Ames traffic we went. We parked way out on the edge of the Hilton Coliseum parking lot, and followed the crowd of graduates and families streaming into the huge building.

The Commencement program lasted around two hours. The graduates came in by disciplines......Agriculture, Engineering, Education, Design, etc. Engineering graduates wore orange tassels. Simon Estes sang the National Anthem. Iowa Govenor Chet Culver gave the Commencement address. Then graduates lined up and received their (empty) diploma folders as their names were announced.

Once that was finished, and congratulations and photos were done, we had to hurry back to my son's apartment to load his belongings into the U-haul. We had quite a time getting the trailer backed through ice and snow into a position for convenient loading. The first and worst thing we had to load was the large sofa. Once that was in we could fit everything else around it. It took us a good two hours to get everything packed in; by then it was almost dark, and we had a four hour drive ahead of us.

To my pleasant surprise, the Envoy pulled the trailer with seeming ease-----I just needed to adjust my braking and turning to accomodate the size and weight of the trailer. We zipped south on I-35 and then headed east on I-80. I decided to stay at 55 mph and let traffic zoom past us as it wished, for I had no desire pass vehicles while I was pulling a trailer.

We rolled along without incident until just east of Iowa City, then the weather conditions started to subtly take a negative turn. The windshield seemed to gather a fine mist, which worsened every time a semi went zooming past us. We started to see DOT salt trucks out and about with their yellow flashing lights. The visibility through my windshield was getting worse and worse, icing up with gunk every time a semi went by. We soon had to reduce our speed to 40 mph, and I could tell the road was slippery. We also started seeing vehicles in the ditch, some being ones which had recently zoomed past us, as my daughter pointed out.

Finally, we came up upon a line of brake lights reaching far into the distance. We sat in the line-up of vehicles, crawling ahead slowly every now and then. Finally, I realized we were nearing an exit, the one to Durant, so I told my daughter to look on the map and see if we could get to Davenport by that route instead. Yes, there was a road from Durant to Davenport, so we turned off and went that way. By then, the roads were completely ice and snow-covered, and we had to drive slowly the rest of the way. Our hotel reservation was on the east end of Davenport, so we had to drive all the way through town, too. It was after 11 p.m. when we finally got there, and I was completely done in, exhausted by the long day and the nerve-wracking driving conditions.

The next day, Sunday, was not much better, although it began peaceful enough for me, as I sipped coffee in the hotel lobby and watched political commentators on TV. By noon, we were in our vehicles again and heading for my son's new apartment. He had hurriedly chosen it a few weeks ago after being offered a job in Davenport. Once we got there, I was disappointed in his choice, and managed to not keep it to myself. Its hard sometimes, standing by and watching the launching of kids into the world, and feeling anxiety for them. I can't live my son's life for him......he'll just have to figure some things out for himself.

Getting the U-haul unloaded was more hard work and trudging through snow and ice. Then we had to find the place where the trailer was to be returned to. Looking for it took us along the riverfront of Davenport and Bettendorf, which was interesting. It looked like a nice area to come back to in better weather, like in the summer.

By 6 p.m., we were ready to head for home, another 2 1/2 hours of driving. Fortunately, the roads were good this time. It was a relief to finally get home again, and I was thankful for traveling mercies granted.

The next day, on Monday, my mood was completely in the dumps. I was worried about my son, but mostly I was exhausted. After morning barn chores, I came in the house and curled up on the couch and bawled. My daughter brought a cat over and it snuggled in at my side for a nap, making me feel better somehow. We slept most of the afternoon, Kitty and I.......probably just what the doctor ordered.

Young children are alot of work, but big kids can be alot of work, too. And, the anxieties are worse, in my opinion.

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