Okay, So No One’s Answering

Our son was home for his four-day fall break this past weekend. We didn’t have a lot of plans—he had a couple of doctors’ appointments, and we’d arranged for some long-overdue family portraits—but that was okay, since simply being together was the biggest thing. Ben brought along a friend who lives in Colorado; it was nice to have a chance to get to know one of his new peeps a little.

They went back to Terre Haute on Sunday by way of Louisville—Ben wanted to visit some of his HS friends who are at UofL.  He and his friend got back to his dorm about 6:00pm.

How do we know this? Not because he called or texted us, or vice versa: he’s allowed Martha to have access to his coordinates via the Find My app. As it happens, Ben didn’t contact us until the next morning.  (That’s perfectly fine—I’d like to think we’ve been giving him enough space in this transition period. At the least, he hasn’t complained to us about cramping his style since we dropped him off—and I think he would.)

Obviously, cell phones and GPS have changed so much about how and when we communicate since my first years away from home. Each dorm room at Transy had a phone hanging on the wall, just inside the door. Like everyone else, I had to rely on what we now call a landline—or the occasional pay phone—throughout my grad school years. And occasionally, I’d forget to honor my folks’ request to let them know I was back in Lexington or Urbana after trips home to see them.

I loved my parents dearly, but I’m not being fully truthful if I fail to admit they were not entirely rational when it came to the well-being of their children. An hour’s delay in acknowledging safe arrival led to them imagining a car off the road in a ditch or in a horrific accident. After a while, they’d begin calling, to try to assuage those fears. Frequently, I was on site to answer but yes, there were a few times when, like perhaps Ben did on Sunday, I’d trotted off to visit with friends or gone out to eat, all without a thought.

In those cases, they weren’t above trying to contact someone who knew me. I have evidence of this happening once, probably one of my first two years of college. I’d given my friend Cathy, whose home was just a few miles away from mine, a ride back to Transy one Sunday afternoon, and I suppose I’d gone on blithely about my business. Maybe I’d passed Mark H’s phone number on to them, or—more likely—they called campus information to find out how to reach him. Regardless, eventually I found this from Mark on my door:

I know I’m far from the only one to endure experiences akin to this—it’s natural for parents to have and show concern. On the whole my recollection is that I suffered “minor reprimands” like this reasonably well—I wasn’t the sort to blow up or feel special embarrassment in such situations. While I wasn’t responsible for anyone else’s state of mind, I suppose it was good to be able to offer (eventual) relief. I either inherited or obtained through osmosis a little of this irrationality, though I can hope a combination of technological advances and knowing how it was to be on the receiving end has made me less willing to act on those feelings when they arise.

He Hears The Ticking Of The Clocks

Two years ago we spent a couple of weeks in Germany, traveling with my sister-in-law. Both Martha and Ruth were German majors in college, and they had separately spent extended time there in the past, so it was natural to want to take Ben to visit. Mostly we were in large cities: Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich; Ruth knew several people in the last of these through her work, including one who had a son just a few months younger than Ben. We made arrangements one day for Ben to take the train to where Ludwig attended school. The day was so hot that school got called off midday (no A/C); Ben wound up going with Ludwig and several of his friends to visit a festival taking place near the site of the 72 Olympics. And that’s where Ben came across a vendor selling, among other things, clocks made from vinyl LPs. It didn’t take long for him to find something he thought his old man might like.


We’d seen Dylan in concert the previous fall, on Ben’s 16th birthday (I tried to make it a memorable day for him), and my boy knew well how I loved a number of Dylan songs, especially “Tangled Up in Blue.” It was incredibly thoughtful and kind of him to make such an impulse purchase; the seller sent him off with it in a pizza box. Of course, determining how to get it home on a transatlantic flight without damage required some thought. We were fortunate to have a non-stop flight back to Atlanta, and I managed to keep it safe in my carry-on.

I’ve been meaning for some time now to set it up in my office at work—for years I’ve had a hole where a wall clock should go. Ben’s imminent departure spurred me finally to take action this week. Yesterday, he came over to the college and we discussed what we might do. The imbalance in the clock’s weight due to what had been cut out made it impractical to hang from a hook.  Ben scanned around my office and noticed the Zometool construction set I keep to make geometric figures occasionally for my classes.  Pretty soon he’d put together a stand.


It fits on like this:


And now that sits on top of one of my bookshelves (you can see where the wall clock was–I’m working now on hanging something in a frame over it).


Thanks so much, Bud.

That’s My Boy!

One of the Christmas CDs I inherited through my marriage is We Three Kings by the Roches. It still gets played every December. The first time I heard the title track, I thought to myself that the guitarist was trying awfully hard to sound like Mark Knopfler on “Sultans of Swing.”

Which, believe it or not, leads me to last night.

We took Ben out to get some of the nighttime driving time he needs before he can try for his intermediate license. As is often the case, the radio was on the 70s station. Our son has never been particularly interested the current pop scene and of course he’s been inundated with the music from 20-45 years ago for years. It’s endearing yet still somewhat amusing to hear him sing along to the tunes of my youth–this go-round it was stuff like “I’m Not in Love” by 10cc and “We Don’t Talk Anymore” by Cliff Richard.

And just before we got home, one of those moments that confirms HE’S DEFINITELY YOUR KID. “Sultans of Swing” comes on, and about a minute in, Ben says, “I don’t know why, but this song always makes me think of Christmas.” Martha had no idea why I started laughing so hard.

So, a little Christmas in August.