Driving Down Keezletown Road

I’ve been itching to write this since 8:00 this morning, but that teaching job that (sort of) pays the bills claimed my day.  If you are a writer, when you have something that strikes you, it’s a splinter in the foot.  You don’t rest until you’ve dug it out.

I have quite a lovely commute to work.  I take Keezletown Road.  I think it’s still called that but I’m not sure because what I call Keezletown Road, Jack calls by some number.  When he says it, I have to ask, “What’s that road?”   It’s ironic that this is the road that took the Blose girls to elementary school every day.   A curvy, hilly road and if the bus driver was in a happy mood he’d take the hills a little faster, and I’d literally fly in the air, laughing joyfully.  I don’t think my feet touched the floor of the bus until sixth grade.

Usually on my commute, if no one is coming, I glance over to the left at my childhood home, now way up high on the hill.   Ten years ago, my Mom moved that house up that hill.  Honestly.  Moved it over a mile through some fields and up to the top of a big hill where the milking herd used to lounge in the spring sun or find cool shade in the dog days of summer. The view from the top is stunning.   Today, I started thinking about my Dad.  Gone now twelve years, he wasn’t given the opportunity to sit on the new deck and take in that view.  I soon felt my eyes stinging with tears.   I started thinking about a younger Billy Blose, before he was a husband or a father, chasing in cows to the milk barn.   Even as a teenager, he wanted to live on that hill.  I wonder if he took the time to visualize what  his life  would be like before he had to get on with his chores.    I’m sure there were countless times as a young farmer that he would stop by the edge of the wood on the four-wheeler, and look at the Peak, dreaming of waking up to that view.   I remembered him then as my older Dad, happily taking our future minister, John Leggett, to the top of the hill to show him where he planned to move the house.  John was looking for a home in the area, and the story is that he said, “Yes.  I think this spot will suit Alayne and I just fine.”

Is a dream deferred a dream denied?   Is it a tragedy when we don’t get what we want? Yes. I’m afraid it is a side effect of being human.   Someone once asked me why he didn’t move the house up on the hills years ago.  Well, there were seven girls to feed and clothe, big wheels, dollhouses, roller skates, tennis shoes, basketball shoes, high heeled shoes to go with prom dresses, cows, trips in a motor home across the country,  cars,  lots of dogs, a pinball machine, a tree house, Disney World, college, weddings, grandbabies, and trips with the grandkids.  My third favorite Beatle said,  “Life’s what happens while you’re making plans.”   But I’m going to suggest that there’s nothing wrong with making “plans.”  They keep us motivated when we get beat down.  They give us energy when we really don’t want to get out of bed.  Plans keep us inspired.  They are often a flashlight in the dark and a welcome distraction when reality is cruddy.    I don’t think Dad would have traded that view for the hollering at basketball games, walks down the aisle, jumps off the mantel with his grandkids,  or any single moment with my Mom.   I’m pretty sure he already knew what it looked like, anyway.


Clean up in Aisle 18

The past few weeks I have been steeling myself up for the college drop-off.   I’ve used every yoga exercise, physical and mental to remind myself that all of us have prepared for this moment.  I noticed some nervousness with Aaron a few days before we left so I had him lie down on the couch and put his head in my lap.  To my surprise, he didn’t hesitate. He didn’t have to make eye contact with me (I did a lot of successful mini-van parenting from the driver’s seat)  and I talked him through accepting that all of life is about change.  I stroked his head like a four year old, and reminded him that he has dealt with change exceptionally well in his life, moving to a new state as a sixth grader, going through the illness and death of his father, and adjusting to taking on bigger roles in the house, and that only one thing remans the same and will never change:  our love.  No matter where my next home is, he will always have a place with me.  This did help ease things a bit for him for a couple of days.  

However, saying goodbye to Delilah, our beloved bulldog, brought on some tears.  I fought them, but he didn’t.  Delilah came into our lives around Easter of 2011.  I decided that we needed some joy in the house after Tony was placed under hospice care.  He didn’t fight me on it, and the four of us rode out to a little farm in Columbia, TN where a herd of bulldogs came thundering out of an old trailer.Tony picked out Delilah, the cutest and calmest of the puppies.  Delilah played a very important role in keeping laughter and light in this house.  I understood his sadness and playfully joked that I could use a three month vacation from the dog myself.  

Move-in day came.   Lauren organized his closet and drawers, and we helped him get his books from the bookstore.  We didn’t linger because we had a wedding to get to and needed to leave.  Aaron insisted on walking us to the van and his eyes were filled with tears and in his typical style, he tried desperately to blink them away.   I told him that we weren’t going to belabor and dramatize the moment  because this was exactly what was supposed to happen. I kissed him, hugged him and told him that I loved him.   Lauren and I both talked on the drive about what a strange, unique feeling this was, and neither of us had experienced anything like it before.  

I told my sisters and Mom at the wedding that I was fine.  Aaron was fine.  Lauren was fine.  We were all fine.  And then I drove 8 hours back to Tennessee to a house that was exactly the same but not quite the same.  It had an entirely different feel to it.  I told myself again that it was fine.  Change is inevitable.  I went through all the BS that I had been spilling out to Aaron.   Let if go, I told myself.  

I went to the grocery store because a busy week lay ahead of me.  I got to aisle 18 and there it was:  IBC root beer on sale.  Aaron loves IBC root beer.  He often would ask me to get some and I would reply, “only if it’s on sale.” I fell apart.  I put on my sunglasses, threw my head over the shopping cart and had a good cry in aisle 18.    I shed tears of self-pity that I was forced to experience this without Tony.   I shed tears of disappointment because I probably hadn’t enjoyed every moment of the past 18 years and often wished school years would pass quickly.   I shed tears of frustration that I lived in a different time zone from Charlottesville and couldn’t get there for parent’s weekend or to take him out to lunch every now and then.   But primarily,  I shed tears because I am going to miss Aaron being around.  I’ll miss seeing him in the chair with his feet up, working feverishly on homework, watching endless episodes of Family Guy or some other inappropriate tv show on Comedy Central.  I will miss how he checks the doors in the house each night, taking on this role for his Dad.  I will miss his calm presence when drama creeps into the family.  I will miss our lengthy discussions about religion, relationships and politics.  I let myself cry for just  a moment lest  I upset the kind employees at Publix.  Then I took my sunglasses off and moved to the dairy aisle,  renewed, refreshed and baptized in my own tears. 

It has only been a week since the drop-off. but an unanticipated change in our relationship has already presented itself. He texts me to ask my opinion on classes, extracurriculars and relationships.  He calls me and when he does, he ends it with “love you, Mom.”  Oh thank you Aaron, I want to say.  Thank you for helping me adjust to the newness of not having you around.   I know that once he feels secure in his new environment, that the texts and phone calls will die down. I hope it does,  because for years, I have given my students’ parents advice on helping kids make decisions on their own.  I am careful to say to him, ‘What do you think and want?’, not giving my opinion but helping him weigh the options, and empowering him to decide for himself.   He is fine, and today, I am fine, too.