Abby, our 17-year-old daughter, is a Junior in High School now. Accordingly, she is beginning to think more about her future. This is a salutary development, since up to this point most of her attention has been focused on cosplay events, friends, food, drawing, writing, food, tennis, keeping her youngest brother out of her hair, and food. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, I suppose. The truth is that she is a fairly bright, very sweet, and extremely earnest young lady who puts forth a strong effort on her schoolwork and is a dedicated friend.
And she likes food.
In any event, she has been initiating more conversations with her mother and me about college – what she might study, what school she might attend, and what sort of career she ultimately might pursue. I can’t legitimately grouse that this relatively new concern came out of the blue or that it snuck up on me. She IS 17 years old, after all. She drives an automobile (legally) all by herself and is more and more taking on the appearance of a (Lord, help me) woman. Still: Wasn’t it just last week I was reading her bed-time stories? And two weeks before that, feeding her a bottle (again with the food!)?
Regarding college discussions, she is sensitive to the friendly competition her mother and I have concerning our respective alma maters. I went to Purdue and Krista attended Indiana University (or, as my father – an erstwhile Purdue professor – teasingly calls it, “all intelligent Indiana kids’ ‘plan B.’”). After visiting my employer, the University of Dayton, Abby seems confident that becoming a Flyer would be a good choice. She liked the campus and the student vibe and seemed grateful for the fact that both her parents were on board with this option. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the cost would be severely discounted.
A few nights ago I knocked on her bedroom door to let her know it was time to shut down for the evening and get to sleep. “Hey, Abby, dock the phone, please. Night-night-nipperland!”
“Oh, that was just something I used to tell you when you were little and it was time to put you in your footed pajamas and tuck you in bed.”
“Oh. No offense, but it sounds kinda creepy,” she laughed.
“None taken. Time for bed.”
“Okay. Hey, I was thinking about something. Do you remember telling me last week about your student days at Purdue?”
“Yeah. Sure. I loved it.”
“Right. And remember telling me about how you used to visit your dad’s office every week?”
“Of course. We’d get together at the beginning of every semester, pull out our pocket calendars – this was way before PC’s and smart phones – and set up at least one hour each week where I would come to his office to talk about whatever together. Sometimes we’d talk about stuff going on with the family. Other times we’d talk about football games, or politics, or psychological research we’d been reading about, or religious stuff, or some problem I was struggling with. Just, you know, anything that struck us. Sometimes we’d just sit together and silently read the newspaper side-by-side But it was great knowing I had that time reserved, a slot where he never scheduled anything else.”
I could see that Abby was mulling this over. “If I went to UD, could I visit you in your office sometimes?”
I had thought about this before and loved the idea of repeating the practice my father had established with me and my sisters while we had attended Purdue decades ago. It would be a unique and wonderful way of building on the already-strong bond with my eldest child.
“So?” she continued. “Could I?”
“Sure, if they haven’t fired me or whatever.”
She hesitated before offering her next question, delivered tentatively. “Would you embarrass me?”
“Oh, absolutely. Often. Passionately.” I smiled at this prospect. The possibilities were delicious! I smiled inwardly, then glanced back at my dutiful and kind-hearted daughter.
Abby paused and ran the fingers of her right hand through her hair as she evaluated my reply.
“Hmmm. Do you think we could afford Purdue or I.U.?”