One simply does not swim in a thunderstorm. I got up at my normal ridiculous time of 4.30 am to go for a swim workout with my fun Dallas Area Masters group (the acronym for the group is DAM which never fails to give me a sophomoric chuckle). As I did my morning shuffle to the kitchen (and oh dear, is this what getting old feels like? I must start doing yoga again), I heard sound of rain pattering on the windows, and then the dull flash and crack of a thunderstorm on the way in. I was tremendously happy about this, happy to not drive on the freeway at 70 miles an hour half-awake over to SMU and strip down to a swim suit in the chilly morning air and then slide into an even more chilly outdoor 50 meter pool. For those of you not versed in pool size, that is the great big one that Olympians use. I hate getting wet, which is probably some sort of existential chuckle, as my self-selected lifetime sport is swimming. I don’t mind BEING wet, it’s that transition from dry to immersed that bites. There is always a heinous moment when one either needs to commit fully and jump in and go or just say “chuck it” and do the walk of shame back to where your clothes are sitting and leave. Spared that choice, I curled on our new couch (everything in our house is new, because of The Fire – it’s exactly like living in an Extended Stay hotel – nothing has memory or meaning yet, so its pleasant but not connected to us in the slightest. All we need is some ubiquitous, bland art to put on the walls and the illusion would be complete) and opened an email from my son who is finishing up his first year in college at GWU. I got to sit with my pomegranate fizz stick and read over an essay he thoughtfully sent me from college to look over and feel momentarily relevant in his life.
My thoughts have been with my boys a lot this past week – they both flew in for a short visit but are gone again. It was wonderful having them in the house again, to call out, “not around the neck” as they wrestled with each other, and to remind them in nearly-stern tones that we live in an apartment now, and the nice neighbors below us with a brand-new baby probably don’t appreciate full body slams reverberating through their ceiling. It was fun showing them some places in Dallas we’ve found in our time after The Fire, especially Deep Ellum which reminds me of living off Melrose Ave in Los Angeles some 30 years ago during its gritty transitional time. Back then, Melrose was an uneasy but vibrant mix of punk rockers with giant mohawks, and the people of the Jewish Retirement home (now replaced by trendy stores) sitting outside and watching them go by with bemused faces. There were a few stores, some crack houses, and ethnic restaurants. You knew that while it was an okay street by day, at night you just needed to stay in your car and drive on by. Deep Ellum is located just slightly off Downtown Dallas, and a whole section of it is underneath a massive freeway tangle. It’s not beautiful, but Deep Ellum is in that cool gritty stage Melrose sported 30 years ago. It has its share of empty buildings and shady deals going down, but there is a lot of development, tons of music venues and restaurants and a few retail stores. The neighborhood is fighting gentrification, but my suspicion is that in a few years just like Melrose it will be taken over with higher rents, trendy boutiques, and have less parking. You should go see it now. We really liked Cane Russo and Twisted Root for eating.
During the visit, I couldn’t help but think what our life would be like if the boys had both chosen to come to Dallas and SMU for college instead of their respective schools. Would Craig and I be more involved? I think the proximity would have lent itself to at least a few more dinners together, and perhaps a few more chances to tell them things we know. There are a lot of those, things we know but never got the space to say while they were home. Craig and I miss them both more than we realized we would. I wonder if the year-long college process of testing, sorting and finding, applying and writing the damn essays and visiting and getting accepted and visiting again before a final verdict is rendered is an unintended Mercy for us parents. One is so grateful to be done with it, you don’t realize your time to deeply influence your child’s life has effectively ended. In many ways, this new phase of parenting, the hands-off phase, is even harder than the other phases that went before it. Not that I want the teen angst phase back again, or the diaper phase, or especially the dreaded my-science-fair-project-is-due-tomorrow phase. I’m happy to have those in our rear-view mirror. It’s the seeing the boys daily that I miss. They are changing and we only get to see end results, our time of helping them shape the men they are becoming is gone. Craig and I have been replaced by peers and professors and other cities and adventures that we may or may not hear about. This time of transition feels exactly like that tenuous moment before diving into a wet pool – I really don’t want it to be my current reality, but I do know if I hop in, immerse myself in acceptance of this change, I will feel better in the long run. It’s just a little chilly starting out.
Image credit: Robert O’Neil