‘Though years have fled and years shall flow’

My voice wavers during the Alma Mater, turning into my grandmother’s not-so-great singing voice I remember hearing during church services while growing up.

Think about Bradley. Think about those quotes that supposedly make you feel better about things being over. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Yeah. That crap. You paid thousands of dollars NOT TO CRY RIGHT NOW. So smile.

“WiTh mYrTle WrEAtH wE’ll DEcK thY bRoW,
bONA’s, oLd ST. BoNA’S.”

Remember when you were a junior in high school and your mom graduated in this very chapel? Think about that, Emily. She was smiling as she walked down the aisle. NOT crying. You’re FINE.

“The verdant leaves our love avow,
Bona’s, old ST. bONa’S.”

Okay, okay. Some of the other graduates around you aren’t singing. They kind of suck. Maybe they can’t find their programs? None of us actually learned this shit. You’re fine, Emily.

“Thy name was ever fair and bright:
We’ll keep it thus with memory’s light
And laud thy glorious Brown and White,
BONa’S, Ollld sT. BoNA’s.”

But seriously. WHAT THE HECK? I hadn’t planned to graduate this early. Haley, sitting two rows ahead of me with the purple-y hair…SHE’S ready. She’s been ready. She even said she felt bad for me because she commuted, so she doesn’t have the same connection to the school that I do. One more verse. One stanza away.

“Our HEaRts shAlL EVeR be thy shrine,
bONa’S, ollllLd St. BOnA’s.”

I remember coming in here and studying the stained glass windows for two different classes. One with Dr. Tate, and the other with Bob Donius. I think… Clare College is kind of a blur to me now. Thank goodness Denny had me take all those classes my freshman and sophomore years. I wish he were sitting right behind me instead of diagonally. He’d probably keep kicking my chair and distract me from the tears welling up in my eyes right now.

“Around thy name shall honor twine,
Bona’s, old St. Bona’s.”

When my freshman-year R.A. said this goes by way too fast, I honestly didn’t believe her. She said to take a lot of pictures. I hope I took enough pictures. 

E’er hallowed shall thy memory grow:
THOugH YeARs haVE FLeD AND yEaRS ShaLL fLoW”

Shit. Here come the tears.

“WiTHin OuR SOulS tHy LoVE sHalL gloWw
BOnA’S, oOooLLd ST. BoNa’sS”

"Done," said the alumna.
“Done,” said the alumna.

The dreaded questions

“What are you going to do?”

“What are your plans?”

…the dreaded questions people from high school asked me last Wednesday night as I slowly sipped my Labatt Blue Light.

“I’d like to do this.

“I’ve applied to this place.”

“I’ve interviewed at this other place.” 

“I interned there.”

“I’ll live at home, eat my parents’ food, feed my parents’ and brother’s dogs and try not sink into a deep depression come late January when everyone goes back to school and I. Stay. Home. In my raspberry, sky blue, burnt orange and lime green 13-year-old bedroom.”

Finishes first LBL, excuses self (ESCAPES THE AWKWARD QUESTIONS), approaches bar, buys drink, leaves tip and takes a sip.

Rinse and repeat.

Answer more awkward questions, receive hugs from people I haven’t seen in four years and get talked up by my brother’s 27-year-old friends who *GASP* didn’t realize their friend’s little sister would become a full-fledged woman someday.

I don’t think I realized adulthood for me was on the horizon, either.

Finishes second LBL, excuses self (ESCAPES THE AWKWARD PICK-UP LINE-ESQUE CONVERSATIONS), approaches bar, buys drink, leaves tip and takes a sip.

By my fourth drink, I’m ready to leave the small-town bar and sleep in my childhood bedroom. I’ll figure this shit out eventually. Next time I go back there, I hope I have some answers.

Peanut butter & jelly

I always try to do what makes sense.

Take bread, peanut butter and jelly from the hotel continental breakfast in the morning to have for lunch. (Don’t forget the banana and yogurt.)

10397226_10203581310885364_8723498419017002550_oIf it’s a beautiful day, go outside instead of staying in staring at a rectangle.

Ride your bike to the gym instead of driving. It’s only three miles away.

Getting a master’s in business administration makes sense. Right?

I have seven credits to take before graduation knocks on my door and force-feeds me a diploma. So let’s take a foundations accounting course, get a little math in there, get a taste of what an MBA would be all about. Be one of those few woman CEOs and run an entire company. Make a shitload of money.

…there goes my right brain.

I want to be successful, but maybe there’s another way. Another master’s program to enroll in, another path that is math free and more Emily-esque.

When I hung up from a phone call with the director of the MBA program at my school on Tuesday, I almost cried. Partly because of PMS, but also because I’m scared. College has basically been a walk in the park for me. The mistakes I’ve made have helped me learn and I’ve become a better writer, a better listener and a better intellectual. The idea of buying more textbooks, studying business strategies, solving math problems, stumbling over statistics… well, it scares me. Even though it makes sense. Even though I like the idea of being a boss to many.

For now I’ll save money by making a PB&J sandwich for my lunches with supplies taken from my hotel’s lobby. I’m a “poor” college student who can’t figure out if she wants to pursue what she loves or what makes sense.

Help?

Disconnected disjointed broken

I remember when they stopped coming.

When they stopped being able to make it to things. When they stopped hearing. When they stopped being able to walk.

The last track meet they ever watched me run in was when I was in seventh grade. I ran the 4X8 and the 1500. My coach let me skip the 800 because I’d almost beaten the school record in the 1500. I had earned the privilege of going home. I remember leaving the track with Grandma and Papa trailing along. Grandma probably carried the scratchy blanket they always used to keep in their car.

We stopped telling them about musicals and plays I acted in because they couldn’t hear the performers anyway. Even home track meets and cross country meets were impossible because they just couldn’t get around to them.

Papa fell at Jordan’s college graduation ceremony when he got up to use the restroom. Adam blamed me because I’d been in front of him. I cried in my black and white polka-dotted dress. My shoes matched perfectly. It’s all a tear-soaked blur, but I can still see him falling. Falling. Falling. The army veteran and former hardworking Cummins salesman was so embarrassed.

I just wrote that we didn’t take them to Trevor’s college graduation, but “them” wasn’t even possible. Papa had died the year before. He saw everyone graduate from high school except me.

I’m all disconnected disjointed broken with my words because my tear ducts still haven’t run dry. I think about last year when Grandma was around for Easter.

Easter was early my senior year of high school and Grandma and Papa watched my brothers and I scramble around outside for an Easter egg hunt.

I won.

Papa went to the hospital a few weeks later.

He died.

I know you’re not supposed to regret things in life, but I regret all the times I told Grandma and Papa, “no thank you” when they asked me to do things. I regret complaining about how slow Grandma walked during our shopping trips, how I had to keep track of her cane, how she never stopped talking. I’d give anything to have the voicemail she left on my phone that I accidentally deleted a year ago.

I’d give anything to have either of them back.

I remember when they stopped coming, but I also remember when I stopped going. Stopped wanting to visit them, then stopped wanting to visit her when she lived there alone. When we stopped inviting them over because it was just too hard and then stopped inviting her over because she never shut up.

 

Dear Emily from a Year Ago,

Stop complaining and go fucking visit her. Give her a hug from me because the clock’s ticking and pretty soon she’ll be gone.

Love,

An older, wiser you

 

I carry them with me everywhere, but the cold metal pendant can’t provide me with the full dosage of warmth I need.

It never will.

Their memories haven’t reduced me to tears since the first day I saw the bed missing from their bedroom. I cried and cried and cried and my dad just enveloped me.

I think my problem is that I just got back from another trip to New York City and I remember telling my grandma all about it last year. I sat on her brand-new couch (that now has my name on it) and she sat in her usual chair. She told me about the time she spent in the city when she and Papa were first married. How they had a bedroom in a house where they lived with a few other people. Papa taught her how to drive in the city, she and Papa played cards in the city. She took a part-time job in a department store(?) while he began his career. If my mom, aunt and uncle can’t tell me more about my grandparents’ lives as newlyweds, those memories are lost forever.

Because he died.

She followed (basically) suit.

Next time I see them, I’ll be sure to invite them to things. Something tells me they’re able to hear and walk better in their post-life adventure.