And Then There Were Five

My household is shrinking. Once bursting with seven of us, we’re now down to five. While I’m loving the new-found elbow room, ever-present car keys, and slightly lower grocery bills, I do miss my two college-bound boys.

Relatively close by, our oldest opted to stay at his university for the summer, taking classes and working. This week, we moved our second son into his dorm on a campus far, far away.

According to the welcome sign sticking up out of the shriveled up corn stalks on the side of the highway, Iowa is the “The Field of Opportunity”.

As the parent of a college student, I must say I definitely prefer that sensible slogan over “The Field of Dreams” (one of my favorite movies, but still, it’s a little foolhearty).

Yet, in hindsight, I’m thinking the Shoeless Joe Jackson character might have been right after all.

Iowa is teeming with angels.

When we arrived at our son’s residence hall, we were greeted by cheerful students directing us every step of the way. We had him moved in and unpacked within the course of an hour. After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we made our way to a welcome session hosted by the head of the “On Iowa” program who started her speech by stating the obvious – people in Iowa are some of the nicest folks on the planet. Hokey, yes, but we had no reason to think otherwise.

After learning more about the fun, informative sessions they had planned for all of the early arrivals, they gave us parents fifteen minutes to say our good-byes.

Trying to keep a positive spin on his day, I did my best to remain stoic. As I stood next to my freshman, I didn’t sense a hint of anxiety. I gave him a big hug, kissed him on the cheek and moved out of the way so my husband could follow suit.

A stay-at-home dad since my son was three, my poor hubbie just couldn’t let go. My dear son, sensitive to the emotion-heavy moment, gripped him back.

That’s when I lost it.

Thoughts started racing through my head. What do you mean we won’t see you until Thanksgiving? What happens if you get sick? What will I do if my computer malfunctions?

At the fifteen minute mark, we pulled away and released him from our clutches. Smiling, he bounded for his group and never looked back. Clearly, this was pay back for that first time we blithely dropped him off at daycare all those many years ago.

After filling up our tank with gas that was priced at a level we haven’t seen since 1996, we hit the highway and were a tad alarmed to see our battery light flash on. Granted, our SUV is eight years old, but we just had it serviced for our road trip to Orlando last month. We trudged on, sure that there was nothing to worry about.

About an hour later, everything began shutting down. We pulled onto the shoulder and, while my husband called AAA, I hopped out to chat with Angel #1 who was stepping out of his Iowa State patrol car. After we informed him that a tow truck was on its way, he suggested a couple of repair places nearby and promised to check on us in an hour just to be sure we were taken care of.

Thirty minutes later, Angel #2 pulled in front of us. As he hoisted our idled vehicle onto his tow truck, he listened to the list of establishments Angel #1 gave us, then pointed out that since it was after 5pm, they were all closed.

Still three hours from home, we thought of our three younger sons alone at home and started to panic. Our AAA membership would cover the cost of a hotel room, but Angel #2 had a better idea.

“Let me call a buddy of mine. He owns a shop in Davenport. I’ll bet anything, all you need is a new alternator.”

With no other choice, we agreed.

Forty-five minutes later, we were introduced to Angel #3 who, after dropping his sons off at football practice, picked up a new alternator, met us at his shop, opened it up, and pulled our car in.

Two hours and all of the free soda from his vending machine that we wanted later, he closed the hood and handed us his business card so we could call him in case we had any more problems. It came as no surprise that his logo is a wrench with wings on it (which I promise to scan once my printer is repaired).

By the time we arrived our uncomfortably roomy home, it was well after midnight, and I had completely reversed my stance on Iowa’s state logo – “Field of Dreams” is so much more appropriate…


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