Dear Family & Friends,
Did anyone hear that horrible gut-wrenching noise along towards the end of August this year? That was my heart breaking in two when I said goodbye to my sweet baby girl on her first day of college. How I long to be like one of those parents who can’t wait for their kids to leave home, but alas, I’m not one of them. It gets worse: Tara is going to France to study at a French University for the entire year beginning next August. So while I’m at home pining away for her, the cheap tramp will be having the time of her life. Nevertheless, I’m glad that she was blessed with the world’s best roommate, sweet little Betsy, who comes with a family that has been very kind to Tara. Betsy’s family lives 20 minutes outside of Pittsburgh; you can’t imagine what a relief this is to us knowing that there is a family close by that is nice to our daughter. On Tara’s behalf, I must say that she understands my pain and is good about soothing my nerves by calling me every day when she’s walking to and from class. So my life revolves around the crumbs that are thrown my way for a few moments each day.
Now it’s just me and the guys at home – one of whom is pubescent and the other middle-aged. The pubescent one, Andrew, is doing as well as can be expected for a male teenager. He has gone through the excitement of young love and the agony of breaking up this year. And just when he was over that, he lost his beloved dog Akina in November. The dog was an escape artist and, unfortunately, this time she escaped right in front of a car. Andrew was heartbroken, to say the least. Because of this, I have given in and let him sleep with his other dog Ginny at night. He says he wants to nurture her while she’s still alive. Mmmhmm. And I’m sure he wasn’t intending to milk these experiences when he asked if we could host another exchange student next semester, but we let him have Pipo, anyway. Pipo is from Austria; he arrives mid-January and will stay with us until the end of June. And here I thought I’d have less work to do with the dog gone.
Funk wanted me to add that Andrew is in 10th grade this year and is determined to show the world that he is not only taller than his sister (by about 4” so far) but smarter as well. Luckily, school is going well for him, and his teachers seem to love him despite his smart aleck personality. Or maybe that’s why they do: if he’s making sarcastic comments in their classes, he must be paying attention.
In February, during our trip to visit Tulane (one of Tara’s then-prospective universities), we invited my parents along for a joyride. And joyride it was. My parents flew into New Orleans and then took the train back to Kansas City with us. For some strange reason, the sleeper was in the caboose, so we were tossed against the wall for the entire trip back home. My parents couldn’t stand up straight for two steps, let alone walk the 7 cars forward to get to the dining car. But afterwards, my Mother said her back never felt better. Apparently she was whipped around so much that it realigned her spine. My father, on the other hand, didn’t see the joy in this little winter foray. But it always has been hard to please him.
Funk and I did something so unusual for us this year. On the spur of the moment, we actually decided to take our honeymoon, only 25 years after the fact, in early July. It was the first time I have ever left my kids since they were born. I figured it was time, since Tara was 19 and Andrew was 15. So, in a mad frenzy, I arranged a weeklong honeymoon trip to Vermont for just the two of us. Of course, with my luck, I had an anxiety attack the first night on the train. I was just about ready to wake Funk up and make him take me home when something occurred to me: maybe I really did want to go to Vermont alone with my husband. Fortunately, I was able to talk myself down and let the poor man have his rest.
When I was arranging the trip, I was a little afraid that we wouldn’t have much to say to each other after over 15 years of being a foursome (probably another reason for the anxiety attack), but much to my relief we had a great time. What’s not to like? Funk drove me all around the mountains of Vermont, stopping in at roadside antique stores and cafés at whim. He even succumbed to my wishes for a four-hour hike that landed us in a beautiful pool of water under a waterfall. My man is getting modest in his middle years though, as I had to pull teeth to get him to skinny-dip with me. He was afraid someone would see him in all his middle-aged glory. But who in their right mind would hike down a mountain on a boiling summer day only to have to climb back up, especially just to see what we call his Big Whoop? Except for me, that is. Anyway, we never met another soul on our little journey, much to Funk’s relief. Not that anyone would have seen much if they did cross paths with us: the mountain water was so frigid that Funk’s little thing disappeared and he looked very much like a 7-year-old girl. The best part of the trip though, was when the kids were horrified that I forgot to call home one day. They were even more astonished when I told them that I was depressed about coming home. Ahhh, the crumbs can be tossed both ways.
Well, that’s our lives for this year. We hope this letter finds you all peaceful and healthy, too.