Latest newspaper column – the top ten things we won’t miss now that our son is away at college

The day after West Virginia University’s Ginny Thrasher won the first gold medal of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, I was in Morgantown.

But I wasn’t there to help celebrate.

I was there to move our son into his dorm room.

Our eldest kid is no longer living in our basement. He’s out of our house and on his own, albeit still on his parents’ dime.

Our son started his WVU career a week early. He’s a trumpet playing member of the Mountaineer Marching Band, “The Pride of West Virginia.” The Pride requires members to show up a week early for band camp.

I admit to being somewhat apprehensive about turning him loose on Morgantown. And my eyes may have even welled up a little when I left him on his own. I’m not saying they did, just that they MIGHT have.

But now that it’s been nearly a week since the last time I saw our son, I’m starting to see the bright side of this college thing.

And so is my wife.

A couple of days after our son left she called me from her office. With sirens wailing in the background, she said “it’s nice not to have worry about him being in a car accident every time I hear an ambulance or fire engine.”

That got me thinking about several more things we won’t miss:

  1. Bellowing down the basement stairs each morning because we don’t trust him to set an alarm.
  2. Having to continue bellowing because he didn’t hear us the first time.
  3. The morning bathroom fight between him and his younger sister.
  4. Scrambling through a lukewarm shower before it turns frigid because he used most of the hot water.
  5. Being distracted when guests are over out of fear that he might wander into the family room wearing nothing but boxer shorts.
  6. Trying to pry information from him and only getting a series of grunts and a shrug for our trouble.
  7. Our weird relationship with the pizza delivery guy who, until last week, rang our doorbell on what seemed like a near daily basis.
  8. Having to buy frozen pizza in a misguided effort to satisfy his craving and keep the pizza bill within reason.
  9. Wrapping a pillow around our heads because he decided that 2am is the perfect time to practice his trumpet.
  10. Putting up with his sleeping until 2pm because he was up all night – PRACTICING HIS TRUMPET!

This list is hardly exhaustive, but it doesn’t mean we are gleeful that he’s gone and no longer interested in keeping tabs on him.

The fact is, we are getting sort of desperate. He’s been largely silent since he left. He hasn’t even been sending us many text messages, his preferred method of communication. My wife and I have been reduced to searching for him in the pictures the WVU band posts on social media.

That will likely change, though.

After all, his penchant for pizza means he’s bound to eventually run out of spending money.

Stalking our college son

Our son hasn’t really been in touch with us since I dropped him off for band camp at West Virginia University in Morgantown.

Not surprising. He’s a fairly independent kid.

Thanks to social media, though, at least we know he made it to rehearsals on Wednesday.

My wife found this picture posted by @WVUMarchingBand on Twitter. She helpfully circled our son, marching with nearly 400 of his new best friends. He’s just left of the 40 yard line, part of the “V” in WVU.img_1406.jpg

Room 304

Most West Virginians will get why I’m encouraged that my son and I stayed in room “304” at the hotel in Morgantown last night.

For those who don’t, “304” is a shorthand way to refer to West Virginia. It used to be the area code for the entire state. 

I’m not necessarily a big believer in auguries, but I’ll take this one as a sign of good things as my son begins his college career. 

We are moving him into his dorm room today at West Virginia University.

Marching band dad

A day after West Virginia University’s Ginny Thrasher won the first gold medal at the Rio Olympics, I’m in Morgantown.

Our son is starting his college career a week early. We’re here for band camp. He’s a freshman member of  the Mountaineer Marching Band, otherwise known as “The Pride of West Virginia.”

Today was registration day.

No more basement living for our oldest kid. Tomorrow, it’s sink or swim. We’re moving him into his dorm room and then I’m leaving him to it.

He probably won’t ever win Olympic gold, but I feel like there should be some sort of prize for parents who have gotten their kids this far.

Just an old clay pot

I was planning to say something deep and reflective about the old clay pot I found this week.

I discovered it beneath the snowball bush that my wife strongly suggested I trim earlier this summer.

But then she noticed it on the kitchen counter this morning and asked, “What’s this pot doing here?”

I told her where I found it and when I started to wonder out loud where it came from she deflated me.

“Your mom gave it to me,” she said. “I left it outside. Did you think you made some sort of big archaeological find?”

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Billy Joel in the rain

In hindsight, my wife and I should have taken a canoe last night. If we had, our field trip to Washington, D.C. probably would have gone smoother.

Instead, we took my car and hydroplaned our way through strong storms to see Billy Joel at Nationals Park.

The storms made for difficult driving. We left our house at around 4pm. It was after 6pm by the time we arrived at the Metro station where we planned to take a train into the city. By the time we got to Nationals Park, it was after 7pm.

We needn’t have worried about being late, though. The rain delayed the concert for nearly an hour-and-a-half. And we needed that time just to make it our seats. The crush of people in the concourse seeking shelter was overwhelming.

It was still raining when I took this picture shortly after Joel finally sat down in front of his piano.

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Can’t see him?

And here I thought I was being helpful by circling Joel’s location on the stage.

Just pretend the rain somehow ruined what would have been an awesome view, rather than judging me for not buying better seats.

The weather had one last inconvenience for us. Since the concert started late, we had to leave early to catch the last Metro train back to our car.

We missed some of Joel’s biggest hits. In fact, my wife and I exchanged a pained looked when he started playing “Piano Man” as we left through the center field gate.

But missing the last portion of the show was just that – an inconvenience.

The rain caused real trouble in the D.C. suburb of Ellicott City, Maryland. Flash floods ripped through the city’s downtown while Joel was on stage.

A state of emergency is in effect there.

We just got a little wet and missed a few songs.

Ghosts of Shepherdstown

I guess it’s fitting that the moment I sat down to write this, thunder boomed and lightening lit the sky.

The storm made our usually happy home feel as though it belonged in the establishing shot of an old horror movie. All that was missing was ominous organ music.

A more cautious man might have taken the storm as a sign to GO NO FURTHER because something REALLY SCARY was REALLY ANGRY.

But I’m not much of a believer in things that go BOO in the night. I generally don’t lose much sleep over the supernatural.

Lately, however, I’ve been drawn to the TV show “Ghosts of Shepherdstown.” You could even say it’s been keeping me from my busy nap schedule.

I have more than a passing interest.

For one thing, I consider Shepherdstown, West Virginia to be the seat of all Snyder power in the world.

I may not have grown up there (I was raised in Charleston, the state capital), but my Snyder forbears settled in Shepherdstown decades before the Civil War. Some family members still live there.

To steal a line from “Game of Thrones,” you could say there is always a Snyder in Shepherdstown, just as there must always be a Stark in Winterfell. Otherwise, who knows what might happen?

In this case, the dead didn’t exactly rise, but an old family ghost story DID get dramatized in a TV show.

You can thank – at least in part – my late Uncle Jack for the show’s claim that Shepherdstown is the most haunted town in America. Decades ago, he coaxed the old family ghost stories from his Aunts, the three daughters of his grandfather, Harry Lambright Snyder, the editor of the defunct “Shepherdstown Register” newspaper.

“Ghosts of Shepherdstown” is on the Destination America channel, but I initially found the show online after my wife brought it to my attention. A friend told her about an episode based on an old Snyder story Jack preserved about my great-grandmother haunting the old family home.

The first time I saw it, I half expected to see bats take flight and Scooby-Doo and the gang roll into town in the Mystery Machine. Scooby and Shaggy bumbling their way through Shepherdstown to 1970s bubblegum pop songs would have been a pleasure to see.

Instead, I felt like the story of my great-grandmother’s untimely death in a horse-and-buggy accident was ginned up to benefit someone else.

It’s been a few weeks since I first watched “Ghosts of Shepherdstown,” enough time for me to now see the humor. I can also take some pleasure that my Uncle Jack’s work to preserve family lore bore some fruit

Yet I also can’t help but think we’d all be better off if only those meddling kids had turned up to unmask the villain.