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

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.

I’d go see ‘Star Trek’ but I’m too shook up

All things being equal, this should be a nerdy weekend for me, just not in the way you’d expect.

“Star Trek: Beyond,” the latest movie set in the rebooted universe, is in theaters.

But it’s opening the same weekend that my kids are appearing in the annual summer show at the Apollo Theater in our hometown – Martinsburg, West Virginia.

They are participating in the Apollo’s Youth Summer Theatre Workshop staging of the Elvis musical “All Shook Up.”

The show opens tonight with performances scheduled through the weekend.

I never thought I’d be faced with a choice between “Star Trek” and a musical.

Good thing I’m more nerdy about my kids.

Otherwise, the lure of “Star Trek” might be too much to resist.

ASU

 

This weekend’s newspaper column -I’ve finally learned to just go with Pokemon

I’ve done it, again.

I’ve publicly shamed my wife for the umpteenth time.

A colleague of hers walked into her office Thursday morning and asked, “Was that YOUR husband walking around downtown playing Pokemon?”

Before you start judging, please note that I wasn’t home parked in my favorite chair and passively binge-watching “Star Trek” episodes I’ve already seen hundreds of times.

I was actually out walking.

Around town.

Taking time away from my busy nap schedule and GETTING SOME EXERCISE.

On a certain level, my wife should be pleased that I showed enough initiative to get out of my chair this week, even if it was to hunt down cartoon monsters from a video game.

But I also suspect she would prefer I not be so obvious about “Pokemon Go,” the incredibly popular smartphone game that’s revived the Pokemon franchise and dominated pop culture since its release this month.

Anyone who is only dimly aware of the game instantly knows you’re playing it when you walk by them on the street. That’s part of its charm and a source of its ignominy. My wife’s colleague certainly figured it out when she saw me wandering around downtown phone-in-face, but she wasn’t the first.

After I initially downloaded “Pokemon Go” last weekend, I persuaded my teenage daughter to roam the neighborhood with me.

Teenagers are helpful. They are Pokemon literate. They grew up with the game and many are as nerdy about it as I am about “Star Trek.” She explained the finer points of capturing Pokemon and helped me catch my first one in an open field near our house.

That’s when I looked up from my phone long enough to notice a car slowing down and the driver giggling at us. Then her passenger bellowed “Pokemon Go!”

I should have felt at least slightly self-conscious. I’ve spent the past 20 years happily scoffing at Pokemon even as I opened my wallet so my kids could play each iteration of the game. But that shout-out felt like I was being welcomed into the club. Pokemon has finally found a way to suck me in.

I am probably more surprised by that than my wife is ashamed. I just wish “Pokemon Go’s” power to motivate people to get outside and explore the world around them extended to yard work.

My son and I usually share lawn mowing duties. This summer, however, I’ve let him slack a bit. It probably has something to do with him leaving for college in a few short weeks.

Rather than simply ordering him to help, I’ve tried to gently shame him, simply pointing out several times a week that “I mowed the lawn for you … AGAIN.” It hasn’t worked.

I tried a different tack earlier this week. I showed him a picture of a Pokemon I bagged while mowing. I thought it might motivate him, but he just shrugged it off.

It’s probably just as well. There are countless stories of “Pokemon Go” players becoming so distracted by the game that they bump into other people and walk into doors, poles and even into traffic.

If I actually let him play the game while mowing the lawn, he’d probably just end up mowing through his mom’s flower beds.

And that, without a doubt, would mean the end of anyone in our house playing “Pokemon Go” ever again.