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Athenian Days: Adjusting to a New World Order



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Writing a follow-up post, and in a manner completely different from the original, is probably a bad idea. Best to leave the original article untainted by future reflections, I tell my rational self. But my other self — the self that has to go to confession a lot — is mad. And that self is curling its lip, narrowing its eyes, and sitting down to write.

It’s my son I’m feeling heated toward. You remember him — the one who nearly broke my heart in leaving for college. Well, I’m over it. Okay, I’m not over it, but I’m so angry that I’m close.

In the three weeks since that boy of mine departed, he has contacted me only for purposes of obtaining information, things, or money. No “Miss you” texts, no “Hey, it’s all good here” e-mails. Certainly no “I can’t function without you, my dearest mother” phone calls. Frankly, it’s like I never existed.

This is a rude awakening. I fancied myself important. I thought he was attached. Instead, he seems to consider himself a modern day Athena — sprung, fully-grown, and clad in armor (read: college tuition) from his father’s head. As far as he is concerned, there never was a childhood. There are no debts, emotional or otherwise, to pay, and to reprimand him is sheer folly. He is, after all, Athena, patron of sound intellect.

Charming. Really, though, I should have known this was coming. It is, after all, exactly what I did to my own mother. In 1986, before cell phones were invented, dorms were equipped with pay phones. I remember using the one in Stauffer Hall exactly once. My mother sent letters, care packages, post cards, anything and everything she could think of to establish a link between us. I thought it was sweet. How silly (and old) she seemed to me. How dear of her to want to keep it up.

Keep “it” up. That is precisely what I thought. She wants to keep up this being close — she wants to pretend like I’m not grown up and completely independent. How very quaint — and bordering on pathetic.

Now, of course, I am pathetic. But I have a resource my mother did not have – pride — and a lot of it. My mother, who has never harbored a proud thought in her life, will die, go to Heaven, and stand before God who will say: “Welcome Shirlee! You belong over here, in this elite group of saints who never fell victim to pride, and who sent their indifferent college students care packages. Well done!” To me he will say: “I seem to remember you calling your pride a ‘resource’. Purgatory is that way.”

But I can’t help it. If that heartless son of mine is not going to call, text, or e-mail me, I’ll be damned if I’m going to act like a love-sick girl and pepper him with queries and gifts. Instead, I’ll sit here — steaming mad and a little sick from grief — and troll the University of Dallas’s friends and family Facebook page for accidental photos of him.

And then, I suspect, in remembrance of my own Athenian days, I’ll break down and send him a care package. 



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