Friday, February 17, 2006

Typical weekend complications

This is the first Friday I've been here at the New Undisclosed Location. Last Friday I was out with Youngest Son at the sports doctor; the Friday before I was with Younger Daughter at the hospital for tests prescribed by her doctor. The Friday before that was Moving Day.

And, oh yeah, about that carpet... Not this week, apparently. Maybe on the weekend beginning March 3. That's the Friday before Casimir Pulaski Day -- or, as a friend of mine who works for the government calls it, "the end of the Holiday Season." The Pulaski Day holiday resulted from a close gubernatorial race between Big Jim Thompson and Michael J. Bakalis -- the incumbent, Thompson, was fishing for votes in the Chicago Bungalow Belt. But that's a different story.

This weekend we're off to South Bend to visit Oldest Son on the occasion of "Junior Parents Weekend." I've not spoken much of Oldest Son since I mentioned his trip to the Fiesta Bowl and thereafter to the vicinity of the Rose Bowl.

We don't know what Junior Parent Weekend entails. Oldest Son was going to find out before Christmas, then after Christmas, then last week -- but he never did. He did tell us recently that everyone else's parents were coming and taking their kids to the bars, but he's not 21 and my wife did not see that as a good plan. We didn't sign up for any of the "official" events because Oldest Son wasn't sure that we should or that any of his friends and their parents were going.

Apparently they are now. And it's no longer possible to sign up. I suggested we go to dinner anyway -- but my wife wasn't wild about that plan either. She pointed out, reasonably enough, that the kid doesn't eat food and never has. We were convinced for the longest time that he survived by absorbing nourishment from air molecules. I now believe he subsists on Coca-Cola products and chips of various dimensions. And pizza.

My impression was that Oldest Son was feeling kind of blue; that he didn't want to be around while his friends were off with their parents, nor did he want to sponge off them in the event he was invited to accompany them. He didn't want to be looked at as the "Orphan Boy," which he certainly is not. At one point he suggested coming home for the weekend. I understood that he was going to tell people at school that he was going to visit friends at the University of Illinois, a cover story that they'd readily accept since Older Daughter attends school there. But he didn't mean it as a cover story. He told us this week that his plan was to come into Chicago on the train Friday afternoon, pick up a car, and continue on to Champaign.

By 'picking up a car' Oldest Son was not referring to Hertz or Avis; rather he was referring to one of the family vehicles. There are three. But two of the three are really not up to the long trip; the other is the van that we need for the usual weekend activities which, this week, include:
  • Picking up Younger Daughter from soccer practice during Friday rush hour;
  • Baseball camp for Youngest Son on Friday night;
  • A Niles-league basketball game for Youngest Son on Saturday morning;
  • A dentist's appointment for Younger Daughter on Saturday morning;
  • A Niles-league basketball game for Youngest Son on Sunday afternoon (the Niles Park District leagues being a rather competitive recreational program, a step up from intramurals but a step down from inter-school competition);
  • Mass (Youngest Son was was supposed to serve as some sort of a junior usher at the anticipatory Mass on Saturday evening, but, as our plans developed, we're hoping he can switch that to Noon Mass on Sunday); and, of course,
  • Groceries.

If Oldest Son had really taken a car, we'd have to add returning him to school on Saturday night or Sunday morning to this list.

But Middle Son has dibs on one of the cars for baseball practice. He's a freshman at a local college and he should be living in the dorm at school -- but, for reasons not relevant to this discussion, he was invited to move back home for this semester.

This is tough for all of us, particularly now because his practice schedule is so brutal: It's a small school -- one gym, no separate indoor practice facilities for the baseball team. Right now it's basketball season -- so that team understandably gets dibs on the gym for practice. They finish about 9:00 p.m. That's when baseball practice starts, usually ending around 1:00 a.m. Maybe this would not be so bad for college students on campus -- college kids are nocturnal creatures -- but it's brutal for any kid who has to live at home. And it's not so great for that kid's parents, I'm here to tell you.

Anyway, when we learned of his difficulties at school, we thought that we would force him to take public transportation to and from school. That would be part of the penance he would pay for his transgression.

But that proved impractical -- though the school is rather close by, public transportation to and from is not very good. And his current schedule makes it impossible.

So we bent -- but he's still being punished. After all, we're getting him up in the morning for his 9:00 a.m. classes and pushing him out the door. I don't know that his attendance would be quite so good if he were still in the dorm.

But that ties up the other functioning car on almost a full-time basis. Oldest Son was not happy to hear this, but I'm already hearing about it on a regular basis from Younger Daughter who's 16 and has imagined that car as "hers" now. I'm still having trouble imagining this car as desirable: It has over 100,000 miles on it.

And Younger Daughter doesn't yet have her license. We're still doing the mandatory parent-driving hours. Which is how I wound up as a passenger in that car being driven east into westbound traffic last Sunday morning. But I digress yet again.

Bottom line is this: After a great deal of discussion, Oldest Son is not coming home today. Instead, I'll take the rest of the family -- maybe even Middle Son depending on his schedule -- Saturday night to sit around a hotel, watch Oldest Son not eat and maybe take in Mass at the Basilica at Notre Dame. This last may mollify my wife somewhat. There may also be a party that he wants us to attend. If it's not in a saloon I think my wife will go along. We'll leave after groceries and basketball Saturday and return before Noon Mass Sunday.


Oh, I guess I haven't mentioned why I didn't think the third car was up to the trip. I drove that car to court in Waukegan last week and was scared to death. Something is wrong with the steering. On the other hand, the car is 22 years old.

Anyway, it's cheaper to take the family to South Bend in the van and stay overnight than it would be to let Oldest Son take this car and have some breakdown on the road along I-57. This is without even considering the obvious safety issues. And, funny thing, I still think this is what the kid wants us to do. But who knows with kids?

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