Friday, August 22, 2014

Going to College

During the past few weeks, I have been observing friends begin the journey of taking their children off to college for the first time.  It has made me remember that summer before my first year in college and what my grandmother told me about her first year.  The experiences couldn't be more different – but there are some things that still remain the same.

Grandma Cappy at the top of the pyramid - 1932 Lewis Clark Normal Tumbling Team
When my grandmother left for college, she didn’t go far.  However, I bet her journey to school took her longer than my drive from Lewiston, ID to Moscow, ID (University of Idaho).  Her trip to school involved a horse on most days and she road from the Lewiston Orchards down to the Lewis Clark Normal School (today’s Lewis Clark State College).  I had money in the bank to pay for tuition and books – Grandma Cappy’s father butchered a hog and sold it to pay for that tuition and necessary books.  There were student loans available in my day, but my grandparents had made sure that when it was time for me to go to college, there would be money available.  

Many of today’s students have to rely on student loans to get them to college.  They have microwaves, laptop computers and matching bedding.  I look at what these kids today are taking to college with a bit of wonder and envy.  I am sure my grandmother must have felt the same about my preparations.  I had a refrigerator and electric typewriter and a car to take me to school.
That summer before my first year of college was full of a lot of changes for me.  I had never even driven a car outside the Lewiston – Clarkston valley.  Just after graduation, one of my friend’s parents gave us a weekend up at Three Rivers resort which was a few hours’ drive up the river.  So, that was my first drive outside of the valley on my own.  Then later that summer we traveled down to Santa Rosa, CA to help my Uncle Jack and his wife, Hilda move from Santa Rosa to Roseburg, OR.  I was tasked with driving the little car that Uncle Jack drove around during errands which was a Chevette as I recall.  It had a working radio –but where we were traveling, there was no radio signal.  I had a problem staying awake driving in our little convoy heading north…but I made it.  I can still remember sitting on the floor in my Uncle’s new house with my older brother and parents.  As we set there discussing numerous topics, my mother told my uncle that he needed to make a trip to Lewiston soon to visit my grandmother (his younger sister).  My grandmother’s heart was failing and Mom didn’t know how much longer she would live.  This was sobering news for Uncle Jack.  Grandma Cappy and he had a special relationship…and while they had lived miles apart most of their adult lives, there were always phone calls and letters that kept the close relationship constant.  However, it had been a few years since he had been home and he hadn't seen the decline of my grandmother’s general health.
Left to Right: Aunt Hilda, Uncle Jack, Russ (aka Bub) Gene (Dad) , & Betty (Mom) 
Left to Right: Hilda, Jack, Carmen, Gene & Betty

So, we said goodbye and started the trip back to Lewiston.  During the car ride home, Mom and I made plans on what we were going to do.  We hadn't really done anything to prepare for my move to college.  We needed to buy sheets, towels and many of the other toiletries that a girl needs.  We arrived home on Monday afternoon and decided that we would do our shopping on Wednesday.  On Wednesday morning, Mom called me upstairs at 6:30 am.  She had been listening to the police scanner and had heard a call for an ambulance and my grandparent’s address with a Code Blue.  I went down and got dressed and came back upstairs as Mom and I waited for the phone call telling us which one of my grandparents had had a heart attack.  Twenty minutes later, we knew it was my grandmother and we were on the way to the hospital.  We found my grandfather in the waiting room with a lost look on his face as he told us that they had restarted her heart.  A few minutes later, a doctor told us that she had been without oxygen for too long and he honestly didn’t know how her heart was still beating.  I was tasked with calling my father at work and my brothers to let them know what had happened.  My grandmother’s younger brother was able to see her, and Jack was on his way up.  He was due to arrive Saturday morning and before he arrived, Grandma Cappy slipped away. As I was packing my car, with what I had bought on my own, tears were running down my face.  Going to college which had been an exciting adventure a week previously was now something that I didn’t want to do.  Mom told me that I needed to get my dorm room assignment and meet my roommate.  This was something that Grandma would want me to do.   So, I went through the motions of driving up to my new dorm room, met my roommate and took my things in and then I got back in the car and headed back home.  On the following Tuesday, we buried my grandmother and then my brother and I headed up to Moscow and had to register.  As a freshman, I was registering near the last and didn’t get most of the classes I wanted and had to settle for the classes I could get. 

It wasn't until a few weeks later, when my mother was finally able to come up and visit. By that time, I was in a room on my own and my mother arrived with matching comforters for both of the beds in my room and a small black and white TV as well as whatever else she thought I needed.  Mom and I never got our shopping trip together – so she decided to take care of it on her own. 

I must admit to being a little envious of those going to college.  There is so much excitement at starting a new pathway in life.  I know that my grandmother felt that way as she started going to school on that first day 55 years before my first day.  She was the first one to graduate from college in her family and had a teaching degree in 1932 to show for her efforts.  Needless to say, I will always remember that first day – getting my dorm, carrying my things into my new room and meeting my roommate and hall mates.  However, what I will remember most is the news that morning that Grandma had slipped away from us – it was August 24, 1985 and she was 73 years old!