The summer was too dry and sunny this year. Today it is raining and gray and it suits me. I remember the only complaint my son ever had about Colorado when he lived there, was that there were not enough gray days. Growing up in the Great Smoky Mountains with the mist and the fog, the front range of the Rockies seemed to be in stark contrast I am sure.
When my son was accepted into gradutate school I have never seen him so excited. He had lived at home to attend college, mostly in part because his sister was receiving chemotherapy. His other reason to remain at home later became the fact that he was given free reign to come and go as he pleased and it was a money saver to live under our roof. His sister was a freshman at the same university when he graduated and she decided to take a summer course in Mexico. We needed to go to Ft. Collins Colorado to find him a place to live, and so we took a road trip, leaving his dad at home to hold down the homefront.
We drove up through Tennessee, into Kentucky, across Missouri, into Kansas and on to Colorado. We were familiar with Tennessee and Kentucky as far as the landscape. Missouri seemed to have roads made up primarily of potholes. There were stange road side stores called XXX-superstores housed in old Stuckey buildings at the exits. My son remarked, “regardless of what they have inside, that in no way resembles a superstore.” We drove and drove that first day, riding in his little VW jetta wagon, his border collie, Asa, miserable in the back seat. We took turns driving. We passed through Kansas City and on into Kansas itself. It was like we were rolling down the side of an inverted bowl off the hump of Missouri, through the “post-stone” area onto the amazingly flat landscape of Kansas.
We had no GPS and were beginning to get tired. I called my sister who got on her computer and came up with a motel that would allow us to house the dog with us. We pulled in late, and fell asleep quickly.
The next day was full out on the the flat roads of Kansas. Here and there in the distance you would see a grove of trees, a silo, and some low green vegetation and then it was gone. We rolled past fields of sunflowers tracking with their faces to the sky. When we crossed the Colorado border I was dissapointed to see there was not going to be a change in the scenery any time soon. Finally we were approaching the outskirts to Denver.
It was a shock for me to see Denver. Living in the Great Smokies I expected to see a place like Asheville N.C., only in the Rockies, instead there on the flat plain was this city with a wave of mountains rolling up behind it. “This is wrong!” I exclaimed.
“What did you expect?” my son seemed puzzled.
“I don’t know, but this is just wrong.” I said.
He laughted and we turned north to Fort Collins. I had reserved us a cabin near the reservoir at Fort Collins. We just barely had our toe in the beginning of the front range. It was perfect for the dog and cool and quiet for us we settled in and contacted the real estate agents.
The next couple of days were spent looking at condomiums all over Fort Collins. Set off in a neat and easily accessed grid we were taken to about 10 different places. I was surprised at how old the houses of Fort Collins looked. We found a condo that would suit I thought, though later my son would tell me we should have looked more. We made an offer and the ball was rolling.
It was time to take in some of the sites. We ate out almost every night though it would be later while he lived there that he would discover the true gastronomic gems of Fort Collins. We drove back to Estes Park and on up the one way winding path to the Alpine Visitor’s Center. The excitement was growing inside my son as he looked at all the places he would have to hike and climb. We took pictures of Elk and I felt the effects of the altitude.
Finally it was time to start home. We packed up feeling good that we had secured a comfortable place for him to live while he worked on his Masters. Unfortunately we had not made a very good plan for the trip home and ended up driving for 24 hours. Near the end of the trip in the fog and mist of the mountains in Tennessee with deer crossing signs warning us of what might unexpectedly be ahead we berated our lack of planning.
We made it home safe and tired. Soon our daughter returned home from Mexico, and all too soon we helped our son pack and took him back to Colorado where he would live for two years. A place that would become for him the ideal to which he hoped to return one day.
In the journal he kept during his college days and the days leading up to his departure to Colorado, he writes about his excitement and fear. He never spoke of his fears to me or his dad at that time. They are the sweet anticipation of a person standing poised to begin an adventure they have dreamed about for years. I cannot read his words very often. They are so poignant and full of yearning. I feel like I am invading his privacy.
Sometimes to sooth myself, I pretend that he is there now in Colorado, or in Utah or Idaho, or even where he so much wanted to go to study in Australia. I don’t know if it will ever really sink in that he is gone from this world. Really gone. That has become a mountain of our own to climb.