Can you hear that?

A deep, loud, echoing, quiet resounds through the house. My baby daughter — the one who was so small, she used to sleep sideways on the pillow next to me during naps — has up and gone away to college.

She’s much taller than me now and sleeping three hours away instead of on that long discarded pillow. That evil, wicked institution known collectively as “Higher Learning” has snapped her up in its jaws and probably won’t spit her out for four more years (or until she comes home over Labor Day).

I’m so thankful for our eldest daughter who knew we’d need some comforting. She flew in to stay with us for a few weeks before jetting off to study abroad this fall.

Off To School We Go triptychI can feel my fatherly duties slipping away. Well, not slipping away, but changing. For the past 20 years I’ve been there by their side, cooking, cleaning, nurturing. I did it pretty darn well (except for those ugly months in the hospital back in the Dark Ages). That’s a role I took a lot of pride in. Sure, I’ve been a photographer, writer, teacher and husband, but it seems like the things I did best, just enrolled in Growing Up U.

I feel like I got hit by a Mack Truck (or at least a MacBook).

Before she left, I made a surprise for her dorm room. They were pictures almost two decades old. I found them in our basement negative files that have been largely ignored since we joined the cool kids and went all-digital back at the turn of the millennium. With humor and love, I combined words of wisdom and made little inspirational posters for her wall. They were beautiful and touching.

And they kept falling down.

No matter what kind of newfangled adhesive hooks I used, my advice just didn’t hold up. No metaphors there; my advice didn’t stick. The past fell down behind her bed.

Now it’s up to her; she has to rely on herself. Sure, we’re the safety net and financial backers of her latest scheme to mature. But a lot of this she’ll have to do on her own.

I’ll have lots to do on my own too. Instead of falling back on the role of “Father,” I’ll have to find other roles to fulfill. Maybe they are roles that already exist; anybody need anything written, edited, photographed or taught? Inquire within. Remember, I used to teach writing at MSU!

Maybe there are new roles somewhere out there requiring a humorist or blogger, sports fan or public speaker. Heck, let me know if anyone has a job opening requiring you to eat pizza and watch the Tigers. My rates are very reasonable. Anchovies need not apply.

I was this close to getting another job teaching journalism, but it has fallen through. Journalism has sort of fallen through too. I have every confidence that something new and cool, bright and shiny will pop up ahead of me. Just as I have every confidence that my daughter will thrive in school.

Both of us are learning new roles and are on new adventures. I like that. Hopefully we’ll both have the right books, pens and highlighters in our backpacks. I promise to pay attention in class and do my best to take the proper notes. I have an advantage; I already get along great with my roommate and have for 20something years. Our empty next might be kind of fun.

Here’s one final thought: I have no other place to put this, but it’s too important to ignore. I’ve been wondering for the last little while what crazy, nutty residency/housing board in the 1960s came up with my daughter’s dorm name?

Off to college 2 low rez

Taylor stands in front of her new campus dorm. Yeah, I thought so too.