I detest roller coasters. The first (and only) time I went on a big one I was 14 or 15 and felt certain I was going to die. We inched clacking up the first big hill, came over the top and there was nothing below. As my car dropped over the edge into the abyss I opened my mouth to scream, not in pleasure or enjoyment but in terror, and maybe to make some noise that would mark the end of my life in this world (I wasn’t particularly concerned about what would happen when I/we hit the ground at a million miles per hour because I knew my heart would stop long before that point.).  No scream would come out; instead I rode, whipping around sharp curves, up and down violent hills, open mouth issuing staccato  “Ah!  Ah!  Ah!” sounds, harsh, forced, and totally unsatisfactory for proclaiming ‘I was here, however briefly!’

I have a similar dislike for emotional roller coasters, so the past few weeks have not been particularly enjoyable here. I did get a paper written and submitted for consideration by a journal, which is important and kept me busy and involved for quite a while – a good thing when trying to avoid drops into nothingness. Now, however, there is nothing of substance between me and the hill drop. I’m thinking desperately, trying to conjure something to get me through the weekend. Maybe a long walk in the mountains? A drive to the shore? Window-shopping somewhere fun?

W has brilliantly weathered several important firsts at his end: his first illness, his first close-up view of alcohol poisoning, his first birthday away from home. A week or two ago he came down with a bad cold. His voice dropped an octave, he couldn’t stop coughing, he was dizzy, and he sounded as if someone had held him down and stuffed his nose full of wet wipes. As I sat helpless at home, fruitlessly searching the web for health food stores and/or restaurants that would deliver hot chicken soup and cold remedies, his friends rallied ’round, providing him with EmergenC and ginger crystals for hot tea, checking on him when they hadn’t seen him out in a while, and making sure he had what he needed. He got himself to the student health center for cough medicine, slept and ate well, and … got better. Without me.

One night he sensed something amiss on his floor…. some commotion in the dorm bathroom across from his room. He checked to see if he could help. A young man had alcohol poisoning. The students summoned the RAs, the RAs summoned medics and the boy was taken to the hospital. He’s fine now, W reports, and actually thanked W for spending a couple of hours comforting his friend who had felt terribly guilty for encouraging him to drink. I think the whole experience was eye-opening for W, as much of college has been.  And he weathered that just fine without me.

His birthday – his 18th! – arrived and I had again been online for hours, searching for places that would allow me to pay for dinner for W and his friends by either buying a gift certificate for him over the phone or giving them my credit card number. Turns out he and his friends had already made plans. I told W if he bought them dinner, I’d send him a check to cover it all. They went to a local Thai place, had a great time, and W really enjoyed his birthday ….  say it with me, now  … without me.

All these firsts, and he’s managing wonderfully. He’s doing exactly what I had hoped he would be able to do out on his own: building relationships, making his own decisions, taking good care of himself and others, and enjoying life. All the things I wanted for him!  I feel proud and comfortable in his abililties and very happy for him.

At the same time I feel lonely on days when I don’t have a plan or a distraction. I’m an introvert – don’t care to mingle or chat or go out much unless it’s with someone I already know and enjoy. W is doing much better than I am in that regard; he does what he is supposed to be doing, and does it well.  Now it’s my turn to show some awareness of what *I’M* supposed to be doing.  I need a plan.

After the big roller coaster near death experience, my friends who had enjoyed it immensely  teased and teased me. They badgered me to go on it with them again but I wouldn’t. I DID go on the great splattery log flume ride, repeatedly, and enjoyed that a lot, and I eventually discovered that I could go over into the kiddie ride area and enjoy the Scooby-Doo (the coaster for little kids). That was the perfect amount of thrill for me. My friends laughed at me and I laughed at myself too. But I did NOT go back on that monstrous clacking ride from hell. I knew what I needed, and that was not it.

Now I just need to figure out how to handle this different type of coaster.

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