I love seeing old friends. I just hate seeing them leave.
Therese was in town this weekend. Not really to visit with people so much (though that was one thing she did), but to defend her dissertation — the last step in obtaining her PhD. It’s the end of a very long road for Therese, something she’s been working hard to complete for over a third of her life.
The defence was on Thursday afternoon. I had vowed to leave her be until then, since I knew that she’d be in preparations until then. We ended up talking for a while Wednesday afternoon — Therese called me while she took a little break. I’m not sure if she called so much for a social conversation, or looking for affirmation. As Therese would explain to me, graduate students often have low self-worth, having been told time and time again their work isn’t good enough. Luckily, it didn’t take much to instill faith in her knowledge and wisdom.
Either that, or she was gullible enough to believe me.
Therese’s defence began at 14:00 Thursday afternoon. Exactly what happened in there, I will never know. (Not that it’s really any of my business, anyway.) The defence was supposed to last about two hours, after which, Therese would receive her final grade. It’s a three-point score. If you get a ‘1’, you get champagne. If you get a ‘2’, you get a congratulations. If you don’t get either, you get to do it over again. Therese would find out around 16:30 what that score was. Ideally, that’s when I would find out if I had to start calling her “Doc”.
16:00 came and went without any news. I called around 16:45, in hopes of catching her before something happened (we were supposed to get together that evening). I ended up at home around 17:45 without so much as a peep. I called again, and caught Therese in the midst of something very loud. I didn’t ask if she passed. I didn’t have to. I knew.
“So, can I call you ‘Doc’ now?”
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my privilege to present the new Dr. Therese Hollingsworth. (Feels kinda weird to be writing that, I have to say.)
The plan was to meet at Catch at 19:15 (the first time they had a table for five) and celebrate. (Besides, Therese had $50 in gift certificates to spend.) Therese drove over with her friend Joe, Geoff and Deanna would meet us there later. When I arrived, I found Therese alone at the table. It had only been a month and a half since I’d last seen her, but it felt like a lifetime.
What made it more poignant was that this was a different Therese. This wasn’t the Therese I had come to know over the last decade. This Therese was happy, relaxed, and for the first time in her life, free of school. And just to complicate things even more (as if finishing her doctorate, moving to Montreal, and buying a home weren’t enough), Therese is three months’ pregnant. In a few short months, two of my best and closest friends will be parents.
I suddenly feel about 10 years older. (That’s 28 for those of you keeping count.) I’m not ready for this level of maturity. I’m too young for this.
We ate a wonderful dinner and celebrated Therese’s success. The conversation around dinner naturally stemmed towards Therese’s pregnancy, sprinkled every so often with the defence and how it had gone and what Therese was going to do with her post-doctorate in Montreal. Life, it seems, rarely stays in place.
I drove Therese to Stefanie’s that night, where Therese would stay until she leaves for Montreal this afternoon. But this wasn’t goodbye yet — there was still much to do. And Friday night would be such an event.
Geoff (I should point out that I’m not talking about myself in the third person — this is another Geoff) booked the private room at the Blind Monk for Therese’s “reception”. So, after work, Erin and I headed down (after making a quick pit stop at Bernard Callebaut — Stuart had asked me to pick up some chocolates for Therese), where Therese got to meet Erin for the first time.
The evening was long — running from about 19:00 to just after midnight. For us, it was tiring. For Therese, it was a marathon. Being on Eastern time, still exhausted from the defence, and pregnancy don’t really help one’s stamina. But Therese was among the last to leave.
The next day, later in the afternoon, I picked up Geoff and Therese from the university to go shopping at Chinook. Therese and Geoff were going to visit Jeanine, Dory, and their new baby in Innisfail the next day, and weren’t about to go up empty-handed. Baby clothes and toys were the order of the day. I even threw in a small blanket with a bunny head sewn in the middle. (It sounds rather morbid, but it is cute.)
Geoff left early, as Therese and I finished shopping. First to Willow Park for wine — a thank you gift for Therese’s advisors. Then it was to PetSmart to obtain a gift for Stefanie and Ian, who had put Therese up for a few days. Then it was the long drive back to Stefanie’s (not counting a side trip for a quick snack). Therese and I talked the whole way. I knew this would be the last time I’d see Therese for a while.
Leaving her was difficult. I didn’t see Therese (or Stuart, for that matter) as much as I would have liked while she lived in Calgary. Now she’s 3,000 kilometres away, and three months’ pregnant. I’ll not be seeing her again until after her child is born. We both found it hard to left go. Luckily, the dark streets were empty as I drove down the street. I could barely see the road through the tears.
My weekend did not end there, though. Sunday brought around another first for Erin — not only had she met one of my closest friends (she had met Stuart when he had come out a month ago to ship out the contents of their house), but now she was going to meet my family.
Well, “clan”, I guess. Since Mom, Cathy, and Craig live back in Ontario, Erin won’t meet them until Christmas (or so). But this was a chance for her to meet my Aunt Brenda, Uncle Mike, cousins Jen, Pam, and Darren, Sean (Pam’s boyfriend), and of course, Nana.
Needless to say, Erin was a little nervous.
Actually, even I was a little nervous. I mean, they’re my family and I love them to death, but it’s hard to know how things will go. It’s not that I planned on disaster or anything (I wouldn’t have brought Erin if I didn’t think things would go well), but you never really know how well things will go until they happen. Besides, strange things always seem to happen when we go over there for dinner.
Example: Mike announced that he had to pack up three bags of crabs for a co-worker. This suddenly conjured images of three large bags of Snow or Alaskan King, making me wonder what bet Mike had lost. I wasn’t the only one with this thought, and we soon found out that he had meant crabapples, not seafood. A co-worker wanted to make crabapple jelly. This led Mike, Jen, Sean, Darren, and I outside and quite literally up a tree.
Sadly, many of the apples were going soft (some were outright rotten), but there were still many to be had. The tricky part, though, is getting them off the tree. Rotten apples are a breeze — just shake the branch. The good ones have a much stronger grip, and have to be picked by hand. Darren climbed a latter. Mike hopped on the fence. I went up the tree itself. (And have all the scratches to prove it.) It must’ve been quite the sight to see all of us in the denuded tree. I’m sure I’ll find out when Brenda gets her photos developed.
Dinner, as expected, was outstanding. The food was excellent, and the conversation well matched the repast. But dinner was cut a little short. It seemed Darren and Sean were harbouring a virus, which showed through soon after the meal was complete — they were fading fast. Dinner was over by 20:00. A little unusual for my family, but not unwelcome — it gave us plenty of time to drive Nana home, me to drop of Erin (who lives in the deep south of Calgary), and be home in time to get my butt up for gym in the morning.
I now sit, staring out my window, half wishing I could see planes taking off from the airport. I’d wave to them, knowing eventually Therese’s plane would be passing over. Instead, I have to wave at the crackheads and hookers who love hanging out in our area.
Have a safe flight, dear friend. Hopefully it won’t be too long ’til when next we meet.