September Ninth remains stuck in my mind like an old song that won't go away. "The Ninth" was my response 48 years ago when I was asked when I was leaving for college. Sept. 9, 1967, was the day I left the only home I had ever known for a college dormitory. I would return frequently to that home over the next 40+ years, but I was henceforth a visitor, never at home in the old house my parents had bought in 1940. They would reside there until 2002 when EMTs would remove them, unconscious, never to return.
I was excited and eager. My brother, six years older, had made the move six years earlier and had graduated from the university I was about to attend just two years before. My other brother and my father accompanied me and helped me move my "stuff" into the dorm. We arranged my books and typewriter and clock radio in the room and met my roommate. My brother, an Air Force veteran, made my bed for me, tight enough to pass a drill sergeant's inspection.
I don't remember what else I did that day. I must have met a lot of people. The dormitory held nearly as many people as the entire town where I grew up. There must have been meetings and a meal or two at the cafeteria. I began several days of "Orientation."
What I do remember most vividly was that night, as I lay in my tautly made bed in the darkness and listened as the cacophony of a college dormitory slowed and quieted. My excitement dwindled, and I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Could I really be ready to live independently? Could I tolerate the closeness with so many young men I had never met before today? Had my small rural high school really prepared me for what lay ahead?
And though I was purposefully, adamantly independent and determinedly a Modern Man, I found myself sorry to be so far away from my parents and my sister, the only sibling remaining at home. I fell asleep, my first night at college, with those unwelcome thoughts on my mind.