I was driving north the other day on Interstate 95. Listening to random ’70s tunes, somewhere near Bangor, and bracing myself for what was about to come this day, when Tom Rush launched into a song I hadn’t heard in decades.
“Goodbye mama goodbye to you too pa
“Little sister you’ll have to wait a while to come along
“Goodbye to this house and its memories …”
I didn’t need that. Not on the day that I was to turn my 18-year-old grandson, Teddy, over to the care of the University of Maine at Orono. Just yesterday he was 6, my little cowboy, and today he was becoming a college freshman.
Impossible. If I felt this way, I could only imagine how his parents and his stepmom, who would join me in setting up his dorm room, were dreading this moment.
At least he hadn’t gone to school in Rome, as he had once threatened. Luckily, Orono beckoned, because it was close to family and friends, whom he treasures. His biggest fear, he told me a day before heading north, was “Being away from people I love.”
The University of Maine System is also in his DNA.
On his dad’s side, he is the 11th Baldacci to attend the UMO. He loves to rattle off the names: Robert, Peter, Gerard, John, Joe, Lisa, Rosemary, Elise, Andrew, and Jack. Plus numerous cousins.
And now Teddy.
On his mom’s side, his great-grandfather, Edward Spalding, graduated in 1930 from the UMaine Forestry School. Teddy’s mom attended the University of Maine at Farmington. His grandmother – my late wife – graduated from the University of Southern Maine. Teddy’s cousin Hannah also graduated from USM, as did her mom. I worked there for a while. No doubt I’m forgetting others, but you get the picture.
So perhaps it was inevitable that we ended up moving him into a dorm room at UMO.
We got the job done, yakked for a while in his room, and soon it became clear that he was ready to get on with his adventure.
He’s an extremely loving young man – no text, phone call, or visit ever ends without an “I love you” – but on this day he was ready to enter another orbit a little farther out in our universe.
Meanwhile, another grandson has taken up his own inner orbit in my universe. At 7, Lewis is tentative and careful with his relationships. He kept me at arm’s length for a few years, but recently he let me in.
I think the fishing gear was the catalyst.
I have a new fly-fishing vest that he loves to wear even though it hangs to his ankles. He’s fascinated with every tool, every lure, every fly, every rod, and wants to know what each is named, what it does, and why. He empties the many pockets, studies everything intently, then puts it all back.
He even watches YouTube fishing shows.
Last week he caught his first fish in Little Sebago. In a photo he is beaming, his grin splitting his freckled face. I wish I’d been there, but that was the day I went to Orono. Anyway, we’ve got plenty of time for that. We’re just getting started.
And so, to my delight, my universe expands. Orbits shift. Planets appear. Stars wink out. But, as John Lennon wrote years ago, one thing stays the same.
“Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns
“And calls me on and on across the universe.”
What a trip. On we go.
Andrew Marsters is an award-winning Maine journalist and former journalism instructor at the University of New Hampshire. He lives on Munjoy Hill.