Last weekend our boys left for school. While our older son set off for his third year of law school, we drove our youngest for his third year of college. Both boys completed their physicals, were updated on all of their shots, had their teeth cleaned, hair combed and were good to go. Their clothes were washed and pressed, and they were starting off on the right foot. Unfortunately, our younger son's left foot got stuck in it when we arrived.
He was moving into an older house with three other boys, and I thought I was prepared for the worst. The rent was too good to be true, and I strongly recommended that he find another place last spring. My husband agreed, but he assured us that this was a great house conveniently located near the campus. It pains me to write these words, but we sort of trusted him.
It was raining when we pulled up to the wood shack, so the muddy walkway only added to the ambiance. We walked into the kitchen with a flickering ceiling fixture, and a sunken floor made of mismatched tiles with large gaps throughout. There were missing electrical outlet covers, missing sections of dry wall, and huge holes in the ceilings. All of these slight imperfections were found in the kitchen and living room. I was afraid of what else was lurking in this four bedroom house, and never made it further than our son's bedroom.
He lived in a fraternity house his sophomore year, and spent freshmen year in a dorm. I remember how we helped him set up his room each year, but this time I was afraid to even touch anything. He was offended when I said that his happy home resembled a crack house, and looked to his father for support. My husband calmly likened it to a slum. He tried comforting me by reminding me how our older son almost lived in a converted garage when he was an undergraduate. To this day, we're not sure if we talked him out of it, or if he was just relieved to get a better offer.
After the screaming subsided, my son told me that I was a snob. He went on to say that this house wasn't good enough for me. I told him that this house wasn't good enough for any human being, and that he didn't need to be in a place that wasn't safe to live in. To accentuate my point, as our son's foot gently brushed the top of the stairway, we watched the metal threshold come tumbling down.
Another pleasant thought occurred to me. Because our son is the first one in the house to turn twenty-one, I was wondering if he would be held responsible if there were an accident. For example, if an underage girl is over-served, and stumbles over a large rat at a party in their basement, would our son be carted away? Our older son alerted me by text that the owner would be responsible.
The next day, my husband and my son went to talk to the landlord. His office said that they would be happy to make any repairs and even offered to replace the dilapidated kitchen floor. They claimed that the house had already been painted. My husband asked how they could've painted over areas with missing drywall. Of course they blamed this on the hooligans who rented the house last year.
When we said our goodbyes, my son smiled and assured me that he would be okay. He told me that I should stop being such a negative person, and focus on the positives. I hugged him tightly, as I did a mental count of all of his fingers and toes. Then I took a deep breath and said, "Well, at least you're only about a block away from the hospital."