Season’s end, a son departs |

Season’s end, a son departs

Alison Osius
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Alison Osius

My friend Andrea says that when the fireweed is gone, summer is over. On Independence Pass last week, it was violet and tall on the roadside.

Just the other day, it seems, a departure was six weeks away; then four. Now two. And suddenly we are making lists, chasing missing immunization records, ordering bed sheets online. Dorm beds these days require double-long ones. We need to buy new ski boots now, before Teddy leaves.

His friends are starting to depart for college, a group of them to Colorado Mesa in a few days, then a few more elsewhere next week. Teddy leaves at the end of the month, for far Vermont.

He was just assigned his roommate, and his nervous mother Googled the kid – who has a nice smile – and found an image before he did.

“You creeper!” he said to me.

His entering freshman class has a Facebook page. He says I have studied it more than he. This is partly because I went to the same college, and am looking for familiar last names.

But it’s partly to see the faces of his new life. And names, and where they live, studied and worked. I found a kid from my tiny high school in Maryland, and even that we have a few acquaintances in common.

“Oh my god, you went on his page?” both my sons said.

The students’ photos, linking to FB pages, are up for viewing, but the discourse is closed (i.e., no parents).

Casually perusing the front page one night, I accidentally hit an unfamiliar button, and minutes later received an approval for membership. Suddenly I found myself on the inside, privy to all the chat. Someone was asking about music others liked. I’d infiltrated! Teddy’s going to kill me.

I pulled my eyes away, reversed, looked around frantically for how to expel myself, and found the right command. When, days later, I told Teddy what had happened, he dropped his head in his hands.

As I write, we are in Telluride for a mountain bike race. A few of my friends are currently taking last trips with their departing progeny; and this will probably be our last, too. Our younger son, Roy, got a ride over early, so it was just Teddy and us parents on the drive.

“I mell a kunk,” he said as we caught a scent of polecat, invoking an old family joke from when he, in the car at age 2, wrinkled his nose and gravely said that phrase.

He has been in my house for 18 years.

Of course, having been to the rodeo with a visiting friend the night before, Teddy slept most of the way to Telluride. Whenever he awoke, he complained that I was trying to give him life lessons “again.”

“Be careful!” he’d warn, or say accusingly, “See? Here comes another one!” My time is waning; the injunctions burble out.

“I need to nip that in the butt,” he said.

I stared. “The what?”

“The butt.”

“Teddy, it’s bud! Nip it in the bud!”

“Oh,” he said.

“See? I still need to teach you things!”

He will spend a fair amount of time with his parents and brother this weekend, his best friends in biking having mostly dropped away. One just had knee surgery; one likes golf better. The tall, friendly boy from Summit County with whom Teddy comfortably rode and ate lunch, whom he joined on many podiums, died last year just days after his own high-school graduation, on a motorcycle after a party.

I don’t remember my parents freaking when my older sister or I went to college. They just put us on trains – though Meg’s school was only three hours away. But they had four kids, so more spares were left around.

Teddy has contacted the new roommate, a boy from a boarding school in Massachusetts.

“Have you heard back?” I asked in the car.

“Nope,” he said calmly. “Guess he isn’t feelin’ it.”

Adrian, the friend Teddy took to the rodeo, says his older sister’s first roommate was afraid of her before they met.

“Why on Earth?” I asked. “Because she played hockey?”

“No,” he said vaguely. “Because she has blonde hair.”

Teddy’s FB portrait shows him all in camo. He may even have a weapon in hand.

But as we drove, Teddy texted with a boy from Connecticut who also loves hunting and fishing; they started corresponding on the FB page.

He really is leaving. And the fireweed will soon be gone from the road.

– “Femaelstrom” appears on the third Friday of each month. Alison Osius lives in Carbondale, where she is a climber, skier and magazine editor. Contact her at

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