An Old Volvo sans AC and 2500 miles: The Art of Holy Flexibility

One month ago I wrote about my son leaving for college. And he did. He to drove from New York to Arizona with a friend in a 27-year-old Volvo with no AC. He arrived, and then announced he’s coming back. Normal jitters, we thought.

Our most loving friends, the ones hosting him in Scottsdale, talked to him. Our smartest, most articulate friend, Gary, took him to a fancy lunch. “I tried every avenue,” Gary reported. My mother-in-law called him. He would not be swayed.

He’s decided to narrow his focus from Biology to Forestry. He doesn’t want student loan debt—a reasonable move as I’ve never met a rich forest ranger. In the interest of grandchildren, I hope there’s a nice girl somewhere destined to twist her ankle on a solo hike five or so years from now, necessitating rescue. He’s pretty shy.

The trip I had previously planned to Arizona to help him set up his dorm room became something a bit different. The Salesians have a devotion to the virtue of Holy Flexibility – allowing the Spirit of God the room to upset one’s plans and preconceptions. In this spirit, at 5 a.m. tomorrow, I am putting my overweight, road-trip hating, appearance-obsessed self into my son’s solar-oven of a Volvo sans AC, and heading east with the windows open— 2,500 miles east.

Years ago my brother suggested I read The Parent’s Tao Te Ching.  When my parenting agenda started unraveling a couple of weeks ago, I quoted it here . Here’s another quote:

“Do you have agendas for your children that are more important than the children themselves? Lost in the shuffle of uniforms, practices, games, recitals, and performances can be the creative and joyful soul of your child. Watch and listen carefully. Do they have time to daydream? From their dreams will emerge the practices and activities that will make self-discipline as natural as breathing.”

I gave away my copy of The Parents Tao Te Ching to a mother who needed it more at the time. I need another one. Even as I write of discarding agendas, agendas rise like flotsam onto the page— forestry school and fertile girls with weak ankles.

Concerned for his mother, my son built a portable air conditioner (as natural as breathing) out of a 5 gallon bucket, dryer venting, duct tape and a little fan. I’ll post pictures tomorrow. May homemade air conditioning, the Tao and holy flexibility bring us safely home.

11 thoughts on “An Old Volvo sans AC and 2500 miles: The Art of Holy Flexibility

  1. KathleenPark

    We have an urban forester in our family if he would like to discuss this life choice with someone who is living it as their dream.


  2. Stephanie

    He is a neat kid, for sure. I remember, his mom being shy. I remember, his grandpa being shy. Whatever path he may take, he will succeed. Forest Ranger or brain surgeon…He will be the best!


  3. Stephanie

    And…Being shy is not a bad or negative trait. Being shy is not a lack of motivation or success. Shyness, IMO, is sensitivity. Help your son find his path, point him in a safe direction and If he refuses to go,a swift kick in the buttocks, from his dad, might do the trick and be the needed motivation. They called that “tough love”…Truly, tough on MOM.


  4. Feel free to stop either at my house outside Charlottesville or (if you’re on the East Coast on Monday), the Rittenhouse in Philadelphia. We’ll have a place for you, you who are doing the right thing.


    1. Thanks for the affirming words. Given the no airconditioning situation (which the last two hours of a long drive make for a special sort of something) we are taking the northern route. I hope to see you soon, some how, some way.


  5. @TerriRaeCerna

    This story is so beautiful. I say….let him follow his heart! We all should. How lucky he is to have a mom to come and make this trek with him. It will be the trip of your lifetimes. Exciting things lie ahead for all of you!


  6. Pingback: Grateful as if I’m Running Out of Time | A Word, Please. . .

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