Life Lessons on the Greyhound Bus

bus8My son Harrison is nineteen. He has just successfully survived his first year away at college. Not a stunning achievement, I know. After all, he’s not the first to do so, but as a member of the coddled generation, a feat to be proud of nonetheless. We tried not to be “those” parents while he was growing up; the kind that hovered too close and swooped in to solve all their kids’ problems. From a young age, we allowed Harrison to play freely on the street and walk to and from school and when conflicts arose, we always encouraged him to speak up, stand up and try to sort things out for himself. We like to think we prepared him well for the challenges of college life that lay ahead.

We received a few calls early on from Harrison expressing concern with grades and expectations and the fear of letting us down. Other calls home assured us he had made a nice group of friends and was eating well. We even Skyped a few times when I “just needed to see his face”. But by far, the majority of our correspondence was of course, through texting. Quite often random texts at all hours of the day or night, with questions such as,

“How long does it take to bake a potato in the microwave?”

or

“These hamburger buns expired a month ago. Can I still eat them?”

and

“Why do I keep attracting all the crazy girls?”

But my favourite by far, had to be one he sent while travelling on a Greyhound bus from Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury. The plan being he’d meet up with his dad and together they would drive the rest of the way to our home in Burlington. Not knowing if the journey was going as planned or even if he actually got on the bus, I decided not to bug him. He was a grown man after all. I’d just wait for a text. The mother in me was hoping to get one that said something like,

“Just left the terminal.”

or maybe

“Bus has left an hour late.”
(Which would have been helpful since it actually did.)

But instead, hours later than expected, this was the text I got,

“Hey, if I fall asleep, will I miss my stop?”

I laughed out loud. How was I going to respond to this question? I could reply,

“Maybe”

or

“Probably”

or

“Does the bus driver not call out the stops?”

or even,

“Is there a nice looking old lady nearby? Ask her to wake you…if she wouldn’t mind.”

Sitting there, phone in hand, contemplating my response, I was suddenly struck by the symbolism of it all. Was his question not a metaphor for life? The open road ahead, he had so many choices and opportunities. Would he manage the twists and turns and get off where life intended him to be? Would he know when to cease an opportunity and when to walk away? If he asked for help, would anyone come to his aid, coach him through or offer some friendly advice? Would he live life fully, contribute, give back? Or would he close his eyes and just let life pass him by? Minutes ticked by. He was waiting for my reply. My answer,

“Maybe. But you can always get off at the next stop.”

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