We engaged in small talk for a few minutes. How has your week been? Has school been going okay? What about work? Yeah, it’s pretty much the same at the hospital. What about the supermarket? You think you’re getting carpal tunnel from the scanning?? Are you and your suite-mate getting along okay? Yada yada yada.
Her conversation as of late had been peppered with one fellow’s name. She’d shared a little about him. He was one of the “village kids”, was a senior as well and they’d been in Spain at the same time. I asked why I hadn’t heard about him before. Well, when they were in Spain, she thought he was somewhat obnoxious. And now? As she got to know him better, she changed her mind. His job at the local hospital consisted of his being the IT department. A department of one. That was job security at its finest.
Now, she got down to brass tacks. Her voice took on a serious tone when she said, “Mom, I’m scared.” I asked her what made her feel that way. She told me she was beginning to have feelings for him but she didn’t know how he felt about her. At that point, I didn’t know what to say. She had never confided in me that way before and it caught me off guard. I started silently praying. I don’t remember what I told her. I couldn’t have felt more shocked if someone had come in and thrown cold water on me.
Somehow, some way, the conversation wound up and I was off the phone.
Very rarely did we email. Gmail with its built in chat was in the future. I had to wait until our weekly visit to find out what had happened. Nothing really had from what she told me. Things were pretty much as we’d left them before. The suspense was getting to me. She was right there and could read more between the lines than I could.
His home and his family became her home and her family. I learned all about his mother, father, brother and sister. She seemed to be spending as much time there as she was anywhere else. It seemed a good environment but even if it weren’t, what could I do clear across the country? I had to trust my daughter not to mess up her life. It wasn’t as if it were something new but this was an altogether different situation.
The next Sunday, she told me HE had asked her to the Christmas banquet. That was the big event that time of year. She had gotten her dress and it sounded a little over the top for her. She was normally quite conservative in her clothes but this one was bright red. When she described it to me, I had a hard time picturing it in my mind.
One of HIS parents took a picture of them on their way to the banquet and it was later emailed to me. She looked so grown up, it made my throat hurt. I had to face facts. She WAS grown up. She wasn’t my little girl any more.
The banquet was December 2, 2000. It was to be an auspicious occasion. Their first real date.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, nothing was helping to smooth out the rough spots with billing. I’d begged and pleaded to be allowed to use a clearing house for our claims but it fell on deaf ears. A new “scrubber” was installed for the computer system which made life a bit easier. More of our claims went through without a hitch but it was still rough going. We’d have to manually “tweak” the bills and some had to be keyed in rather than transmitted electronically. I guess it was better to employ someone to key than to outsource but it was costing the hospital more that way. On the plus side, the hospital was now cost based so whatever was spent in operating it would, somehow, be recouped.
The world was edging ever closer to Christmas. DD was going to have to tear herself away from her newly found love and come home for the holidays. I booked her flight and, when the day came, I took off work and drove to the airport to pick her up.
Christmas came and went with trips to see the brothers, wives and the one offspring. Gifts were exchanged. Food in quantity was eaten. I was able to see DD during those times. At home, she was usually closeted with the phone and talking to HIM.
New Year’s Day came and DS2 was another year older. He celebrated the night before until there was little use for me to go to see him in person. I wished him a happy one on the phone.
The time had come to take DD to the airport. It wasn’t any easier to see her go back to California but it was better knowing she had a “family” on the West Coast, too. I felt more at ease about this relationship than any she’d had before. Even though I’d never laid eyes on HIM, it was different. I didn’t know how to explain it. It just was.
The hospital and work rolled around. Twinkle was waiting for me when I got home. At least the house wasn’t completely empty.
With the new year came more challenges. Rumors were always floating around but now the buzz was we were being looked at by a hospital system in the next town. Was it true?