Saturday, September 20, 2008

Black Holes, Alternate Universes, and My Belly Button

Even though I have not followed the news closely, I can personally attest to the fact that the Large Hadron Collider has been completed and turned on. Finely tuned into the universe as I am, I have been able to feel its effects......rather keenly. This behemoth of scientific wonder is thought to be capable of, among other things, creating little black holes and finding alternate universes. It seems that in recent weeks I have toured those alternate universes: I have taken one Surgling daughter to college, and then another to my alma mater for a college visit.

There was no single emotion felt when my oldest child -- a daughter, no less -- was left behind as SWIMBO and I drove away. Love, fear, depression, joy, pride, and an overwhelming sadness that defies description. My little girl isn't, well, my little girl any more. As I drove away, the sensation in my gut was one of having my intestines wound up by a windlass, like St. Erasmus. The feeling passed, but recurs in small spasms at completely unexpected times. Hopefully, with time, it will settle into a pattern more akin to Ignatius J. Reilly's problem with his "pyloric valve" than the torture of Erasmus.

Taking Surgling #2 to Lubbock would be, I thought, a bit more fun. And it was, with a long drive giving us time together to talk about all manner of interesting and mundane topics. Rather than a painful experience, however, walking around my old campus haunts on a tour was rather surreal. I felt as if the inside of my umbilicus had been firmly grasped and I was pulled simultaneously into a past universe and pushed beyod the present one --- sort of like being pulled inside out from the bellybutton. I did not understand how I could be both young enough to still feel like I had "just" graduated from college and old enough to be the father of a high school senior on a college tour! It has to be a result of one of those black holes escaping from the LHC.

Without a doubt, the most difficult thing in both of these situations for me were the memories.....the false ones, from alternate universes. Walking with my oldest daughter to her dorm, I heard the false echoes of things I wish I had said at one time or another as she grew up. On the college tour, I experienced vivid memories of things I wish I had done when I was in college, but failed to do. Things left unsaid, deeds left undone, rattling around my empty head as seemingly real as the keyboard at my fingertips. And accompanying them are enough regrets to fill an ocean.

All is slowly reverting to normalcy, and I no longer feel as if I am being folded, spindled, and mutilated from the inside. And as for regrets, I certainly have none about asking SWIMBO to marry me and having such wonderful children.