The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

Nick left.

Today, the dearest friend I've had for the longest in my life had his first day of graduate school at Purdue. He's pursuing a PhD in Math, and is absolutely the smartest person I know. That being said, he also makes some of the most ridiculous lifestyle choices of anyone I know. But I suppose geniuses are always a bit wacky.

Nick and I met in 7th grade English. We sat near each other a bit by accident. He talked to me because my cute friend Jillian sat on the other side of me and he obviously wanted to talk to her. I think that fits Nick well. Anyway, in the process of trying to date Jillian (which he never managed to do), Nick somehow became my best friend. He's a good kid.

We had a lot of stupid stuff happen in our lives -- I mean, it was our teenage years, of course it was stupid -- but we stuck together. He introduced me to his old friend Thomas, who you may have heard a bit about from me before. The three of us went on to high school together, and they actually ended up going to college together. When I talk about my dear boys, these two are central to that.

Anyway, because Nick and Thomas went to college near home, they were here every time any of us came back to visit. Well, except winter quarter when they were always away at Ultimate Frisbee tournaments. Not a joke.

This is the first time Nick has left home. He has the experience of our high school life being long over, but he does not have the experience of Encinitas being out of reach. Two years ago (I think? Holy cow.) Nick's parents moved to New York. When I come home for Thanksgiving, he won't be here. When I come home for Christmas, he'll be here for a bit, but he'll be with his parents for a lot of that time. This is new for us. This is new for me.

I had a rough time saying goodbye to him on Friday night. We had a huge party and had a lot of drinks and laughs and our usual dumb stuff. It was a perfect send-off, in my opinion. But I was really floored by how heartbroken I was as I drove home. My Nick. My Nickysweetie-honey-sugar-baby-darling. (I started calling him "Nickysweetie" in high school, which he hated, so I, of course, just kept adding on.)

I think I was in such denial that this was really happening, or that this was really that big of a change, that I wasn't letting myself slowly get used to it. It hit me like a ton of bricks as I hugged him goodbye for the first real goodbye in five years. When I said goodbye to him before I went to college, I was so weirdly emotional about Fletcher and Thomas, mostly, and our whole group never being the same [blah blah blah] that I didn't really give Nick the credit for being the great kid he is. He was always going to be in Encinitas, I probably told myself. Now, that's not a consolation I can offer myself.

Is this going to feel like going away to college all over again? He posted a facebook status this afternoon about surviving his first day, and that "grad school is kind of dope." Spoken like a true doctoral candidate. But I admit, when I saw that, I was gleeful. Like he's playing nice with the other kids? He's 23 years old. I've concocted this image of him there, knockin' 'em dead with his California vocabulary and extreme math brain and athletic shorts for all occasions and three frisbees in his backpack. I'm a basket case.

I guess I just get upset every time I get settled in a new way of life and then someone else makes a change. I just got used to this Berkeley back-and-forth, and now Nick had to up and move across the country? How dare he follow his dreams!

Today, in traffic, a car cut me off and I was shaking my head in disgust, when I noticed they had a Purdue license plate. I smiled and said, "Hey, Nick." out loud like a big freak. I guess that was my cue to breathe and just keep on.

See you at Christmas, Nickysweetie!

Back in Berk

Matthew 15:10-28