Our plane had just landed in Detroit on Wednesday evening, when Kenneth phoned to say that he too had just landed in Detroit. This was strange because he was supposed to be flying to Cleveland by way of Chicago. It turned out the airport in Chicago was closed because of the thunderstorms, a frequent complication of summer travel in the American Midwest. His airplane was running low on fuel and had therefore been diverted to Detroit. Now he needed to get the rest of the way to Cleveland for his work meeting the next morning. He persuaded the airline to let him get off the plane in Detroit rather than going back to Chicago to spend the night in a motel.
We hurried rearranged our plans and dropped Diane off in Toledo, while Kenneth and I drove on to Cleveland, trying to keep ahead of the thunderstorms. About halfway to Cleveland, they hit us from the south, with a drama display of horizontal lightning that arced across the night sky again and again. Then the rain came lashing down and the driving become slow and nerve-wracking. Another night drive, the third this week! Eventually, we reached Kenneth’s flat in Cleveland, where I slept fitfully on the couch in the living room.
The next morning we began the process of moving him into his new place, only a few blocks from where he and some friends have been subletting for the summer. Crossing Mayfield, the heart of Cleveland’s Italian community, we went down a side street until came to the little house they are renting for coming school year: One story in a neighborhood of 100-year old brick and frame 2-story houses; white paint over brick, with a somewhat lumpy geometry and an odd sky-light; I think they picked it because it was near the university, inexpensive, and had no downstairs neighbors to bother with Dance Dance Revolution.
After we moved most of his stuff over, Kenneth left for his work meeting and I helped one of us housemates, Py, move some of her stuff. The landlord, Jeff, was there, so I asked about the history of the house: Italian immigrants started moving into this neighborhood in the 1880’s, he said. Many of the houses originally had storefronts with little shops in the front. The front of the three structures on this property used to be a bakery, he said, and so apparently the back house was where they baked their breads, cakes etc. Kenneth and his friends have moved into an old bakehouse! Nowadays, Little Italy is chock-a-block with Italian restaurants and little tourist shops and galleries, but this quiet little side street is a mixture of older people and student rentals. Jeff said that the University and its hospital are what is keeping the neighborhood alive, while much of nearby East Cleveland has become pretty blighted.
After wandering around the neighborhood taking pictures for awhile I went back to Kenneth’s sublet and waited for him to come back from his meeting. There then followed a bout of flat cleaning as Kenneth and Py collected their remaining things, sorted, tidied and cleaned. After pizza, Kenneth and I drove back to Toledo, into the setting sun, for yet another night drive (number 4!).
The next morning, we rented a van to bring Kenneth’s favorite blue chair, a desk and various bits back to Cleveland. Partway there, Kenneth owned to being a bit nervous about this move: it feels like being responsible and out on his own, he said. That’s primary adaptive anxiety, I said somewhere in the conversation, perfectly appropriate when facing unknown new circumstances. This is a big year for him, his last year at Case Western; it is his Time of Choosing What he Will do Next. I’d love to be a bit closer to him geographically over this time, in order to watch and support his process more fully, but we will just have to make do with phone calls and our time at the holidays. I didn’t cry this time, after we unloaded the van, hugging and wishing him luck before he went off to another work meeting and his final year of college. But as I drove the now-empty white U-Haul van back to Toledo, it did feel as though we’d both turned another page in our stories and weren’t sure exactly what would come next.