In classic guy fashion he emptied the contents of his dresser and closet, wadding up each item and shoving it in his duffel bag. He threw a winter coat, a pair of hiking boots, a few of his favorite Marvel comics, and a beat-up copy of Catch-22 in his suitcase, then looked around to see what else he wanted to take with him to start his new life.
His room was full of baseball trophies, pennants, memorabilia, and law journals and books. Connor picked up Black’s Law Dictionary, leafing through the worn pages. His dad spent countless hours quizzing him from this book since he was old enough to read the words. He threw the book down on the desk and walked away. These things were all part of his old life. The one his dad created and controlled every aspect of. He didn’t want to take any of it with him. He closed up his duffel bag, slinging it over his shoulder, then zipped his suitcase and grabbed it off the bed. He picked up the guitar case in his other hand. With one last look and a sad smile he left his old life, closing the door behind him. Connor hoped he was making the right decision. It was the biggest decision of his life so far, and the only one he’s ever made on his own. His parents don’t know that yet. They didn’t even know there was a decision to be made. They have had every part of his life planned for him since he was born. The next step was to simply accept the baseball scholarship to U of M and start working on his pre-law degree, then law school, passing the bar, joining his father’s law firm, finding the perfect wife from their high society group, and having two perfect children. In that order. Connor didn’t know what kind of life he wanted. He’d never been encouraged to think about his own dreams. The only thing he knew for sure was that he didn’t want the life his parents planned for him.
He knew it wasn’t going to go well when he told them, which is why he’d already called his Uncle Patrick and packed his bags. Soon he’d be on his way to a small town called Cedar Springs on the southwest side of Michigan. Once there, he will enroll as an undeclared student at Grand Rapids Community College, and begin his new life. The one where he made all the decisions. The only thing left to do was tell his parents.
Connor walked down the stairs and into the foyer. He looked at the collection of photos on the front table, each in its perfect frame. Most of the pictures were professionally done, perfectly posed imitations of real life. There was one, however, that was different. It was from a vacation to St. Thomas when he was six. One of the staff members at the resort took a picture of them on the beach together. They were covered in sand, his mom’s hair blowing in the breeze, and they were all smiling. Real smiles, not like the ones in the professional family photos.
His life couldn’t have been all bad, not if there were moments like this one. Connor just wished he could remember more of them. He smiled and picked up the picture off the table, sliding it into the front pocket of his suitcase. This memory he would take with him wherever his new life led.
He could hear his parents talking out on the patio. He knew they would be having breakfast together at this time. They always had breakfast together at 8 a.m. on Saturday. If the weather was nice they had it on the patio, otherwise they ate at the breakfast nook in the kitchen. It made them very predictable, which is why he chose this time to leave. He didn’t want to have this conversation twice. Connor set his bags by the front door, closed his eyes, took a deep steadying breath, and headed toward the patio.
“Good morning,” Connor said, taking a seat at the table.
“Good morning, dear,” Connor’s mom smiled at him. “Would you like Maria to bring you out some breakfast?”
“No, thanks. I’ll get something when I head out.” Connor looked at his parents, savoring this last moment of pleasant family time.
“Big plans today, son?” Connor’s dad asked, laying his napkin on his plate and pushing it to the side.
“Actually, yeah. I’ve decided where I’m going to college and I’m heading out that way today.”
Connor’s dad furrowed his brow. “What do you mean you’ve decided where to go to college? There really wasn’t a decision to make. Out of all the schools that offered you a scholarship U of M is the most prestigious, has a great pre-law program, and offered you a good deal. It’s also my alma mater. What decision was there?”
“Well, the thing is I don’t think I want to be a lawyer and I don’t want to play baseball anymore. Honestly, I’m not sure what I want to do, so I thought I would go to community college for a year or two while I figure it out.” Connor tried to look confident, but he felt like a child ready to crumble under his dad’s intense stare.
Connor’s dad’s face turned red with suppressed anger. “There are so many things wrong with what you just said, I’m not even sure where to start. What do you mean you don’t want to be a lawyer? It’s all we’ve ever talked about since you were a little boy.”
“No, dad. It’s all you’ve ever talked about. You never asked me what I wanted to do.”
Connor’s dad stood up and slammed his hands down on the table, leaning toward Connor. “That is because you are a child and don’t know what you should do!”
“Sean, please sit back down. We can talk about this civilly,” Connor’s mom laid her hand on Sean’s arm.
“There is nothing to talk about. Connor will accept the offer from U of M or we will not pay for his college tuition. I will not waste my money on some slacker who doesn’t even know what he wants to do.” Connor’s dad straightened up, crossing his arms over his chest. “You hear that boy. You will get no help from us if you leave here to go to some community college, and there will not be a job waiting for you at my firm. You’ll have to make it all alone in this world!”
Connor stood up and faced his father man to man. “That’s fine. I don’t want anything from you. The only thing I want is the freedom to make my own decisions in life, and if that comes at the cost of losing your support and money than that’s the way it is.”
“Damn straight, son. You get nothing from us and you will not stay under my roof until you come to your senses, and it better happen fast before you lose your scholarship and any chance of going to U of M.”
One look at his mom and Connor knew she wouldn’t support him. Her shoulders were slumped and the tears were brimming in her eyes, but she wasn’t going to stand up to her husband, not even to keep her own son in her life. He accepted her silence with a nod and looked back at his dad. “I’m sorry you feel that way. You don’t have to worry about me staying here long. My bags are already packed and waiting at the front door. I wish…well, it doesn’t really matter what I wish, does it? Good bye.”
Connor turned his back on his slack-jawed father and teary-eyed mother, walking to the front door. He grabbed his bags, opened the door, and stepped out into the morning sun. The beginning of this day was the beginning of his new life. He had no idea where it would take him, but he knew he’d be in the driver’s seat. Connor’s excitement heavily outweighed his fear as he drove his Impala toward Cedar Springs and the unknown future.