Dad didn't drop me off at school my freshman year. My then step-monster had put our family on a "budget" and thought that paying Dad's plane fare to Ann Arbor would be too expensive. But Dad did come with me to my freshman orientation at the University of Michigan before I left our house for good and before the my step-monster has implemented the "budget."
Now take yourself back to a time pre-email and pre-cell phones. I had neither. Dad dropped me off at my dorm room in West Quad for freshman orientation and told me he'd stop by at a certain the or that he'd call me on the pay phone at a certain time. The orientation people put me in a triple room with bunk beds. I met one of my roommates, she marched in the U-M marching band. The other roommate showed up once during our entire orientation and I can't remember her story except that she already knew people in Ann Arbor and was too cool to christen our room with her presence.
Dad was worrier and a very protective parent. He must of sighed a sigh of relief when he saw that the orientation organizers provided a bulletin board for the students where notes and messages could be left for them. I felt cool and special the first time I found a note with my name written on it pinned to the board. Of course I knew it was from Dad even before I unfolded it. I could spot his all caps, black felt tip pen, block printing anywhere. (Who else would it be from?)
The pride I felt in receiving that first note started to fade and transformed into slight embarrassment when Dad started leaving me notes every few hours. He gave me advice like "take a sweater to your math placement test, it gets cold in big auditoriums." He asked questions like: "Have you met the Indian girl? She seems very nice." He warned me about college parities: "Please don't drink alcohol or go to any of those big parties, people could take advantage of you." Dad's notes when on and on. I left orientation with a huge pile of them.
No one knew what Dad had written to me, so I really had no reason to feel embarrassed. And what I realized on the plane ride home to Albuquerque was that this was Dad's way. He wouldn't tell me how much he was going to miss me or cry as I stepped on the plane a month later to start my freshman year. But he'd try to tell me all those things or express that emotion in notes, letters and care packages that would track my college years, my law school years and even the years when I'd be finished with school. Because even in the real world and all grown up, Dad still needed to be the best parent he could to me and the written word was his way.