This Is Why I Don’t Get Out Much, Part 1


Speaking of gratitude, I am beyond grateful that the University of California saw fit to introduce me to five of the most amazing friends a gal could have. We met in Sereno Hall at U.C. Davis (UCD) in the fall of 1982. Mary (Semmelmeyer) Gagliardi was my roommate. Helen (Nazar) Bishop and Renata Ruettimann-Erpen shared the room across the hall. Anne (Gowan) Weaver and Dawn (Kellenbarger) Vollmar lived with their roommates a few doors down. Despite time, distance, jobs, marriages, and kids, we have remained friends for a shocking thirty-five years. How in the hell did that happen?

These women have known me my entire adult life, and when we get together, the conversation picks up right where we left off. Renata went to Switzerland after college and met a wonderful Swiss guy who she married. Her parents remain in the San Francisco Bay Area, so whenever she visits them, we make a point to get together for lunch or dinner.

Last summer, I saw a photo in the UCD College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences alumni magazine. It showed seven women who met in the late 1950s at UCD and have taken a trip together every summer since graduation. Now in their 80s, the women looked healthy and happy. Funny. Vital. Interesting. As in, women I’d like to have coffee with and discuss their world view.

220px-Ucdavis_aggiesMary and I were the only ones who would receive that particular magazine, so I scanned the photo and emailed it to my girlfriends. For a caption, I wrote, “This will be us in a few years! Well, maybe more like decades, but you get the idea. Lol.”

My friends quickly responded. They loved the photo as much as I did. As we exchanged comments, we realized that 2017 was the 35th anniversary of our meeting in Sereno Hall. Even better, Renata was planning a trip to California in November!

We decided to spend a weekend in Truckee at Renata’s family vacation home. For my married girlfriends with high school or young adult children, this was a relatively easy thing to do. For me, a single parent with a special needs teen in the throws of puberty, it was a different situation entirely.

As luck would have it, Jennifer, my long-time respite sitter, was free that weekend and willing to tackle an overnight. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” she said. “No worries. It’ll be fine.”

I was so excited about the prospect of a weekend away with girlfriends, I didn’t ponder the many ways this could go horribly wrong.

I purchased snow boots and wool socks as well as a pair of cute embroidered jeans. I recruited Nate, my ex-boyfriend who knows Katie well, to serve as the emergency point of contact while I was out of town. Just in case, I told myself. I really wasn’t expecting anything to go wrong. Neither was Jennifer.

And nothing did—-for thirty hours. Thirty hours in which I drove to Auburn on a crisp November day to rendezvous with my friends. Thirty hours in which I ate cheese fondue and dark Swiss chocolate while drinking wine and relaxing. Thirty hours in which I hiked and talked and shopped and talked some more. Thirty hours of pure bliss with my dear college friends.

I checked in with Jennifer and she told me to stay the second night. She and Katie were having a blast after several months apart. “Smooth sailing,” she said. She sent me photographic proof.

My girlfriends and I were thrilled.


Mary, Renata, Helen, Anne, me, and Dawn in downtown Truckee, CA. November 2017


Then for reasons neither Jennifer nor I have been able to uncover, Katie began to unravel. At the park her behavior was erratic enough to cause Jennifer to call Nate. He stopped by, but the problem seemed to have resolved itself.

Back at home, Katie manipulated Jennifer into letting her use my shower. After thirty minutes—and most of my shampoo and body wash—Jennifer asked Katie to turn off the water. Katie refused. Jennifer said that Katie could get out herself or Jennifer would come in and make her. (This is a classic autism technique that Jennifer and I have both used successfully.) Katie reluctantly shut off the water … and then kicked my custom (read expensive) shower doors.

Jennifer hustled her out of the master bath, but from then on, the situation eroded.

To be continued…

Until next time,

About Cynthia J. Patton

Writer, Editor, Advocate, Speaker, Special Needs Attorney, and Autism Mom. Also the Founder and Chairperson of Autism A to Z, a nonprofit providing resources and solutions for life on the spectrum.
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One Response to This Is Why I Don’t Get Out Much, Part 1

  1. Pingback: Dating Daze, Part 1 | CYNTHIA J. PATTON

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