Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sharing Memories (Week 38): Leaving Home & Some Bad Memories

It’s Week 38 of “52 weeks of Sharing Memories - A Genealogy Journey for 2012” at Olive Tree Genealogy Blog. Lorine invites her readers to “join in writing your memoirs and childhood memories for your descendants”. Week 38 is “What do you remember about heading off to College or University? Did you have to leave home?”

What do I remember about heading off to university and did I have to leave home?

Oh boy… did I ever want to leave home! I was so anxious to leave home for university. It was something I had wanted to do for a long time, because I had planned on being a high school teacher. My family, especially my Mom, couldn’t understand my overwhelming desire to leave home and how vocal I was about it. I kept telling my family that I was so happy to have graduated, to have been accepted at university and to be finally leaving home. It never occurred to me that my family might miss me and think I wanted to leave them as if I wanted to get away from them.

And yet, in a way, that’s what I wanted. At 20, I felt all grown up and ready to be on my own. “On my own” didn’t really mean “alone”, but “away from home”, where I could think for myself, have experiences that didn’t involve my parents, my younger sister and baby brother, and not be confined geographically by the ‘remoteness’ of my northern Ontario hometown.

In my mind, there was only one place I wanted to go to and that was U of O (University of Ottawa). It was where many of my high school friends were already studying, it was where my Dad was born and it was where I still had relatives. Best of all, it was the capital city, and I felt a connection to it, even though I had only been to Ottawa once or twice in my life.

When it was time to start applying at universities, I was told by my high school guidance counsellor that I needed to apply at three places to increase my chances of being accepted somewhere. So I chose U of O, U of Toronto and somewhere else (it might have been U of Western Ontario). To my surprise (especially since I was only an average student), I was accepted at all three, but since Ottawa was first my choice, that’s where I went.

And so, I gathered my clothes, my favorite books and CDs, and other supplies and packed them all into one big luggage trunk that my Dad had recently bought for me from a neighbor. A friend going to Ottawa picked it up a week or so before I was scheduled to leave home (he had space in his vehicle for my trunk and it saved me the cost of shipping it south). It’s funny, but after all these years, I don’t remember how I got to the campus. Did my Dad drive me there or did I travel with someone else or did I take the bus?

Once I arrived in Ottawa, the reality of what I had done hit me. I wasn’t alone – after all, being on campus and living in residence was like living in a small village within a city. But I felt alone, because I had to make decisions and get things done on my own. I remember the nervousness I felt when I registered as a new student and got myself sorted with my classes and professors. I remember how inexperienced I felt when I opened an account at a nearby bank. I remember the awkwardness I felt when I met my roommate. (First year students at U of O always shared a double-occupancy room in residence.) I even remember the amazed looks and snickering I got from the desk staff and students hanging around the lounge when my first grocery order was delivered to my residence. You see, I had decided to buy my food instead of participating in the meal program. Bad decision… This first experience at shopping was not a success, because I overspent my budgeted amount on my trip to the IGA supermarket. To make matters worse (at least it felt that way at the time), I had bought so many groceries that my order was delivered in boxes to my residence. That was the first – and last – time I had groceries delivered.

Worse was to come, though. Within a month of arriving, I became sick. My friends had told me that I would really feel alone and miss my family the first time I’d get sick since leaving home. Little did I know how prophetic these words would be. One evening after visiting a friend in another residence on campus, I returned to my room feeling unwell. I went to bed, but soon awoke with terrible tummy pain. I asked one of the nursing students on my floor to take me to the hospital. Once there, I was examined, but the doctor didn’t seem to find anything serious.  I went back to my dorm, but was still in pain for the next few days. Since Thanksgiving was just around the corner, I made plans to return home for the long weekend.

At home, I was unwell throughout my visit and couldn’t eat the holiday supper my Mom had prepared that Sunday. I couldn’t go back to Ottawa in my condition, so I stayed home. On Monday morning (Thanksgiving Day), my Mom brought me to our local hospital, where, after some blood tests and an exam, it was determined I had appendicitis. I was operated on that evening. When I woke up from the anesthesia, I found myself in the Intensive Care Unit and told that I was lucky to be alive. (I should have been “pushing up daisies”, is how my Mom put it.) It seemed that my appendix had burst and that peritonitis had set in. I was in recovery for almost two weeks, first in the ICU then in isolation in a private room.

After I was released from the hospital, I didn’t go back to Ottawa for the remainder of the school term. Although I didn’t tell my family and friends, I was only too happy to take my doctor’s advice to rest quietly for a few weeks. After the upheaval I felt at being away at university for a few short weeks, I welcomed the chance to be once again with my family in safe and secure surroundings.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.


  1. Yvonne - what a horrendous start to University! You were so lucky to have Thankgsiving so you got home and were tended to there!

    I'm so glad you had family to help you through that rough time. And I hope you returned to U of O the next year :-)

    I do congratulate you for sharing your memories (and thank you for commenting on my own Sharing Memories Week 38 post). It isn't always easy to share memories in public. In fact I write my public posts but have a private journal where I add more detail.

    1. That's so sweet of you to post a reply, Lorine; thank you very much! I did go back to U of O the following January, but sadly, didn't complete my education.

  2. That's terrible! I'm glad you went home and your life was saved. What a bad doctor in the first place.

  3. Thank you for commenting, Kristin. In hindsight, it was a wise decision to travel home despite how unwell I was during the journey.