Tim Whyte | She’s a Cougar for Life, and a Nurse, Too

Tim Whyte

Part 1

Brooke. Or should I say, “Nurse Brooke.”

Our journey in May started with the first college graduation I’ve ever attended for one of my kids. And it was for our youngest, Brooke. It was the first of three family road trips that turned into an intricate, exhilarating, exhausting cross-country dance. Six plane rides.

The first stop was in Spokane, Washington, for Brooke’s graduation from Washington State University with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. For nursing school graduations, they call it a pinning ceremony, because in addition to the caps, gowns and diplomas, they present each graduate with a pin representing their ceremonial acceptance into the nursing profession.

Even that, though, doesn’t make it official: Once the pin has been pinned and the diploma conferred, there’s still a test to take. They call it the NCLEX, the National Council Licensure Examination. So, even once you get that diploma in your hot little hands and you’ve attended your last undergraduate class, here comes MORE studying.

We knew Brooke had it in the bag. She’s smart, an excellent student who graduated with honors. But I look at it this way: It’s like watching a hockey game and the goalie hasn’t given up a goal yet, or a player has two goals and he’s looking for a hat trick by scoring a third one. You NEVER say “shutout” or “hat trick” before the final buzzer.

It’s bad luck. 

So we just told Brooke to study hard, do her best, and left it at that. And, in the spirit of not calling a hat trick or shutout before the final buzzer, I didn’t write this column right after she graduated a month ago. I waited until now, after she confirmed that she had, indeed, aced the NCLEX as we all knew in our hearts she would.

Brooke’s college journey, like so many others over the past few years, had the hiccups and discouragement that came part and parcel with the coronavirus. Her first two years were at WSU’s main campus in Pullman, Washington, a great college town that wouldn’t exist if not for the university on a hilltop looking over the town. Everything in Pullman revolves around the university, one of the factors that led Brooke to choose being a Cougar. (Go Cougs!) She wanted that college town experience.

She got it. For a while anyway. After her first semester in which she joined a sorority, made new friends for life, went to football games and frat parties that I’m sure Dad doesn’t need to know the details about, a month into her second semester, as we all know by now, COVID hit.

WSU basically shut down. As I wrote in a column at the time, Erin and I made a rather eerie road trip through the seeming ghost towns of California, Oregon and Washington, with life and business at a virtual standstill, to retrieve our then-18-year-old daughter and bring her home to finish the semester with remote study.

She didn’t love it. Not only did she find remote study less engaging — especially since, in her major, a lot of the classes are pretty hands-on stuff — but also she was now back at home with Mom and Dad, relinquishing the newfound independence in which she had begun to thrive.

I tried not to look over her shoulder. Much.

She went back to Pullman the following fall, but it wasn’t the same as that first year. A lot of the campus was still buttoned up tight. She roomed in a townhome with four of her sorority sisters and she got an adorable little kitten, which she named Hefner. He lived with five girls. Get it?

But the campus experience was diminished. Gradually, it came back, but like so many college students of her cohort, COVID was a pretty major bump in the road, if not academically, but in the “experience” part of it.

As things returned closer to normal, she spent her junior and senior years in Spokane, where the WSU nursing campus is located, and often commuted back to Pullman on weekends to enjoy the football games and the rest of it with her pals. She got a nice little apartment on a hill with a beautiful view, enjoyed her independence, sent us pictures of her view when it snowed, sent videos of the cat doing cat stuff, and learned how to drive on those hills in the kind of inclement weather we don’t get in Santa Clarita.

All of it added up to our little girl growing into an accomplished, independent young woman who is ready to embark on a noble career in which she will help a lot of people. Yes, you’re damn right we are proud.

So, back to graduation. Parents, grandparents, her brother and uncle all converged on Spokane for her graduation and a couple of very festive dinners to celebrate. And when we arrived in Spokane, we were toting empty suitcases.

Nope. Not because we all planned to buy so much Spokane and WSU swag that we needed extra bags to carry it all home. (By now, we HAVE all the swag…) We brought empty suitcases because our little girl is moving, again. But she’s not coming home to us. She’s secured a job at a hospital in Dallas, and she’s moving to Texas where she will room with her brother in a new apartment there. (More on Dallas and Luc in Part 2.)

We packed a lot of stuff in those empty suitcases. Luc took a couple of them with him back to the apartment in Dallas, and we took the rest home here, to be transported as checked baggage again when we took our trip the following week to Dallas for Luc’s own graduation. 

By delivering all of those suitcases full of Brooke’s stuff (two checked bags per person, FREE on Southwest) we cut down on the moving expenses — and the volume of stuff to move — to the extent that, now, in a couple of weeks Brooke and her mom will pack the remaining stuff in her car, still leaving enough room for the cat, and make the three-day road trip from Spokane to Dallas.

It’s been quite a journey for you, Nurse Brooke. I’m pleased as punch to see how you’ve grown these past four years since graduating from Saugus High School. It all went by so damn fast. Too fast, for your old man.

And I can’t wait to see what’s next in your story.

Tim Whyte is the editor of The Signal.

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS