She is not grown up, no matter what she thinks. Dale knows this as he drives all the way to Ithaca and she sits in the middle row of their minivan earbuds piping that banal crap she loves so much (really, when did any sense of adventure leave the music industry?) She wants to pretend it is no big deal but he knows better. His little Sarah is going to be alone, every day, without him or Connie there to support her. Who is she going to go to when life starts throwing the inevitable at her.
And that outfit! What is she thinking? Those aren’t shorts! That’s underwear. Is she trying to give him a heart attack? Prancing about for all the little punks milling about and boy don’t they turn their heads quick when he gives them the stinkeye. His little girl putting herself on display like that, not thinking about what that could mean for her safety and now he finds himself needing to recite those stupid affirmations the stupid therapist Connie made him go to taught him. “I am only responsible for me, I cannot change what others do, I am only responsible for” horseshit! He can damn well change what his little girl is doing.
Only he can’t. That is what is eating him alive. His little girl is a grown woman, of sorts, now. In his heart he knows that she is just finding what makes her comfortable in the world. He remembers he and Connie laughing at her mom for the pleather skirt she wore on their first date, sneaking into her dorm (something he would rather not think about now.) He thinks about his mistakes, and Connie’s, but he also thinks about their triumphs, one of which is flirting with that stupid kid from North Carolina with the stupid soul patch. Yeah, like the rest isn’t peach fuzz.
He calms down as they unpack. It is Connie who is fretting later in the day as she cannot let Sarah decide how to set up her room. She will do fine, this girl trying to cut the apron strings. She will be on President’s list, and find her true friends, and maybe her true love. She will succeed because and despite them. It is all going to be great.