My friend is grieving.

A young person enrolled in her program has died. His fellow students, the staff and instructors are all struggling to understand. Death, as always, brings more questions than answers.

How can this be true? How can someone so young (23) and full of promise be dead? How can someone my age die so suddenly? How can someone younger than my child be gone? Why? What happened? What was the cause? What could have been done? What should I have done?

As a parent, my mind refuses to fully comprehend what his family is going through.

Last night my friend said she was going home to bake some “Cookie Love” to bring to the memorial the students were having for their classmate this afternoon. Baking some love when someone is grieving seems to be a necessary step. I don’t know any culture that doesn’t bring food or expect the grief stricken to be unable to cook or even want to feed themselves. So we comfort with a casserole dish, and give hugs with sugar and chocolate.

My personal stages of grief usually include Baking, followed by Cleaning, Drinking, Laughing, and more Baking. It may not be Kubler-Ross, but its a system. Probably a distinctly female system if I analyze it, but I don’t feel up to it at the moment.

Baking makes me happy because its optional. No one needs it. Its not like cooking which you have to do to survive, so its an act of free will. A slice of love, a box of like or a tray of feel better soon. No strings attached. I hope my friend can feel how the love she baked into those cookies feeds those grieving students (and herself).

I am driving my father-in-law Sheldon’s car. Not his actual car as he passed away a few years back and no longer drives, but the car that he would be driving if he were alive.

This is a rental because I get to drive all over rural America for my work this month, and each time I do I rent. It ends up being cheaper and I don’t have the wear on my car. This time I have a 2012 Chrysler Altima 300 Luxury Series sedan – the car that practically drives itself.

I got the super premium upgrade because last week when I had to drive 2 1/2 hours (each way) with my current project team and I needed a mini van, which I dutifully ordered 10 days ahead of time. Which Enterprise called me on my cell phone the day before to confirm that I still needed it. Which was not ready and waiting for me when I arrived to pick it up.

The guy tried to hand me the keys to a 15 passenger panel van instead of the tricked out minivan with the captains seats for all the comfort of those I was toting around. Being short of temper I snapped at him that this was not an Orthodox Family Outing, I was driving senior executives and I expected the minivan I ordered.

So they offered me a van that was at another dealership and what choice did I have I let the guy drive me to the dealership 10 minutes away. I had one hour to get the car, go home and put my suit on and gather my files & briefcase. This whole transaction usually takes 10 minutes because the rental place is so close to my house. So off we go to the other rental place 10 minutes away. Except the rental boss calls the guy while he is driving me and says that place no longer has a van so now we have to go and additional 10 minutes. So now I am 30 minutes into my hour with no hope of being on time. Still trying to roll with it, make some calls and tell people I have a problem, and tell the kid to call ahead and make sure this van is ready to drive away the minute we get there.

Then he gets lost.

Because you see he’s never been to this location in the middle of East Nowhere so we get on and off the highway a couple times before he actually finds it. And there it is. The most piece of shit van I have ever seen at a rental place. It rattles. It makes clicking noises. And it smells like candy-coated smoke. I turn it on and the Change Oil light comes on. No kidding. And it has pickup like I’m dragging a U-Haul. But I am stuck so I off I go to run the red light camera gauntlet back to my house, pickup my team and drive for five hours in the nasty van.

So today I was treated to the super upgrade as consolation for the Van Incident.

This Altima is some kinda thang. Its like that Knight Rider car from the ’80s but better. Its got leather everything and is silent as the grave with the windows up. The windows open and close themselves because holding that button the whole time to make the window go up is clearly taxing. The lights and wipers “sense” when they need to come on, the cup holder keeps your beverage hot or cold, it has voice command for using your phone, changing the radio station, picking songs on your ipod, all controlled by a touch screen as big as an ATM in the center of the dash.

I could go on but there are too many features. You can see the crazy luxury at Chrysler if you like.

The reason this car made me think of my father-in-law Sheldon is because he was a man who could really appreciate both luxury and laziness. He would have loved this car. He would have pre-ordered this car last September and gleefully listed its qualities and features to anyone who would listen. Of course its really safe too. You need a lot of air bags to protect people who no longer know how to turn their wipers on.

The thing I covet from the car, other than the 100% silence and feeling like I am in the Mafia with the tinted windows, is the Satellite radio. If I was filthy rich and could buy whatever I wanted, I would pay for Satellite and have 150+ stations to choose from. I always liked the radio best. Punching the buttons, hearing the DJ’s, stumbling on something you forgot or never knew. On my drive I heard Wet Willie, Dan Hicks and Boz Scaggs mixed in with De La Soul, AC/DC and Pittbull. And I thought about Sheldon.

Sheldon was a hoot. I miss him. And I liked driving his car.

Not to start down the global warming/climate change road, but the snowy place I live in has had astoundingly fluctuating weather this winter. A 3-day winter weather advisory with wicked wind chill followed by 48 degrees and rain today.

The snow is gone and my seriously confused daffodils are poking up in the garden.

Walking in to work today I noticed two things: every ones spring flowers are confused and there is a distinct lack of umbrella etiquette on a college campus. Add in the fact that most of the students have earphones while they are texting and you get an occasional pile up at cross walks.

While this is a limited study in a specialized location, I think I have identified several umbrella “types”. Just like you can bet the Indian men will raise their umbrella above yours as they pass on the sidewalk, there are a couple of umbrella fashions you can always count on.

High Fashion: If there is a clear bubble umbrella walking toward you it will invariably be held by young Asian woman wearing high heels and carrying a Hello Kitty backpack. These students are incredibly well-dressed and make a bee line for the Management School.

Low Fashion: If there is an umbrella with a broken spoke, it will be carried by a scraggly art student whose too-long jeans hems are soaked black with muddy water. This umbrella is not to protect the person carrying it but an attempt to keep their portfolio and tackle box dry.

Piggy Fashion: Golf umbrellas that can cover three people are invariably carried by a single person talking on a cell phone. The air of entitlement does not end with the solo occupancy but extends to their indiscriminately bumping others umbrellas as they breeze along the sidewalk like the prow of a ship.

Practical Fashion: Compact and cheerful portable umbrellas are carried by nursing students. I know they are nursing students because they wear their scrubs tucked into their candy colored wellies, and they are always smiling and walking in packs. The dental students, who also wear scrubs, don’t smile or walk in groups. Don’t know why.

There are always assorted frat boys who wear only hoodies when it rains, and the freaky guys who think rain = warm weather and put on shorts and sandals. These are the students who will so generously share their viruses with the rest of the campus in a few weeks.

One sight that never gets old for me on a rainy day is the guy holding an umbrella over his girlfriend while his back gets all wet. I find this sweet and considerate. Sting just needed a golf umbrella and a nicer girlfriend in the ’80s.