Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chapter's End

It was 11 years ago when Wendy and I left our eldest son Greg at Central Michigan University to begin his quest for higher education. I remember Greg almost quit school right then when he spied a cowboy hat and guitar already dropped off by the roommate he hadn't yet met. He was sure it was a bad omen.

Fast forward a few years later and Greg was singing duets with his now best friend in one of the Mt. Pleasant pubs. His roommate turned out to be not such a bad guy after all.

One's journey past high school through the college years in a way mirrors life itself. You never know where you're going to end up or how you're going to get there. But somehow you manage and usually it turns out being not so bad.

That journey to college campuses near and far ended for Wendy and I this past weekend when we drove to Ithaca, New York, to watch our youngest son Scott graduate with a Master's Degree from Cornell University.

As we sat in the warm, muggy sun as thousands of academics processed to their seats inside Cornell's football stadium, I thought to myself, no more trips here. Or any other institution of higher learning. Not on behalf of my two boys anyway.

Not that Wendy and I made a habit of popping in on our boys as they earned their credits and counted down to commencement. But there was moving in, moving out, siblings day at Central Michigan, Easter at Michigan State, spring break at Cornell.

Along the way we discovered a cider mill north of East Lansing, spent a night at a quaint pub with live music in Mt. Pleasant to hear Greg's roommate entertain the revelers, and motored across Lake Seneca, one of New York's Finger Lakes, with Captain Bill's dinner cruise.

There were also trips to find Christmas tree farms and u-pick pumpkin patches, shopping trips to local supermarkets to help the boys stock up on groceries, and the inevitable dinner at a local restaurant.

We even one time watched one of Greg's intramural soccer games, remembering how we had watched him play organized soccer since he was eight-years-old. At this game, however, we were the only parents there. Some of Greg's friends teased that it was "cute" to have his parents as spectators.

We didn't witness all the major events, like the time Greg had the police burst in on him guns drawn while he was working the late shift at a local business. He shouldn't have ignored the alarm he had tripped. We weren't there either when Scott experienced tear gas first hand walking home during one of Michigan State's students encounters with local police in a post-victory celebration that got out of hand.

Now it's all history. Chapter's end. But another chapter begins. I like the theme of Cornell's commencement, described in the Cornell president's commencement address as well as in a video marking the occasion . . . goodbye Cornell, hello world.

Whether Scott's job leaves him here or Michigan or takes him somewhere else (Washington DC, he hopes), I'm sure it will help to write another chapter for us as well.


Blogger Lynilu said...

Our children's mile markers are always a time of reflection, I think. A few left me contemplative and even a bit misty, but for the most part, I've had more thoughts like yours .... end of era, thinking of what might be the next steps.

Over the years, my kids and I have enjoyed recalling those stories, and every time I hear a new tidbit they has chosen to withhold from me before! They're smart; "Give Mom enough time and she won't lose it over the stupid things we did!"

7:58 PM  
Blogger Jan said...

Congratulations. I had to become a parent myself to realize that graduations were more for parents than for the graduate. The next era in your lives will probably be the best one yet.

7:31 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

LYNILU--I'm not sure either one of us is at the point yet where we wouldn't lose it upon hearing what one or the other sons have done. Maybe when we're 80 and in an alzheimer's care facility.

JAN--It was amazing to see the parents in Scott's college, many of whom came from around the world presumably since the students did, all with their cameras and excited expressions of joy. All very proud parents, as were we.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Carine said...

ah, graduation. Jan's right. We were so happy when Adam graduated that we cried, buckets. we were so proud of him getting that degree.
now (Jewish mom here)if only our daughter would see the light and do the same-I swear we'd be so happy we'd throw her a party of equal size and have it go on twice as long-since we really feel it would be such a mitzvah.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

CARINE--I'm not sure I've heard you speak of your daughter all that much. It would be a proud moment for her to walk at commencement as well. Never too late.

3:44 AM  
Blogger Carine said...

Sarah has a heart of gold and is a great mom Dave. I've actually had more columns on her than on Adam. Especially when she was pregnant, our trip to NYC and such.
She was a straight A student in HS-and that was on the "1 day a week" plan! Imagine what she could've done if she went to class????
On the flip side-she's always been one that needs instant gratification, meaning plying away for 4 years for a degree was not to her liking. But we've got hope that as the boys get older-both she and Alex will decide that going to college might be worth the "wait"!

11:58 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

CARINE--Funny I wouldn't have remembered Sarah more, especially since I had a crush on a girl named Sarah once a long time ago. College isn't for everybody and at the cost of it nowadays, I wouldn't push it too hard on someone who doesn't want to go.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Yoga in Mirrormont said...

Heart-warming post, Dave, and congratulations!

One of our daughters just received her Masters from U. of British Columbia and excitement was at a fevered pitch due to the Canucks' victory the night before.

Were there burning couches involved in the MSU post-victory celebration?

10:55 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

YOGA IN MIRRORMONT--Thanks and the same to yourself. My dad, who enjoys your comments, noted to me that it would most likely be a while before you could similarly say 'chapter's end.'

Couch-burning, overturning police cars, absconding with small children--the usual Spartan hijinks.

5:15 AM  
Blogger Nankin said...

Congratulations to Scott. This is truly a new chapter in life for him. My niece works in DC with the Air National Guard and loves it. Let's hope he finds a great job where he wants to be.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

NANKIN--I hear that Washington DC is a nice spot for young people. Jobs are still very hard to come by here in Michigan.

3:51 AM  

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