Autumn of Life

Autumn is a time for us to reflect back on the days of summer, and for the kids to go back to school. This is a post about both.

I was a terrible student in high school. Getting into a good college was not a priority for me. Let’s just say I was distracted. At one point, I told my parents I was going to join the military. Some of you who knew me at that time might say the military was probably just what I needed, and you might be right, but both of my parents are pacifist hippies. They told me repeatedly that I was going to go to college and both fought hard to get me to submit applications.

I did end up applying at the eleventh hour and was accepted to State University of New York at Morrisville, which was a ten-hour car ride into the heart of upstate New York. It was a renowned party school—the polar opposite of the military. My father would dutifully drive me there with all my crap each semester and when we’d arrive, I’d leave him eating dust because I couldn’t get to the party with my friends fast enough.

Fast forward to the day my daughter was born. That’s when my father told me a story about something his mother said to him when I was born: “Now you know how much your father loved you.” My grandfather had passed away a few years before I was born, and knowing how much I love my two kids, I can imagine the overwhelming love my father must have felt at that time. These words have stayed with me, and beyond the birth of my children, I know how my parents must have felt at various points in my youth as I experience these changes with my kids.

My oldest child, Juliet, has always been an excellent student and needed no prompting whatsoever to apply to college. We couldn’t have stopped her if we wanted to. She has just entered her third year, and this fall she has her semester abroad, in the west African country of Cameroon. There were a lot of tears at the airport as she turned and walked away from us. She had a scared look on her face that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. This isn’t the first time I’ve dropped her off for the fall at school, but it is the first where she won’t be a short car ride away, within my reach.

Thankfully, my kids are both much smarter, more sensitive, and better behaved than I ever was. There have been times when I’ve dropped my daughter off and sensed she couldn’t wait to see her friends. But I’ve always felt that she’s been grateful for our efforts to help her with this start in life. Now I know exactly how my father felt dropping me off at SUNY Morrisville. When I think back to how ungrateful I was for his efforts, I could kick myself.

They say after you have kids, your heart forever walks around outside your body. Mine will be walking around in West Africa for the next four months, well beyond the protective reach of its body.

I know, this is a personal finance blog, and this post doesn’t help you prepare for the financial burden of paying for college. I am sorry, but I guess I’m just not in the mood to write that post today. I did once before, and you can find it here.

Hope you all enjoy these last few precious drops of summer. Autumn will be here before you know it.