Education is yours forever

I was otherwise indisposed when my N&R column ran this past Wednesday and unable to post it online for those of you who don’t get the print edition of the paper (mainly, though, this is for my parents in Kentucky).

It has been a busy and emotional week what with all the truck drama and our first child’s high school graduation activities.  It won’t slow down until Jinni and I finish helping with Grimsley High’s ‘Project Graduation’ when it finally winds down in the wee hours of next Monday morning.

My brother and sister are driving in from Kentucky with some of my nieces, however my parents just didn’t feel up to the 9 hour drive.  They will be missed this weekend, but only in the physical sense because they have been with our Jack all along.

This fortnight’s column was a testiment to that fact.  Read on.


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On the occasion of my eldest son’s impending graduation from Grimsley High School this weekend, congratulatory graduation cards addressed have been arriving in the mail at a pretty good clip.

To his credit, and perhaps also due to some of the better influences of his upbringing, my Jackson dutifully opens the cards and actually reads the thoughtful hand-printed and pre-printed messages from far-flung and closer-in well-wishers.  He does this while trying to look like he’s not even remotely interested in the second part of the deal: an enclosed check.

It is only after he reads the greeting fully that he tries to act all nonchalant while he unfolds the check, glances at the amount of the gift and says something like, “…well, wasn’t that nice of them.�  He then carefully puts the card back in the envelope and places it in a stack marked ‘thank you note not sent’.

But I know my boy; as soon as he scanned the dollar amount, he has already added the gift to his total take.  “Cha-CHING�, goes his 17 year-old brain.  His twelve years of math instruction come shining through for his proud parents as he can immediately provide his mother and I with a running total of the booty he has accumulated, down to the penny.

But late last week a very special card arrived from my parents in Kentucky.  Inside the card was a three-page, hand-written letter from my Mom.

In the age of emails and instant messaging, I’m sure my graduate hasn’t received more than a handful of real letters in his lifetime.  So he paid particular attention as he read what his grandmother had to say.

She recounted some of her memories of Jack and related her regrets about missing many of his accomplishments over the years due to the hundreds of miles that have separated my brood from the rest of our family.  But then she imparted an admonition that her father had given her years ago. 

My grandfather, ‘Daddy Bill’, was a self-made man who barely finished elementary school.  Hardly able to read and write, his driving ambition was to provide for his children the education he never attained.  And it worked.  Mom and her four siblings all graduated from college because their dad just wouldn’t settle for anything less.  He just wouldn’t allow his children to endure life without a proper education.
So Mom shared with her grandson a quote from her father.  The same quote that she shared with me upon my high school graduation back in 1974:  “Education is very important.  It is the one thing that is yours alone.  No one can borrow it or take it from you.  You cannot lose it or give it away�.

Notice he didn’t mention how much money you could make with a college diploma and I doubt he was thinking much about how a degree might look on some future resume.  No, he thought of education as its own reward  – a personal accomplishment.  To him, lifelong learning was not for appearances, status or future remuneration, but simply to become a better person.

As my son and his classmates move out into the world, I hope they realize that their education is really just starting.  It is my further hope they take some of their graduation gift money and do something frivolous and fleeting with it and learn that money will come and go.

But then it will be time to get down to what is really important and continue their education and realize that is the one thing – the only thing – they will take to their graves.

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One Comment

  1. John Tapscott (Pat)
    Posted June 8, 2007 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    We also wish that we could be there for Jack’s graduation. We have missed a lot of his activities, but did realize the few times that we were able to see him play his sports, that he gave 100% in effort no matter what the sport was. We were always proud of his accomplishments. One thing that I was proud of was the “cool” way that he went about playing each sport. Didn’t seem to loose it no matter how he felt about a play or call. We feel that no matter what Jack chooses to do in life, that little “premmiewill do big things in life.