Shattered hearts, quiet bedrooms. Sigh.
A few final thoughts about college drop-offs. The dads cry worse than the moms. Probably because we’re more in touch with our feelings. Or the first tuition bill arrived.
Dads have bigger hearts than many people think. I like dads. I think they can be the difference between a functional society and a dysfunctional one.
You don’t hear many politicians voice that. Somehow, it’s unfashionable to salute the fathers who stick around.
These are the odd times in which we live.
So here’s to the dads – mine and yours — who quietly went about their lives, grinding out a living, crying openly when their teams won, roaring like wood chippers at their own silly jokes.
Here’s to the dads!
I went to Drake University, sister school to Duke. People often confuse the two. We’re the good one, I always explain. We’re the Duke of Des Moines, Iowa, I can say that with absolute authority.
My 17-year-old son, Smartacus, is shopping for colleges, and as fathers always do, I am keeping an eye out for value, difficult to find among today’s universities.
Honestly, I have no sympathy for college administrators now struggling with the economic repercussions of COVID. For years, they jacked their tuitions – like opportunists after a flood. If the costs proved too much for some families, there were always other eager applicants.
The rising college costs are immoral, an abandonment of the working and middle class, an abandonment of Millennials. Colleges grew greedy, an afront to the egalitarian ideals many professors preach.
No one called them on it. Suddenly, college presidents were making millions, and college football coaches made even more.
More than some running backs, in fact.
But too much of anything ruins people, especially money. Happened to Ancient Egypt. Happened to Ancient Rome. I mean, just look what it’s done to me.
I am, at this point, ready to cut Smartacus a deal. He can skip college. I will write him a decent check to start his own business.
But there will be a gap year. In the gap year, he must read the 20 books I give him and study selected TED talks. He must learn some basic Latin, a line of Shakespeare or two, some logic and philosophy. We can cover most of that in a year.
Yet, Smartacus realizes that college is more than just that. College is independence, and arguing with your dorm mates for hours over climate change or the color of Katy Perry’s eyes.
College is kismet. In college, you can fall in love with a classmate just by the way she carries her books.
You can’t put a price on that. But if you did, I’m not sure it would be worth $300 grand. Hell, for far less, I could just send him to Dublin for a year. He’d get into arguments. Learn some history. And fall in love with a redhead.
A family curse, redheads. Did I say curse? I meant tradition. A tradition (and a curse). More of a curse, probably. Some families struggle with dependency, depression, debt, deceit.
We struggle with gingers.
My dad married a redhead, I married a redhead. We were very lucky.
At the altar, when my ravishing bride said, “I do.” I turned to her and thought, “Really? Because you could do so much better.” She saw the doubt in my eyes.
“Really,” she whispered. “I do.”
Then we had kids – too many. Then we had bills – too much.
Parenthood is a swan dive into an empty pool. It’s the only relationship where heartbreak is 100% assured. One day, off they will go: “Bye Mom. Bye Dad. I’ll call, OK?”
And that’s just kindergarten.
By college, they leave vapor trails.
Parenthood is a swan dive into an empty pool. One day, off they go: “Bye Mom. Bye Dad. I’ll call, OK?”And that’s just kindergarten. #ChrisErskineLA #collegeTweet
Similarly, there’s this tree in my neighbor’s too-close yard. There’s just something dastardly about the way it’s perched. I predict that one day, in high winds, this tree will fall and crush me and my kitchen.
Then, the other day, I noticed a magnolia tree in my own yard, on the other side. I suddenly realized that my own tree would likely be the one to crush me and my kitchen, because that’s more how life works.
You get crushed by your own trees, your own children, your own self-absorbed assumptions of how life will unfold.
“By Mom! Bye Dad!”
Here’s to the parents now haunted by their children’s dark, quiet bedrooms.
Here’s to the freshmen, who stay hopeful in these tormented times.
May they drink, as William Blake said, “from life’s clear streams.”
May they tread lightly on the world.
Remember White Fang? Fortunately, our pet wolf is not going anywhere. Read about her first dinner party experience, in this Saturday’s post. Cheers