Earlier this month Kish and I wrote our last college tuition check. It is one of those milestones that you don’t fully appreciate until you have reached it — and then you realize that it means a lot, and in unexpected ways.
Of course, college graduation is an achievement for the student, the culmination of four years of classes, tests, labs, papers, deciding on majors, and thinking about what you want to do with your life (among other college-related activities). It also is an achievement for those parents who have footed some or all of the bill for the education the graduate has received. For those parents, the sense of accomplishment probably is similar to the feeling people used to have when they made their final house payment and had a party in which the couple lit aflame the mortgage papers. As proud as Kish and I have been of Richard and Russell and their fine college careers, we also should be proud of ourselves.
Yet, for all of the positive feelings that come with signing that last tuition check, there is an even stronger feeling of wistfulness and — to be perfectly blunt — advancing age. When your kids have graduated from college you can’t really consider them to be kids any more. They will always be your children, but now they are adults. You will never watch them play a Little League game again, or help them with their homework, or take them to the 8th grade dance class. They will move on with their lives, and you will be more of a spectator than a participant — like the initial guest on the old Tonight Show who began in the seat next to Johnny Carson and ends the show four guests away at the end of the couch, next to Ed McMahon.
As much as I have looked forward to being done with college payments, I now find myself wishing that the day hadn’t come quite so quickly.