The week before last, I corrected the 60th and final term paper for my son, Mark. I felt like I had completed college for the fourth time. Mark graduated from Grace College in Warsaw, Indiana, after earning his degree in Business & Marketing.
He’s our fourth kid to complete college and it was the end of an era. No more endless drives down US 30, or over icy roads in Michigan. No more lugging stuff up to third floor dorm rooms or apartments. We’re done carrying around that dorm-sized refrigerator that was so perfect for a six-pack of, uh, pop. We also said goodbye to the dorm-sized microwave.
No more mountains of wash coming home for the holidays. No more trips to Target to stock up for the semester. No more difficult roommates. No need to find co-signers for college loans. Spring-breaking is over. Summer jobs are coming to an end. No more urgent calls to cover a shortfall.
No more worrying about credits, or if they’ll have enough to graduate. No more campus tours, or meet-and-greets with the faculty. No more calls from the financial office. No more concerns they will fall in love with someone from another state — and move there. No more rushing to class in their beater cars or on late-night excursions in search of food.
The last chicken surprise cafeteria meal has been consumed. The last shift has been completed at the campus job. No more codes of conduct to break, or obey. Eight a.m. math classes are cancelled. No more pricey textbooks to purchase. No reason to cheer for sports teams like the Trolls and the Lancers. The college sticker will come off the rear window.
No more leafy campuses to stroll. No urgent need to take out the laptop. No more droning lectures, or scintillating classes, taught by passionate professors. Mid-terms are terminated. Finals are finalized. Homework is no longer hanging over heads. Study groups are disbanded. Intramurals are over. Packing a car with classmates for a road trip will not be on the itinerary.
Study abroad is over. All-nighters are but a memory. The curtain has come down on watching cult movies with your buddies. Late-night discussions about the great truths of life are curtailed. Getting greeting cards in the mail with checks has been halted.
Like his three older siblings, Mark has entered that uncomfortable place called the real world. Sleeping-in till noon will be rare. Dorm-style clutter will be cleaned up. Resumes will be updated and cover letters polished. Job interviews will be scheduled. A full-time job will be sought.
Thankfully, Mark has a strong work ethic and a good attitude, doing his best at whatever job he’s had. Hopefully, he’ll find one in his field of study. If not, he can join the legions of college grads laboring in unfamiliar territory. Work is not an option when student loans, the scourge of their generation, have to be repaid.
Mark should look back on his school career with pride. He was always conscientious about his assignments and stayed out of trouble. We welcome him home, but the dynamic has changed. It’s not so much parents and child, it’s three roomies just trying to get along.
Now that I’m finally finished with college, I’m going to miss it. I told Mark it had been a privilege to correct the 60 papers, to see what a deep thinker he is and what a good writer he has become.
I’d be even prouder, if he could get his plate to the dishwasher.
John Rice is a regular columnist for the Forest Park Review. He grew up in Oak Park.