Fifty-four years ago this September, I left my parents’ home to attend a small mid-western college. Not being a small mid-westerner myself, I was somewhat intimidated by the new surroundings, as well as the awesome fact that I was now out on my own. Several hundred miles from home and clueless about the world outside of my old neighborhood and high school, I began a four-year trek through the perils and joy of higher education and adult responsibility.
This past weekend, I was privileged to celebrate the 50th year of the culmination of that passage. I approached this opportunity with just a bit of apprehension. I wondered how I would remember classmates or them me. I shouldn’t have worried. The experience was totally delightful and one filled with great reminiscences and taking up with old friends like we had never been apart. The emotions engendered, recalling those now seemingly carefree years and the friendships made, had all the comfort and warmth of those typical bitter sweet feelings that come with aging.
But more than that, it was a chance to share about our lives since. It was a realization that all the hard work and sacrifice of serving one’s country, building a career and raising a family was a virtue shared by all of us, regardless of the diversity of each of our lives. It validated and punctuated the feelings of love and respect I had for my college over the intervening years.
This was a swan song of sorts, as I doubt I’ll ever get back to that bucolic campus again and all the happy thoughts that go with it. But for one short weekend, I was once more that innocent, awestruck young man, strolling the grounds of the place that helped shape the person I am. And that may be the greatest memory of them all.