My first child was two days old when my father started discussing where Alli would go to college. And he never stopped talking about it. He was intense. When she turned out to be precocious, his predictions got more intense—it was Ivy League all the way.
This wasn’t unpredictable. He’d been equally intense with me. Only I was far more malleable than Alli turned out to be.
My father didn’t live long enough to see the results. Which in some ways made it easier for me —-since I didn’t have to tell him what she did.
I’ve written about this— but if you don’t know the story, the bottom line is that she rejected the idea of the Ivy League. She wanted to stay in California, and attend a public university. The University of California system is outstanding— I could live with that. Until she rejected UCLA and Berkeley– and rejected going to college at all.
It’s amazing what you can get used to , and how different things look with some perspective. After 4 years supporting herself working at the UPS store, with her new husband serving a year in Iraq– by the time Alli enrolled in our local junior college, it looked as good to me as Harvard. And when Shane came home from Iraq and she continued her education at the University of Texas, El Paso— that looked good to me, too. Amazing how a little reality check can change reality.
Last winter Shane learned he was headed to Iraq again. So Alli decided to leave Texas, and finish up her undergraduate degree in California. The only problem was that the application deadline was long gone. I didn’t know this, but it turns out that you can appeal for an application after the deadline—if you have good reasons. Which Alli had.
I won’t describe all the hoops she had to jump through. I’ll skip to the ending, and it’s happy. Not only did she get accepted, but the school is paying her way.
Alli’s new advisor told her what colleges call people like Alli: non-traditional students. They are not like most of the college kids I’ve known—- who come straight out of high school and live on campus and attend school fulltime.
“Non-traditional” certainly describes my daughter—who started college when she was in her 20′s, works fulltime while taking classes, and has now attended as many colleges as Sarah Palin.
And now she’s come full circle—not only back to California, but also back where she started— the University of California.
Her dad, her brother and I went with her last week to visit the school where she will take the next step in her education— UC Irvine. None of us had ever seen it and we were all impressed—not just by the beautiful campus, but by its high academic standing.
While we walked around, Alli turned to me, and asked, “What do you think Grandpa would think?’
I stand there, and think of the 25 years that led to this moment. I can’t decide if I feel more like crying with relief or shouting for joy. I look at my amazing daughter, the “non-traditional student” my father would never see. And I tell Alli what I know my father would say: “Grandpa would feel incredibly proud of you.”