My mother left college after her freshman year.
Because when she tried out for the Sponsor Corps at Utah State, one of the judges, a sophomore boy, liked the way she could twirl a rifle. Also, he was smitten with her snappy salute. So he asked her out, and even though my mother mistakenly introduced him as LaDell Andersen (not his actual name) to everyone they met that night, those two Aggies hit it off and were married the following summer. She was 19. He was 20.
They were so young, in fact, that when they applied for a marriage license at the county clerk’s office, my father was told he had to get his mother’s permission. But since his mother wasn’t around, whereas my mother’s mother was, my mother’s mother pretended to be my father’s mother and my mother (apparently) pretended to be an orphan.
But that’s another story.
The point is this: My mother left school after her freshman year — and then spent the next four decades regretting her decision. So when she was 60 — 60! — she went back to school. And eventually she graduated. When she walked across the stage to pick up her diploma, my brothers, our families and I turned into those people. We tossed decorum out the window and cheered wildly for her because girl deserved some very serious noise.
I was proud of her then, of course. Really and truly proud. But now that I’m getting closer to the age she was when she went back to school, I’m flat-out in awe of her achievement. Here’s the thing. At this age, I frankly don’t have the energy I used to. For the first time in my life, naps seem like a good idea. MEMO TO THE GUY WHO INVENTED NAPS: Thank you. I love you. I love you so much I want to marry you.
Also (and I hate to admit this) I often suffer from an Enthusiasm Deficiency. Too often when I’m presented with the opportunity to do something these days, my reaction is all “been there, done that.” Even if I haven’t actually been there. Or done that.
But somehow my mother found the energy and the enthusiasm to give college the old college try one more time.
What finally made her go back? I asked her this the other day. She thought about my question for a minute and then told me she didn’t want to have any regrets. She didn’t want to make excuses for herself or blame circumstances for standing in the way of something she’d always wanted to do.
What was the hardest part about going back?
“I worried I’d be intimidated by all those young kids and everything,” she said. “But I wasn’t. It turned out to be a lot of fun. Because of my age, I didn’t have to worry about the things other students have to — keeping scholarships, finding a job after graduating. I could just relax and learn.”
And learn she did. She took history classes. Humanities classes. Science and math classes. Even a stats class. Every single scrap of information she acquired was sweet to her. Meanwhile I learned this from her: Age doesn’t have to hold you back. Not always. And that information has become sweet to me.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.