GRANDMA HEADS OFF TO COLLEGE
A RECESSION ERA TALE
I drove through the quiet, manicured suburban Roseville neighborhood I would no longer call home this morning. My swollen eyes and red splotchy face were the affirmation that I had made the right decision not to put on make-up after my morning shower. That was the last shower I would take as a permanent resident in my daughter’s home. At one point, my daughter knocked asking, “Are you OK Mom?” which I answered, “Yes” though I didn’t tell her I had been in the bathroom for an extra-long time this particular morning because I had been balling my eyes out while writing my two little grandchildren, Hudson (4) & Dayton (2) their good-bye, I will miss you cards. I also didn’t tell my daughter that the first time I walked into a drug store to buy a Thank You Card for their family, I started crying so much that I just had to leave!
Yes! Today is the day I headed off to college! Yet, unlike the eighteen year-old, I am leaving behind six of my eight grandchildren, two of my three daughters, my roses, the vegetable garden, most of my belongings (in storage), my two son-in-laws (who probably aren’t crying) and Baxter, my daughter’s ten year-old pug that may not live to my next visit. (I just realized that in my blubbering, that I forgot to say goodbye to Baxter!)
The impetus for my unstoppable fountain of tears is because I am leaving my youngest grandchildren whom I have lived with for most of their little lives. How will I get along without anyone to share with when I see a magnificent bird, an egg shell from a nest or a giant caterpillar? Who will be there to be just as amazed at the sunset as my little 2 year-old granddaughter Dayton, who asked me to pull the blinds up last night so she wouldn’t miss the “set-sun?” Who will care about whether or not the “owie” on my finger has healed yet? Who will be there to never tire of playing card games, like my three oldest grandsons?
Regardless of the monumental suffering these daily dilemmas and others will create for my aching heart, I had to leave! I had to leave for the very reasons my eighteen year-old granddaughter, Elora left her friends and family behind last year to head to college. If I didn’t leave, I would have the pressure of a poverty-stricken or very family dependent retirement looming large over my loved ones. I had to get my rear-end to graduate school quick!
This was never my plan, yet it was always an unspoken dream cast away after decades of repetitive mental reality checks every time I saw those enviable titles after someone’s name that I knew I could never compete with, no matter what I had accomplished in my life: MPH, PhD. EdD. MSW, etc…
If I listed the journeys I have taken to get to this moment, I would never get through this post, so I won’t. Briefly, after losing my home, my retirement, my marriage and with wages plummeting, I only had the hope to work for $12-15 hr. with little chance for benefits, if I worked in the field I Ioved, without those three initials. My daughter and her husband and 2 babies took me in and we have helped each other for the last 2 ½ years. I am so grateful for them and what they did to bring our family together. Truly one of the better outcomes of this recession has been the return of the extended family experience.
Grandiose plans to be a famous author and “child expert” six years ago were quickly dashed during the recession after I self-published my first book, The New Physics of Childhood (IUniverse, 2009). Not only was it rejected by many because I did not have a credential behind my name like, PhD., MSW, EdD., etc. I realized that the tone of it (due to a lifetime of pent-up experiences) was somewhat arrogant and harsh. I began the rewrite immediately, along with edits by several professionals. Then the publishing industry took a dive and so did my income. It was time to set idealistic dreams aside and make way for Plan X.
Foreclosure, bankruptcy and divorce (in that order) were juxtaposed to my extinguished author dreams. I knew that the once well-paid work I had done earlier as a caregiver was a very temporary replacement and sabbatical to my teaching career, yet this job title had lasted for over a decade and seemed it was my only real option for earning income forever, unless I had a Master’s Degree! With a Master’s, I could finally earn the respect of my years, since wrinkles don’t show well on a resume. After researching and allowing the dream to simmer, I knew that a Master’s in Public Health was the only way for me. It would allow me to focus on my passion for Preventive Health Education, while also giving me incredible opportunities to influence public policy and the health of communities. It would also provide me with the potential for a real income and benefits so I can rebuild my life and my nest egg before I allow myself the luxury of retirement in my mid-70’s.
I could have never imagined that when everything was gone, save my beautiful family, that the only option was actually the dream I had so wanted, yet had never uttered or allowed myself to think of. This dream also occupies the same space as my dream to be a well-known and respected author one day. *
For now, the reality is one dream at a time! I prepared for two years by taking brush-up courses and using the time to finally become fluent in Spanish. All of my experiences and preparation in the last two and a half years got me accepted to the 3 programs I applied for! In August, I begin my journey in San Francisco State University’s MPH Program in Community Health Education. Yeah!!!!!!
I am saving money by couch-surfing for a month, while I work in my field of choice, in preparation for grad school. I am not thrilled about taking any student loans out and am hoping my second year in school is funded solely by scholarships and part-time work. I have a lot to accomplish professionally, and am committed to being a full participant in my graduate school experience.
During my undergrad career, I was a single mother raising three daughters. I had no time for friends or campus activities. All I wanted to do was race home to my daughters every day after school. The 3-hour commute to higher education ate up many precious hours with my daughters as it was. Now, I am one mile from campus and by myself to focus on school work, etc. Maybe I will even make some friends, something that hasn’t really been a part of my life with every second going to family. Though I am realistic enough to know that I won’t really have time to do much of this or to sit around and play cards while I am in grad school. However, I am already looking forward to visits “back home” to indulge my inner card playing junkie.
Yes, this day, this life, this new chapter is the perfect description of a bitter-sweet moment. I will miss my family in Roseville, but I will actually have more time with my youngest daughter and other grandson, now that I am closer to them.
Beyond the tears and tugging of little heart strings, life is good! I even received a $1,000 scholarship by a wonderful organization that felt compelled by my personal journey. Perhaps there are more angels like this in my future. I sure hope so, because as this Grandma heads off to college, I need all of the angels I can get, yet nothing will take the place of the beautiful family I have waiting for me when I return home after I receive my Master’s in Public Health! It will be the 1st. Master’s Degree in our family, just as my AA & BA were when I received them, years ago. I hope one day I can be an inspiration for my grandchildren so they know that it is never an option to give-up or give-in and that it is never too late for your dreams to come true!
*CONFESSION – In the middle of preparing to leave for grad school, the writer in me just had to get that one last lick in! I formatted the 30+ years of my children’s stories and printed them out for my grandchildren to read in my absence. More on this project in future posts.
Hasta Luego! Got places to go, things to do, people to see!
aka Granny Pants