To the point week of 9-24-09

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A LOT OF COLLEGE MEMORIES came flooding back to me over the weekend when our family visited daughter, Emily, who is a freshman at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.

It has been a month since Emily left for college, and since she hasn’t shown much of a notion to come back and visit us, we decided that we would attend Parents and Family Weekend this past weekend.

It’s not that Emily doesn’t want to come home, but she’s adjusted so well and has made so many friends, she’s already very comfortable in her new surroundings.

Walking around campus and meeting all of her new friends, a thought kept coming back to me.

When I was in high school, a mentor of mine was a history teacher named Richard Allen. He was my U.S. History teacher and my coach, and I remember one day when discussing my college options, he made this observation:

“The friends you have in high school are nice, but the friends you make in college are the friends you’ll have forever.”

I thought he was crazy. There was no way that my high school friends could ever be replaced, after all, we’d been through a lot together, and the rest of our lives was spread out in front of us.

Now, 30 years later, I realize exactly what he meant; and I shared that with Emily and with Beth Abbott (also attending Western Kentucky) on a couple of occasions.

It’s not that high school friendships aren’t important, and there are many that last and stay strong – I married my high school sweetheart – but the friendships that have been made in just a month on a college campus are already very special.

And diverse.

There’s Victoria, who comes from the Western part of Kentucky and who’s father is also a Baptist minister. She has quickly acclimated herself into a tightly-knit group of friends.

Then there’s the Korean connection.

Heesang is spending a year at Western as an exchange student from his university in Seoul, South Korea. His father is a doctor and his mother is a television news anchor; and he also hopes to become a doctor and practice and live in Korea.

So how do you get from Korea to Western Kentucky? It was a little complicated, but Heesang said that he trusted his advisors in Seoul to find the right “fit” for him.

We had supper together on Friday evening, and I was amazed to find that in Korean public school, you begin to learn English in the second grade.

“English is everything,” Heesang said as he ate his dinner. “Everyone knows English.”

It kind of makes you overwhelmed to know that countries all over the world think our language is so important that they teach it in their schools, doesn’t it?

After all, we barely take the time to identify different cultures with their specific countries. Instead we lop them all together into areas of the world: “Asian”, “African”, “Middle Eastern”.

And there were others.

As we walked around campus waiting on the football game to start, it seemed as though nearly everyone we passed said hello or waved. Emily has joined a sorority, and as the cool evening breeze gave way to a downpour of rain, we all huddled under a small awning to stay dry, and we also got to know each other.

The football game itself was uneventful, other than to say that if Switzerland County ever gets a football team, maybe athletic director David Todd can get Western Kentucky on our schedule (how bad do you have to be to get manhandled by Central Arkansas? For that matter, who’s ever heard of Central Arkansas?)

We left on Sunday feeling pretty good about Emily’s college choice and her new life that she’s living; and as I drove home I also thought about all of the people who came into my life during my time at Hanover College, and how much they meant – and still mean – to me.

Now recently I have entered the world of “Facebook”, and in doing so I’ve been amazed at how many people are “out there” in cyberspace looking for others that they know. When my profile reported that I was a 1983 graduate of Hanover College, other 1983 grads were notified that I was now online.

And they wrote.

And it’s been sort of weird.

High school and college classmates all send greetings, and it’s been interesting getting to re-know all of those people.

One in particular I’d been thinking about since I walked around Western with my daughter.

My college roommate was a guy named Tom Spillman, and today he’s some big-wig in Washington, D.C. (he’s reading this online, so I have to talk about what a great guy he is – but we both know the real story).

Really and truly, he is one of the best friends that I have in the world, and I think about him and college and friendships quite often.

But, with him living in Washington and me in Vevay, our paths don’t cross that often.

Returning home after the weekend, I was determined to call him and catch up.

We did that Tuesday, when I first left a message at his office; and later he returned the call on my cell.

He was amazed that I have a daughter getting married; another in college; and a third in high school. His two daughters, whom I met about 10 years ago as little girls, are now in college and high school, too.

In fact, his oldest daughter is my “friend” on Facebook, so she’s providing me with all sorts of new things to ask her dad about.

Tom and I spoke on the phone for nearly two hours Tuesday. It was like we hadn’t lived a thousand miles apart since we left college. Old stories still brought back the same laughs. Names from the past still brought back old memories.

The time flew by, and we both noted that we were going to make sure that we check in on each other more than we had. Tom’s brother, John – or “Bounce” as we called him then – lives near Louisville, so there’s very little reason why we shouldn’t see each other on occasion.

So my weekend with my daughter turned into a weekend of memories for me. Most of them were good ones; and as I thought about those wonderful times, I also had to smile with anticipation that Emily is beginning to establish those very same relationships with her new circle of people.

It’s a great time.