My recent journey has been about family, history, roots. It is only fitting that I would find myself standing in the middle of Notre Dame University in the middle of my travels because almost fifty years ago I made a personal decision about that place that would alter the direction of my life. As I have visited the locales where my ancestors once lived and worked I have reflected on the choices that they made that eventually led to me and my brothers. At Purdue University I thought of all of the forces of the universe that gave me my grandson, Andrew, and then brought him back to the place of his birth. Each of us has a rather amazing story if one really thinks about it. From the very beginnings of time the world has been moving toward the destinies that we call our lives.
My high school classmates are planning the fiftieth reunion of my Class of 1966. On a May day of long ago we gathered together for the last time and celebrated that we had made it through the four years of homework, tests, and, of course, lots of fun. We each had dreams of what our lives would be and we set out with certainty that somehow we would be great. In my own case I had determined that I would attend college. I knew little about the process of applying and my knowledge of the different universities was greatly restricted to a few campuses in my home state. The world loomed large for me but I had only a small conception of the possibilities. I had lived in an isolated bubble inside my neighborhood and the private Catholic school that I had attended for eleven years. I was shy, naive, insecure, and frightened by impending adulthood but I decided that I needed to be in a large public university. I wanted to meet as many different people as I might and experience education from a different point of view.
Because I had graduated from a Catholic High School with very high grades and a more than decent SAT score there were many Catholic universities attempting to recruit me even though I had not applied to them. They tempted me with scholarships that the average person might have grabbed. The University of St. Thomas, the University of Dallas, Catholic University of America, Georgetown, and Notre Dame all offered me a full ride. I suppose that I should have at least considered some of the offers but I so wanted to be in a public university that I declined one scholarship after another. I know for a fact that my college counselor was frustrated beyond imagination. He was in a state of disbelief that I would be so cavalier about such generous offers. When I confessed that I only wanted to attend a public university he changed tactics and sent schools like Texas Tech to lure me. He never really understood why I was so certain that I wanted to attend the University of Houston. To him it seemed a waste of my academic talents but to me it was the fruition of a dream.
Unlike Elizabeth Warren who often mentions that her degree from the University of Houston was at best second rate, I found my classes and my professors there to be universally outstanding. I was happy from the first moment that I stepped on campus and I began to meet individuals who were so different from anyone that I had ever known. It was a thrilling experience and my professors took a personal interest in my future. It also turned out to be what was supposed to happen. It was because I was there at the right time and place that I met my husband, Mike. I have always believed that he is my true love. I sensed it from our very first date and I have never once lost that feeling.
It also happened that during my second year of college my mother began to show the first signs of her mental illness. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I had been far away while she was vacillating between depression and mania with a frightening streak of paranoia. Thank God I was around to find her the care that she needed. In all honesty the experience was horrific but it was also the exact moment when I grew up and found the compassion and the strength that has defined me for my adult life.
Of course one thing leads to another once a decision is made. Mike and I had two daughters. Those two daughters had seven children between them. I met incredible people on my jobs and in my neighborhoods. I have been blessed by my many, many students. All in all I have not found fame but instead something far more valuable. I am incredibly happy!
This week Mike and I traveled to South Bend, Indiana to tour the campus of one of the universities that I might have attended, Notre Dame. The university is quite beautiful and I felt a kind of thrill in being there. It is truly God’s country. I now fully understand the prestige associated with a degree from this renowned institution. I might have been a totally different person had I gone there. Perhaps I would have more money in the bank. My career may have been more stellar. Who knows how things may have been?
The honest truth is that I was in awe of what I saw at Notre Dame but not the least bit disappointed that I had not been one of its students. I enjoyed the warmth of the people who talked with us and felt blessed to be there on an exceptionally beautiful day. Nonetheless, I would not trade even a day of my life as it was for how it might have been. It was a glorious feeling to realize that I have no regrets.
I suppose that we become more and more content as we age. I find great joy in attending a football game at Purdue University with my grandson, Andrew, and receiving “thank you” texts from him in which he tells me that he loves me. I feel quite content driving along country roads and watching farmers tending their land. I like getting a phone call from one of my former students asking for advice while I am traveling. I look forward to the photos and greetings on Facebook each morning. I totally love the life that I have.
I suppose that had I attended Notre Dame University my life would have worked out just as well, only a bit differently. I would not have known about any of the people, places, and events that are so much a part of my history. I no doubt would have found ways to be just as happy. Still I simply cannot imagine missing all of the wonderful moments that I have tucked away in my memory.
I am a Houston Cougar and proud of it! I am married to one of the finest men to ever walk the earth. My children are incredible women. My grandchildren are utterly delightful. I have friends that I treasure like gold. My work felt very important and meaningful. My students will remain in my heart forever. I do love them so. Now I have seen the beautiful university that might have been mine. I am proud that I was someone that they wanted. I thank them for their generous offer and I smile that I was somehow bright enough to make exactly the right choices again and again.