The Times Journal & Russell County News
Wednesday, Jul. 23, 2014 — RUSSELL SPRINGS & JAMESTOWN, KENTUCKY —
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Debbie does Discourse
In May 30 Issue
Russell County News
By Debbie Bell, Columnist

My son Fletcher graduated from Berea College this past Sunday. I was beyond proud, to say the least. He is the first in our immediate family to finish college. My husband and I both attended Berea College. He had to leave school during his senior year and shortly after that I decided to take a break from college. We both had every intention of going back and finishing our education but we never did.

We got married, had children and life happened. Our daughter dabbled in a college class here and there but was never really serious about furthering her education. So- the fact that my son actually got his diploma was a feat in itself.

I don't know about everyone else, but our family can never get through an event or holiday without something going awry. Someone always gets mad, get their feelings hurt, says they're not going or something, it never fails. So, I wasn't really expecting anything different on Sunday.

My husband, Garry, left for Berea around 6:30 that morning to attend Baccalaureate services with our son. There's no way I could've left that early. I would have had to stayed up all night getting beautiful. Besides, my husband abhors smoking and won't allow it in his car. A friend of mine was going and all of us fellow smokers were riding with him.

So, I started to sculpt my face with foundation, filling in all the lines and connecting all the brown spots when the phone rings. Between sobs my daughter, Ashley, tells me that her husband, Derek, isn't going to go (sobs) and the brakes on her car are bad (more sobs). Is there room for her and my grandson in Neal's car?

No, dear, the “smoking car” is full and I must get off and finish my face. I hand up and proceed on to my blush. The phone rings again, “Mom, (crying even harder) could I take your car?”.

Now, there is a reason why I wasn't taking my own car- its dilapidate, has a million miles on it and is my only means of transportation, probably for the rest of my life.

I say, “Yes, dear, but you'll have to put gas in it because it is on empty”. I hung up and proceeded to work on my eyes. Ring.

“Mom, (bawling) Derek won't give me any gas money.”

“Well I can't help that,” I said, “I'm broke and my mascara is starting to dry and clump.” I slam down the phone. I had just finished the beautification process when the phone rings again. Happy now, my daughter says her husband has agreed to give her gas money. I told her that I'll leave the keys in my car and please don't call me again.

The smoking car arrives and many cigarettes later we make it to Berea without incident. We meet my husband and Fletcher and as we are making our way across the campus to the 1 pm graduation, my husband's cell phone rings. Seems my car has had a blow out on I-75. He has to turn around and go pick up our daughter and grandson who were sitting on the side of the interstate.

The rest of us proceed on to Seabury gym where my son and I were so pleased to see my mother with my sister and her family.

My mother very seldom leaves her home anymore and I doubt she'll even attend her own funeral! Her being there meant so much to my son who wanted everyone from Jesus Christ to the garbage man there. When I'd tried to explain to him that everyone couldn't possibly come, his response was, “They would if they loved me.”

Oh dear. Luckily, my husband, daughter and grandson made it back with three minutes to spare. My mom, having not seen me since Christmas, took a seat beside me. Big mistake! A very refined, reserved and dignified lady, she should have known better. Awards were handed out to three of Berea's top students and lo and behold one of them happened to be from my little ole Letcher County, more than that, from our own Isom- yoo hoo! I stood alone and and in all my glory, screamed “Way to go Letcher county, yeah Isom, yoo hoo!”

Scarlet faced my mother grabbed my arm and said, “Debra Kaye, sit down and shut up. She should have known. Minutes later they sang “Berea Beloved', and we all stood. I'd forgotten that the seats fold back up, and when I went I went to sit back down, well you known what they say about Karma!

After the ceremony my poor husband had to go load up everything in my son's dorm room, sqeeze our daughter and grandson into his car and head down I-75 to change a tire. The “smoking car” made it back home early and again without incident.

While at Berea, the hazy memories of my time there came flooding back. The small, Georgian motif style campus had changed very little. Main Street remained the same, most of the little cafes my husband and I had eaten at were still there. I would highly recommend Berea College to anyone thinking about a higher education. It is not only one of the most top notched institutions of learning in KY, but in the entire south.

Not to knock bigger universities, but at a smaller Berea, you are not just a number, but an individual, where everyone knows everyone, including your professors. Tuition is free at Berea and everyone is required to work in the Labor Program. Anyone that wants can plays sports and there is an excellent theater and liberal arts program. The campus itself is down home and beautiful. The squirrels eat right out of your hand.

My son was a member of BME (The Black Musical Ensemble). Berea is full of diversity and different cultures which was wonderful for me, coming from a small community with no minorities. Boone Tavern is renown all over the world for it's fine dining and Elegance. Politicians, movie stars, dignitaries, and coaches have all dined there. I was lucky enough to work there when I attend Berea College. A patron actually thought I was Barbara Striesand (its the big nose) making a movie there! For anyone who is academically inclined but financially strapped, consider attending Berea College.  

Now that my son has graduated, he has to ponder his next move and he is struggling with that. When he first started college he wanted to go into medicine, possibly surgery, and now he is rethinking that decision. Fletcher is way to hard on himself and a perfectionist.. I can so see him doing surgery on someone, waking up in the middle of the night, thinking that he got one little stitch wrong, hauling the patient back in the OR, opening them back up and doing it all over again.

He needs to realize that no one is perfect and to see the wonderful qualities in himself that others see. He is intelligent, a great singer, motivated, and most of all, he has time to figure it out. I just want him to do something with his life that he enjoys and makes him happy before he wakes up one day and it's too late. Most of us never have that opportunity and some of us die without knowing what we should've or could've done with our lives.

I could've been rich had they offered a degree in soap operas or yard sales! I just want my son to be happy and at peace with himself. Be a ditch digger if that's what you really want to do. There is nothing wrong with hard work. But, think carefully, because the decisions we make when we are young will most likely follow us for the rest of our lives.

No matter what, on this day Fletcher, you have attained something no one else in your family has been able to do and for that  I am forever proud and I love you.

Till next time- Forward Ho!

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The Times Journal is a weekly newspaper issued on Thursdays. It was first published on October 13, 1949, by Andrew J. and Terry Norfleet.
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