Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 4, 2013

A loving grandmother and a life-changing promise


CNHI

— — To go or not to go.

That was the dilemma I faced as a high school senior while trying to decide if college was right for me.



My older brother chose to go into the Navy rather than college. Our folks were proud of him but I sensed some disappointment about college.



My favorite teacher in high school kept telling me that the time would come that the best paying, most secure jobs would go only to those with college degrees.



I’m not sure I believed him at the time but he turned out to be a prophet.



He told me that going to college had changed his life forever. His statement kept running through my mind.



Less than two weeks before the fall term began, I reluctantly applied to what is now a community and technical college.



My elderly, widowed grandmother offered me free room and board at her home and my mother agreed to co-sign a private bank loan for tuition and books for the first year.



I held a few temporary jobs before getting on as a part-time newspaper reporter. Being young and dumb at the time, I partied too much and used up my college money.



I asked my grandmother, who had an eighth grade education, if I could continue to live with her while I worked to save money to go back to school.

She was obviously disappointed but said I could stay on.

The next morning I picked up the phone and heard my grandmother in conversation with one of her sons. Neither knew I was on the line.



She asked him how, at her age, if she could get a $5,000 loan on her home which was debt free.



My uncle, who managed her finances, asked why she needed that much money. I almost dropped the phone when she responded:



“Keith needs help with his tuition and I don’t want him to drop out. He might never go back.”



I was too choked up to speak when she walked into my bedroom and sat down on my bed. She started to tell me about the money.



Through my tears, I hugged her tightly and told her that I loved her but that I didn’t need her money.



I made a solemn promise to her that day that I would continue to work and finish college, regardless of how long it might take.



Eight years later, when I finally graduated with a four-year degree, she was the proudest person there.

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Keith Kappes is a columnist for The Morehead (Ky.) News. Contact him at kkappes@cnhi.com.