Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
TIME TO START A COLLEGE FUND
Approximately one year from now I’ll be required to write the first of many college tuition checks. Our daughters are four years apart in age, which means we will have a child in college for eight consecutive years. A friend of mine who already has a child in college told me, “It’s not too bad. It’s sort of like having two mortgage payments each month.”
Two mortgage payments each month is not too bad? What planet does my friend live on? I can barely make one mortgage payment each month. I wonder if the bank will mind if I take a 96-month sabbatical from making payments while I send my kids to college?
As soon as our first daughter was born, our relatives and friends advised us to start saving money right away for her college education. I decided to wait a while for two reasons: number one, I wanted to be sure she was interested in going to college. After all, if she ended up flunking out of Kindergarten or had her heart set on making fast-food burger-flipping a lifelong profession, a college fund would not be necessary.
Number two, I was broke.
At the time our first daughter was born, few people mistakenly thought my wife and I were members of the Rockefeller family. (Although many people who witnessed my Saturday night bar-hopping routine mistakenly thought I was a member of the Kennedy family.) I don’t think my daughter fully appreciates how lucky she was to have been the first grandchild on both sides of the family. If her four grandparents hadn’t treated each day as if it was Christmas morning, my daughter would’ve been wearing old newspapers and duct tape instead of Pampers, and drinking milk pilfered from the next-door neighbor’s cat dish.
We didn’t give serious thought to putting money in a college fund back then because we were too busy giving serious thought to how we were going to put gas in the car that week (assuming the repo man hadn’t snatched the car out of the driveway in the middle of the night).
But eventually our financial situation stabilized—mostly because I finally “put the plug in the jug,” as they say. We even took a vacation, visiting a couple of exotic tourist locations. (“For the first half of the week we’ll hang out in the back yard, and for the second half of the week we’ll hang out in the front yard. Where’s the suntan lotion?”)
Just when we were in a position to set up a college fund, our second daughter came along. By this time the wonderment of having grandchildren was not quite as intense. Instead of December 25th, each day was now more like August 12th. (What’s so special about August 12th, you ask? Nothing. That’s the point.)
As a result, my wife and I were forced to buy the newspapers and duct tape ourselves—oops, I mean the Pampers and the milk ourselves. (Let me just say at this point, for the sake of honesty, fairness, and the fact that I don’t want to be written out of anyone’s will: my parents and in-laws have always been more than loving and generous with my second daughter. It’s just that when she was born, a multitude of other grandchildren were beginning to appear on the scene, and so the attention of the grandparents was naturally somewhat diluted. Did I phrase that the way you wanted me to, dear?)
Once again, because of tight financial circumstances, we postponed setting up a college fund. Then an incredible thing happened. I went to bed one night when my daughters were ages seven and three. I woke up the next morning and they suddenly had become ages 17 and 13. I must have been in a coma for the entire decade of the 90s. (Millions of others must have been in a coma, too, as the nation elected Bill Clinton twice during that time.)
This morning I finally went to the bank to set up a college fund. When the bank officer learned the details of my situation, he got up from his desk and asked me to follow him. We walked outside and went across the street. I was unaware the bank had another branch office so nearby. And I was also unaware this other branch office sold gasoline and cigarettes.
The bank officer introduced me to his associate, Brittany, a cheerful young lady with green hair and a ring in her nose. He then explained the details of their “super special” college fund program: visit Brittany each week and purchase a fistful of lottery tickets.
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