Last tuition payment milestone to celebrate

Schlueterville will be full of milestones this year. It kicks off next week with celebrating the last tuition payment we will ever make to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. (Insert a heartfelt, “Thank you, Jesus!” here.)

We’ve been paying UNL in some form or another since 2005, when our eldest son, Rocket, entered its hallowed halls as a freshman. Hunka Burnin’ Hubby and I will join the ranks of alumni parents when our youngest son, Magnet, graduates this May. It’s been a blast and a privilege to watch teenagers grow into young adults. It’s been a blessing to help them graduate without the burden of student loans.

The Schlueterville budget took an epic beating the last eight years, and Hunka and I became pretty adept at robbing Peter to pay Paul. The newest automobile we own is 13 years old, and our kitchen is held together with duct tape and baling wire. We aren’t an anomaly by any means; it’s what parents do when they have kids in college. If you go into the kids-in-college years with faith and a sense of humor, everything seems to work out fine.

To say we are proud of our sons is a ridiculous understatement, but we give the credit to God. With each passing year, it is easy to see how the parts of family life were designed by a hand vastly greater than our own. Hunka is self-employed in construction, which was a giant learning tool in teaching the value of knuckle-busting work in less than optimal conditions. Father and sons spent countless days standing shoulder-to-shoulder in triple digit heat, hammering and plastering, building scaffolding and mixing concrete. It gave the Schlueter men a lot of one-on-one time to discuss important stuff — solving the world’s problems through fast cars, politics and football. Dad coached and taught and guided and cajoled. Sons watched and learned and tried and perfected. Independence, self-respect, and a deep appreciation for earning a living was the result. Hunka graduated from the School of Hard Knocks, and watching his sons graduate from college is a deeply satisfying accomplishment.

Hunka’s business — every smashed thumb/economy-prone/80-hour work week part of it — was a blessing.

In the meantime, I was given the chance to witness what I missed in my own childhood. Having grown up fatherless, it has been a joy watching my own sons connect so closely to their dad. It’s instilled in me a reverence for the positive power of family, and a deep sense of sadness for parents who can’t or won’t take their roles seriously. They don’t know what they’re missing. The world can be a dark, scary place, and a family that always has your back is worth volumes when the roof leaks and rain starts to fall.

So here we are, Hunka and I, on the verge of closing one chapter of life and entering another. It’s an anti-tuition transition, if you will. Maybe we’ll cruise car lots with a little more interest, or price new kitchen cupboards. Perhaps we’ll plan a vacation that requires airfare and lasts longer than a couple of days. Either way, any day, life is a big, fat blessing.

Tamera Schlueter

Tam Schlueter adopts a "strike-fast-and-keep-them-laughing" approach to writing. Her column appears every Thursday in the Hastings Tribune, and showcases the wonder of family, dogs, muscle cars, and folks with blue collars and no-nonsense attitudes.

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