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I’m so excited about my root canal today. That’s not a phrase you read every day, or ever; but for me, it’s true.

I weighed the choice between leaving for Spain for 10 days with a toothache or begging the dentist to fit me into his schedule for attacking that nasty tooth nerve. And the choice was clear.

In Spain, there will painfully hot coffee and even more painful iced gelato to consume. Suffer now (and pay a lot for it), to drink coffee later was my decision. All the red Spanish wine in the world wouldn’t handle a tooth reacting to heat and cold like it had been struck with lightning.

After all, I’m planning on a blissful trip watching our daughter receive her college diploma and I don’t want a toothache to mar the experience. There are a lot of jokes that come to mind about the pain of paying tuition being equivalent to that of dental work. I knew a graduate whose father said to him at the ceremony, “Say something that sounds like it’s worth $100,000.” And that was years ago before the price grew even higher. But I’ve dreamed for 22 years of paying to make this graduation day possible.

It’s a dream that runs in the family. I don’t know if it’s bragging or admitting to springing from a long line of nutty people, but as far back as the Depression era 1930s, Anderson parents have been paying for college, no matter what.

My father’s story is that when he went to college in the ‘30s, he apologized to his father for the expense, making a plan to repay it. Money was tight, and he recalls driving with my grandfather for an entire day during the Depression, trying to collect a $5 fee for legal services.

But my grandfather’s oft-repeated reply was, “You can pay me back by paying for your kids’ education.”

So that’s what we are doing this year, paying for our own educations with our investment in our daughter’s future.

And there will be a small bit of karma for our daughter, when her much older brother attends her ceremony. He’s never quite forgotten how she attended his college graduation when she was five months old. When the head of his department shook his hand while handing over the diploma, he leaned in to say something to the graduate. But it wasn’t a bit of wisdom or advice. “Is that your sister crying in the back row?” was the final word from his esteemed department head.

So, I’m not certain if the grown-up brother will pay it forward for his sister by sobbing in the back row. But I hope so, because there’s a chance it will drown out any snuffling noises I may make at the big day.

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