In March of 2006, my son Sam was home from college for the weekend. There were a bunch of us at dinner, Sam’s friends and mine and Eric’s (Sam’s Dad, my husband). Nearing the end of his sophomore year, Sam insisted he should drop out of college and open a restaurant with Eric. Eric had worked in food services his entire life, first at his Uncle Babe’s fish market, then at Babe’s snack bar on a lake in Connecticut. He’d waited tables at countless restaurants, fancy and simple, and for almost three decades had directed food and nutrition departments at hospitals. He’d often fantasized about owning a restaurant, and Sam is a plan-a-minute man, so he thought Eric might bite.
“You should stay in school,” Eric said. Our friends all agreed.
“What about all of you?” Sam asked. Of the eight adults at dinner, only one had finished college in four years. Three had never gotten degrees, one had dropped out of high school but still ended up with a BA in philosophy, one had started her degree in her 30’s. Eric didn’t get his BS until his late 30’s after attending four different undergraduate schools, and my own college history included a bad-marriage-break. Yet, we all had professional jobs.
“The world is different now,” Eric said. “You need a degree.”
“Look,” I said. “This is the path you’re on right now. Stay on it and see where it leads. Life is more about floating down river than it is about marching across a field.”
“Where did you hear that?” a friend asked.
“I made it up.”
Two months later, Eric was dead, at 54, from metastatic ocular melanoma that we’d had no idea was busy eating away his insides. The river got really turbulent for a good while, and still does from time to time, but we’re still floating and the water is still moving to the sea.