"So, how about you, Becky? You're in college?" The Bean leaned forward to take a sip of his Sam Adams, careful not to lean the elbows of his blue hoodie on anything sticky.
"Yeah, I'm working through the prerequisites to enter a nursing program." My shift was over, but as I'd made a beeline for the door, anxious to escape the bar after eight hours of dealing with football fans, I'd seen him there. I'd only stopped by to say a quick hello, but one thing led to another, and an hour later I was seated on the stool next to him, cocktail waitress apron on the bar by my elbow.
"Yeah, I think I'll like it. I mean, if I didn't have to worry about money, I might do something like a Creative Writing degree, or maybe even Spanish... or Sociology... maybe a translation degree..." I trailed off with a laugh. "None of the things I like really pay the bills, so nursing it is."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. I was in school for engineering, but when I started making good money selling cars, I never quite finished." He took another sip of beer, and I studied his face from beneath my lashes. Man, he had really nice eyes. Those eyes were incredible.
"Oh, that sucks." I sat there a moment, letting silence carry the weight of my sympathy. He'd already complained to me about the way the car industry had tanked with the economy. "How close were you to graduating?'
"I had one semester left." He laughed, shook his head, and took a big swing of beer.
I raised my eyebrows and and waited... but there was no punchline. "You're kidding, right?'
"You were one semester away from graduating with an engineering degree from a prestigious UC school... and you just quit? Are you freakin' kidding me?'
"I was making really good money - like, really good-- much better than I ever would have as an engineer. It didn't make sense to continue."
"But you were one semester away, Bean. Just one semester." I stared at him, unreasonably irritated by the foolhardiness of his decision.
He gave a rueful shrug. "It was really good money." He opened his mouth to change the subject, but I wasn't about to let the matter drop.
There was a reason I was single, despite working in a crowded, busy sportsbar.
"You're an idiot. Seriously. If you don't go back and finish that semester and get your degree, you're an absolute idiot." I set my drink down and stared at him hard.
His eyes met mine, and he held my stare for a long moment.
"Maybe I will, Becky. Maybe I will."
Today was The Bean's last final.
When he went back to finish his degree, one thing led to another, and he made the decision to start over from scratch and "do it right", to use his words.
I may, or may not, have called him an idiot again. I plead the fifth.
Two weeks into his first semester we found out I was pregnant with the DragonMonkey.
It's been a little over four and a half years since then.
He completed the whole thing in four and a half years, from start to finish, despite working around 50 hours a week, moving several times, and having two kids. In fact, for the last two years, he's been working two jobs. For a brief period there he was actually working three.
He is graduating with a 3.9, with only three B's on his entire transcript.
He's graduating the top of his class in the accounting department. A really nice accounting firm in Portland has already snatched him up, and as you all know, in less than two weeks we'll be living there.
Bean, I'd like to propose a toast.
Here's to the hard work, and the sleepless nights. Here's to the lonely weekends, and the staying up late, studying ridiculously boring subjects. Here's to waking up at three so you can have everything ready for work and still show up on time to your 5 am math class.
Here's to $300 tax books that the bookstore won't buy back because there's a "new edition."
Here's to skipping new movies, and vacations, and even our honeymoon so we didn't have to pull out a bigger loan.
Here's to horselessness.
Here's to you getting up on the morning after we got married, kissing me on the cheek while I nestled deeper in the hotel sheets, and still making it to your Saturday class.
Here's to not punching your fellow students when they complained to the teacher about juggling their school workload with their part-time, minimum wage job.
Here's to all of our sacrifices.
Here's to us.
I'm proud of you, baby.
Now... let's go have a little fun.