On Choices

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I was close to my grandpa when I was younger. He took me fishing all the time, and our trips to McDonald’s are the stuff of legends. I visited his grave out at Fort Bayard National Cemetery yesterday afternoon. I took a couple of flags, not knowing that flags are placed out there by groundskeepers. I also took my camera:

Giles Alvis Gary

Visiting my grandfather’s grave always causes no small amount of introspection. It dates back to the summer of 1997, right after I graduated high school. His health was beginning to fail, though I knew little of it at the time. He pulled me aside one afternoon, and offered to pay for college. There was just one catch:

“If you stay here and go to Western, I’ll pay for your tuition.”

At the time, I was dead-set on music education, and wanted to get out of Silver City (as many young people do when they finish high school). Besides, I had a scholarship at NMSU which would pay for my tuition there. Nonetheless, his offer touched me, and I apologetically declined.

During the first few years of college, I didn’t see much of my grandpa – I was, after all, a two-hour drive away, and my time was occupied with marching band and learning how to be a bad student.

Our lives are shaped by the choices we make, and the smallest can have significant consequences – or rewards – that we can’t foresee. My decision to leave Silver City was a small one, I thought at the time, but was in fact a major one in hindsight.

When I think of my grandpa’s offer, I often wonder how drastically different my life would be. After a poor showing at NMSU, I returned to Silver City in late 1999 to work at Stream International, the town’s new call center. I had a little girl, and moved away to California for a year. I returned, and set my eyes on Western New Mexico University.

My career as a journalist began in 2004 as a political tactic, to try and stack the WNMU student newspaper and student government with like-minded individuals. That I would end up at WNMU five years after my grandfather asked me to attend the school is, in an unfortunate way, ironic.

My grandpa died in 1999, two years after I left. I miss him more than I could describe.

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