News and Tribune


August 19, 2013

CUMMINS: Gather ye, the milestones


A birth certificate, driver’s license and a high school diploma sets you up for life. A marriage license may or may not set you back. After having children, you watch them receive certificates. You smile, beaming proudly, as they walk back to you, and then they walk away maybe to a college sheepskin, and then a marriage license certifying grandchildren. Have you ever driven 200 miles to watch a granddaughter receive a Girl Scout certificate? They give certificates for everything from kindergarten graduation to working 40 years racing rats. Milestones wear you down.

A high school diploma, symbolizing academic achievement where graduates wear a silly cap and gown, is the breakaway point. Kids say I’m out of here and leave you. You’re relieved. They return. It’s money. So you sit them down and explain that the more certificates they get the better chance they have. You write a certified check and they leave again. All you want from them is a certificate expressing appreciation. All they want from you is being there when they need you. When you need someone to cry on, they write a prescription to Walgreens. If you have a Medicare certificate, you lean on the government’s shoulder, your last hope.

Certificates saying he participated in something, or a flowery one indicating he went beyond the call of duty is not as meaningful as a plaque. When you get a plaque, you know they took up a collection. I’ve donated many times. You attend an honor dinner and it takes up to midnight to give out a stack of plaques. You learn the history of people, their birth, their degrees and how they volunteered or worked endlessly, tirelessly for mankind. Don’t tell me they didn’t get tired. It makes me tired listening to it. Some of these speeches are longer than those President Obama gave when he tried to change everything. 

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