Our niece graduated from college earlier this month. Heck, with our colossal extended family, hubby has nine sisters and a brother, someone is always graduating from something. Cara is the middle child of one of Rick’s long laundry list of sisters. This May, Cara received her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Hook ‘em Horns University in Austin. And bless her little heart, not to mention her parent’s moth-eaten wallet, she did it all in four years. May she be an inspiration to college students everywhere that a bachelor’s degree can still be obtained in four years. When we received our graduation invitation at the Frantz house, there was a lively discussion about who was going to attend the pomp and circumstance festivities. Traveling long distances with our special needs kiddo can be a challenge. But driving three hours and attending a long evening graduation ceremony, with dinner afterwards, would be close to the stupidest thing we ever thought about doing on a Friday night. “I’ll stay home with Mimi. The two of us will be there in spirit floating above the crowd. You just take lots of pictures and expect a total de-briefing when you get back on Saturday,” I told Rick, who would be accompanied by Katie and Ricky, our other kidlets. Rick considered seeing if he could get his hands on an antique pocket protector and thick-rimmed eyeglasses to wrap up with Cara’s graduation present. Of course, he had that great idea a tad too late, but it is the thought that counts. Actually, Cara is the last person in the world you’d ever meet and think to yourself, “now that girl is totally a nerd.” Only three words immediately come to mind after you meet the young lady: tall, blond, and as our Mimi always says, adorable. That Friday evening as I sat with Mimi at home, I wondered if Cara might be considering the legacy she was perpetuating walking across the stage that night? It was 31 years ago, way back in 1976, when Cara’s mother, Mary, and her Uncle Rick, graduated from the same university. They were the first and second UT graduates in the Frantz family. Our Katie was the third to bleed burnt orange in 2002. Rick and Mary’s college journeys were not your usual “adventure toward graduation” story. Rick and I were only married about a year when we moved to Austin for the express purpose of Rick completing an engineering degree. The very modest four-plex we moved our stuff into had an electrical fire the night we moved in. In an instant, all our belongings were severely smoke damaged. At the time, we thought if that wasn’t an omen we should skateboard ourselves right on back to Houston, we didn’t know what was. Thankfully, we were too young and stupid to know that was an option. During those lean college years, I remember we ate lots of mac and cheese. And when there were a couple of extra quarters in the food budget, we added tuna and peas. Memories. Oh, and Rick’s computer programming class was my personal favorite. It was the only one I could offer my expertise. Since typing was my forte, I keypunched all his computer cards. Heck, I also prayed a lot that Rick would pass engineering physics. He did … so I guess you could say I helped in that area as well. A semester later, Mary moved in with us and spent the next two years acquiring her marketing degree. We split living expenses and supported each other emotionally and spiritually through the next two years. I heard that Cara had her own struggles during the past four years. At her graduation dinner, her father talked about the hours on the phone spent talking Cara out of throwing in the towel and coming home. Yep, she made it. Rick recalled during his de-briefing that during Cara’s graduation ceremony, when all the graduates were milling around in a sea of black caps and gowns after walking across the stage, Mary turned to her brother, and said, “Can you see Cara?” “She’s the one with the black gown and hat on,” Rick whispered in her ear about the adorable young lady that had just made the Frantz family proud. Dixie Frantz is a Kingwood resident and newspaper columnist for the past decade. E-mail Dixie with your comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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