While friends and family prepare to send their sons and daughters off to college, I’m gearing up for my husband’s first year of law school. (If you have a kid headed off for college, you ought to check out this Letter to College Freshman).
I’m not quite sure what to expect. For the past 27 years Tim has been a high school teacher and a coach. We have moved to the rhythm of daily doubles, early practice, late practice, away games, home games, booster dinners and the anxiety over whether football playoffs would interfere with the start of basketball season.
Our entire married life – 33 years – has revolved around the activities of kids. Drama productions. Band recitals, Homecoming and Prom. Did I mention, yet, that Tim also serves as the Student Leadership advisor?
At age 53, Tim isn’t eligible for retirement. He’s got at least three more years before he can officially retire. Perfect timing, we agreed, for him to do that thing he’s dreamt of doing – work on his law degree. So Tim resigned all his coaching positions (something had to give) and enrolled in Northwest California University’s distance-ed program.
Our four children, all grown now with careers of their own, aren’t the least bit surprised by our decision. How many other fathers sit around reading the Federalist Papers for pleasure? They grew up in the home where education is considered a life-long pursuit, not just a degree one hangs on the wall.
They were in high school when their father took a sabbatical so he could work on his Masters in History. In an effort to save money, this Washington State University grad student slept in the back of his SUV and showered in WSU’s recreation center. The kids were mortified that their friends might discover that their father was “homeless” but they understood that when it comes to his needs versus theirs, Tim always put the kids first.
That’s why he postponed getting that law degree. We were both seniors in college when we married, and learned three months later that we were going to be parents. (I could write another whole essay about the birth control failures of the Student Health Clinic). The babies came in rapid succession after that – two arriving on the same day within thirteen minutes of one another.
We had four children under the age of 5 by the time we were both 27. Our initial plan had been that I would teach and he would go to seminary, maybe law school. That all changed when those babies arrived. He found that he loved teaching and I discovered a love of writing. Eventually, I was the one spending days at the courthouse, working as a crime beat reporter, reporting back to him the nuances of the cases I was covering.
My first book – Benched (Mercer University Press) – was about Georgia’s first-elected woman judge – Judge Rufe McCombs. As a Superior Court Judge, McCombs oversaw nine death penalty cases. Although, such cases were supposedly assigned by lottery, Judge McCombs was convinced that the male judges were rigging the system so that she was given all the difficult cases. Never one to shy from a challenge, she was not intimidated. McCombs remains one of the best respected judges in the State of Georgia.
Perhaps Judge McCombs is the reason why I’m not the least bit put off when people express surprise or shock that my husband would tackle law school – at his age. Although Judge McCombs earned her law degree from the University of Georgia as a young coed, her career goals were delayed for many years, first by a debilitating bout with tuberculosis, followed by an advanced age pregnancy (she was 40), then devastating colon-cancer. Judge McCombs was 54 when she earned her first judgeship. Tim’s long-term goal isn’t to be just a lawyer. This James Madison Fellow, this constitutional history scholar, plans on being a judge one day.
It might take my husband a little longer than that, but I have every confidence in the world that Coach Tim will soon be more commonly referred to as “Your Honor”.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? ‘Cause I need more room for my plasma TV.