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All that promise in four little letters: g-r-a-d

"Grad" might be my favorite four-letter word, which is really saying something, for I traffic in four-letter words — eat them, spew them, chomp them like gum. "Grad" is followed by "oops," "bonk," "ball" and "fall" (the season, not the act of tripping). "Beer" is also right up there, though I usually frown on drinking. It's just the additional hydration I crave.

Anyway, we now have another G-R-A-D, freshly minted from the Middle West, the pastures and lawns an Amish green. In May, Indiana smells of dandelions and funnel cakes. We almost lost the little guy in a field of high grass. Eventually found him, plucked him from a field the way you would a lost bunny.

Also found the college girl, the wild flower who went east four years ago to this prominent school and immediately pronounced it home.

In addition to a pricey diploma, she now has this tribe of permanent friends. They're like the Sopranos. They stay up all night and they laugh a mobster's laugh. Nice kids. I predict great things. Not of them, necessarily, but of the world in general. Predicting great things has always been a very solid bet.

And don't listen to what Time magazine says about these so-called millennials, or "The Me Me Me Generation." What band of college kids hasn't been slackers, and if you want to know listlessness, step back to the late '70s. I think my roommate majored in sleep yet went on to a very productive career with CBS.

So never judge people too quickly or by what they do in bed — that's only one of life's playing fields. Note that this year's grads are glowingly beautiful, their smiles might snow-blind the sun. For these moments alone, digital photography was invented.

Remember when she stepped away from us, into that cinder block gulag where they always house the freshmen? Hot as Hades, that dorm, as we lugged all the Ikea crud into her room, some so cheap it melted in my sweaty hands.

My spine is bent from too many Delta flights, and I remember at one point just collapsing on the steps and thinking: "This is how they thank us? By running off to a steam bath 2,000 miles away? She couldn't maybe spend all our savings someplace closer?"

It was as if we'd dropped her into a Judy Garland movie. As we left the airport, tornadoes swirled. Good luck, kid. Watch out for flying cows.

Now we are back to find that classmates egged their apartment door last winter, and the young scholars had been so busy with their studies that they hadn't had a chance to wash it down. That's how rigorous college now is. Like I said, when I went to school, mostly what we did was sleep.

Four years? Already? They marked these final moments of childhood with a wonderful commencement. Pomp was there. Circumstance stopped by. The president of the university spoke, full of self delight. He told the kids that their six-figure degree almost certainly assures them of a happy and prosperous life, even as they now head off to live in their parents' basements.

Later, the parents sat around vaporous campus taverns and exchanged family stories about fortunes lost and grandpas shot off hay wagons — "that's the French side of the family."

We noted all the things that have happened over the past four years: Twitter. Twatter. Popcorn-flavored vodka.

Now even more brilliant advances await. It's not like we've gifted them a perfect world. Someone must lead us out of our political funk, and eventually Hollywood will make a great movie again, or even a catchy pop song.

When we should've been curing cancer, or at least wiping out hunger and thirst, we were instead inventing sedans that park themselves.

But that's OK. To fix everything would've been a little showy. So we leave you a few leftovers, kids.

And this last graduation toast:

Dear Grads, always remember that life seems too short when you are happy and too long when you are not. Health is everything, just after family and friends. Save 10% of all you earn, 15 if you can swing it. Treat yourself, but don't forsake others. Lend a hand. Wash a wino (it might be your old man). When given the chance, dance like there's no tomorrow.

Yet, there are many tomorrows. And now, dear children, they all belong to you.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

twitter.com/erskinetimes

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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