A surprise worth sharing came in a piece of Christmas mail, but first I need to give a bit of background. Back in the day when I married the youngest of the four Butler boys (Allen), my sister-in-law who had married the oldest (James) commuted from Pontotoc, MS about thirty miles north to take a class or two at Blue Mountain College. Married her senior year in high school to the young high school assistant coach, Bettye’s college aspirations would continue by fits and starts, interrupted by three children and eventually by her hostess duties when James moved on to become the Alumni Secretary and then Alumni Director at Ole Miss. She continued to take classes now and then at Ole Miss.
Years of Butler dinners, common family stories, and shared joys and sorrows including one long night standing watch with her, keeping an eye on her infant daughter in the hospital, and just the kaleidoscope of life have brought the “Sister” of this relationship into prominence and forgetfulness to its “-in-law” ending.
Often, Bettye has paid more attention to encouraging others to finish degrees than to working on her own. As I commuted to Ole Miss to finish my last two years, we had a standing arrangement for a once-a-week lunch. I picked up their oldest daughter at elementary school, and we hurried to the good meal we knew Bettye had prepared – often including my favorite asparagus casserole. She also provided a haven when I got stranded one night by my carpool.
One morning this fall, after a 38-year hiatus from classes, Bettye decided to pick up the phone and see just how much she lacked having her own degree, thinking she was about six hours short. “I’m not a quitter,” she told the development officer. Within a few days, she received word that analysis of her records with current requirements for graduation made her eligible for graduation with no further classes, even with a few hours to spare – hence my Christmas surprise, a clipping from The Oxford Eagle with the headline, “Oxonian Bettye Butler Receives UM Diploma at 87” with pictures of her receiving the degree she earned supported by her three proud children, also Ole Miss graduates.
My first thought was the line from the old song, “If you don’t have a dream, how’re you gonna have a dream come true?” To say that I am proud of her is grossly understating the case.