My granddad won’t be at my high school graduation. He won’t hug me and tell me how proud he is of me. He won’t visit me at UNC, but he will be there.
My granddad passed away when I was 11. I am 18 now and I’m still learning how to cope with his absence. I find solace in the things we share: our stubbornness, our 1964 Gibson Sunburst, our University.
My granddad attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated with a degree in chemistry in 1951. UNC is where he married my granny and saw two of his children, my father included, born. Chapel Hill was an integral part of his life and I can feel his presence on the campus. I picture him drinking from the Old Well, sitting under Davie Poplar, and walking the paths to class. His footsteps are all over UNC, a fact I’m sure will comfort me during bouts of homesickness.
I’ve wanted to attend UNC since I was a child. No other college was ever an option. For a large part of my life, my devotion stemmed from my infatuation with the basketball team. As I aged, it grew to encompass a love of the history and the educational quality of the institution. It wasn’t until a few months after I submitted my application that I started to think about what it meant to attend the same university as my granddad. It would mean continuing a tradition he started (my dad and sister also attended UNC) and getting to experience many of the same things he might've. More importantly, though, it would mean following my passions in the same place my granddad did. Although I can't stand chemistry and can't even begin to guess what he'd think about child development and creative writing, I know he'd be proud of me for pursuing what I love, even more so that I'd be pursuing it at UNC.
I can't call my granddad and ask him to tell me stories about his glory days at UNC, but I can tell him all about mine during nights in my dorm when I can't fall asleep. Then, when the darkness surrenders to a cloudless, Carolina blue sky the next morning and a warm breeze tickles my neck, I'll know my granddad was listening and that he's proud of me.