I didn’t really want to be an Aggie.
I thought the culture was crazy, if not regressive, and that the school was solely meant for football — a sport I couldn’t care less about at the time. My eyes were directly set on ending up somewhere in northern California (to be fair, they still are). However, my Dad knew better. He had his heart set on Aggieland.
The night I received my acceptance letter into Texas A&M-Galveston, my Dad was still at work. When he came in from a long day on his feet — just like every day because he was a preowned car sales manager at a luxury car dealership — I was able to cheer him up by handing him a large white envelope holding my acceptance folder. When he realized I had been accepted, he cried in front of me for the third time in my life that I could remember.
“I haven’t been this proud since the doctor said ‘She’s a beautiful little girl,’” my Dad said while my best friend filmed his reaction. “Oh my God Savannah. I am so proud of you, that is amazing.”
Holding that letter, we didn’t know what the future would hold but we had high hopes. On the day I left for my New Student Conference, my Dad left for his new job in Beaumont. It was the beginning of a new chapter of our family’s life and one step closer for my parents to eventually retire in Galveston. What we didn’t know was that it would be the last time my Dad ever stepped foot in our house.
The summer before my freshman year of college was spent predominantly in two places: McKinney, the town I had called home for eight years and at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. At home, I had a typical summer; I worked, hung out with friends and took care of our house. I spent the other time at MD Anderson spending time with my father, who had been diagnosed only weeks after moving to his new job with stage four lung cancer which had metastasized throughout his body.
When I found out my Dad had maximum of months, not years, to live, I went back to visit him for the second time. After I saw his condition, which had propelled rapidly since the first visit, I sat on a white-tiled bathroom floor down the hallway from his hospital room crying with my best friend on the floor next to me. All I could focus on was the rage I felt, the hopelessness of both my Dad’s limited future and the uncertainty of my own without him. The last thing I was thinking about was my Aggie Ring.
To no surprise, when I walked back into his room less than 30 minutes later it wasn’t long until he would want to point at his ring finger on his right hand, which he did again and again. That was his way of telling me I was going to get my Aggie Ring because he had lost his ability to speak. To top it off, his psychologist was an Aggie and wore her ring proudly. Every time she came into his room, he would grab her hand and point at her ring and then at me, as if to make sure I knew the exact ring he was talking about.
“I promise, Dad,” I would say, shaking my head and chuckling at his stubborn behavior he passed down to me. I still dreamed about northern California, but a promise is a promise.
I was clearly wrong about Texas A&M. I transferred to the main campus, which was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I found organizations that define who I am and I have made lifelong friends. My Dad knew one thing, the same thing that sold him from the first time we visited A&M-Galveston: The Aggie Family is a family forever, one that will always be there to support you. He knew that when he was gone, I would be in a place that could support me. Now I know, Dad, that you were right. My ring will be a symbol of being a part of that family.
When my mother, the strongest woman I know, hands me my ring on Friday, I know my Dad will be smiling and pointing at my finger, wherever he may be. A promise is a promise.
“It’s still the same old story / A fight for love and glory / A case of do or die / The world will always welcome lovers / As time goes by”
–“As Time Goes By,” sung by Dooley Wilson and written by Herman Hupfeld and a song dear to my family’s heart.
I’m a proud Aggie with a piece of gold to prove it. Here’s looking at you, Dad.
Savannah Mehrtens is a university studies senior and news reporter for The Battalion.