It was a special weekend celebrating Samuel and grandson Vincie finishing middle school, made even more special with a visit from newlyweds Sarah and Trent, and Grandpa Bill.

Sam was excited to show my dad the sights of western Tennessee... though I may have failed to adequately convey to Dad just how much of our area, while quite beautiful, could be described as the middle of nowhere.

Sarah, like my dad, loves city life with its pace and culture, nightlife and entertainment options. And while Martin is something of a hybrid, with a university campus and businesses geared toward a sizable young demographic, make no mistake, it’s rural.

The boys were more than happy to be the reason for a three-day Butero family gathering that included fresh catfish at Reelfoot Lake, espresso shots at the distillery, insane shakes at the burger bar and testing out Trent’s virtual reality headset in the living room.

I lasted about 30 seconds in the virtual world before I had concerns that I could be the star of a spectacularly embarrassing viral video had Samuel thought ahead. Any remnants of childhood fantasy of what it would be like to float in space were gone the second Samuel told me to look down as I was trying to orient myself. I can admit that I most definitely don’t have “The Right Stuff” for that particular adventure....virtual or otherwise.

Bonus points for son-in-law Trent’s kind warning that I was awfully close to the fireplace. That was my cue to leave the VR to the kids.

Dad enjoyed my family’s shenanigans... and the food. And there was plenty of both.

While there was at least one daily outing, we all mostly just hung out at our house and enjoyed the time together.

Dad escaped back to civilization, and Starbucks, Sunday morning for his flight back to California. He still thinks we’re crazy for picking up and moving... but he appreciates why we did and knows he has a place to visit where the pace is a little slower. At least for a few days here and there.

Plus, I’m not opposed to a visit in Nashville once in a while as a compromise.

It was a special way to celebrate a new chapter in Samuel and Vincie’s life, and making it through middle school in a completely new place.

Both boys handled it better than anyone could ask. They have found great circles of friends, and both are excited for high school.

Yep. It was a pretty good weekend. Sitting across the kitchen table from Dad enjoying coffee and conversation in the mornings and ranting over politics while he laughed at the absurdities I see to roasting marshmallows and catching lightning bugs on Sunday night with the kids.

Can’t ask for much more!

Congratulations to The Class of 2021!

This senior class, and their parents, have dealt with a crazy world and ever-changing regulations to accomplish this goal, and they should all be commended.

Loudly and with much fanfare, whatever the venue.

I’m not going to offer a ton of advice... I still remember being 17 and ready to head to college, so sure of what I knew.

I soon found out how much I didn’t know. About the world, or myself.

It’s something you will have to figure out on your own. It’s one of those crazy life mysteries.

These seniors have learned much throughout their school years. An education that included math, language, history and science.

They have also learned lessons and experienced a real-world education about rights, public health, politics and and government policy. Lessons and experiences that are unique in their generation.

Some have flourished via Zoom, and found an alternative learning model that worked for them. Some organized protests to voice their discontent with closed schools and missed class time.

Their experiences will shape this generation in ways we can’t fathom.

It will be interesting to see what this generation does with it.

Maybe the abnormal as normal will help provide the next generation of solutions to the problems this generation has already faced.

I wholeheartedly wish good luck to the Class of 2021 as you take your next steps in life!

Staff columnist Toni Butero can be reached at or by calling (209) 862-2222.