Heck of a start to what should probably be some highly profound bit of writing from me.
I mean, it’s not exactly every day that your only child graduates from high school. And I’ve only been pondering what to say or write for how many years now? Yet, here I am, mostly not able to get beyond “hmm”.
I’ve even wondered “why write anything at all, if you’re this stuck?”. Contrary to what I sometimes think it may look like, I really don’t write for the “major events” for the public. It’s just a format that I’ve grown comfortable with, one where I seem to find more of the words that I’m looking for than I do when trying to speak them one on one.
It’s not that I have any real big issues communicating verbally with my child or anything. We actually, perhaps, communicate a little too well at times. We lapse into shorthand, with reference points from a wide range of subjects, almost too easily. It’s just that, well, some things just seem as though they’re too big, too momentous, too milestone worthy to allow ourselves that easy out.
And so I write. Or try to.
But what on Earth do I say that hasn’t already been said? I’m not exactly the picture of healthy living, so I’ve generally erred on the side of saying things to him as the moments come, not confident in the wisdom of holding anything back for later. I’m not yet 50, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve been comfortable buying green bananas. (Okay, I don’t actually buy bananas period. I don’t like them, I don’t eat them, it’s just a metaphor).
I think I’ve managed to make it clear to both him and the rest of the world that I couldn’t possibly love him more, be any prouder of him, be any happier with him as both a child and a person than I already am. We’ve actually been quite blessed in that regard I believe, we’ve certainly had our ups & downs as any parent/child relationships do but overall I believe he’s been secure in the knowledge that he’s a child that is truly beloved. Not only here at home, but by grandparents and great grandparents and an array of other relatives. Indeed, his life has been one where love surrounded him, for which I’m truly grateful.
You’ve heard that thing about how “it takes a village“, he had one with a lot of residents. From neighbors that greeted us at the car when he came home from the hospital, to a restauranteur that was our mutual island of sanity during the stay at home dad years, to his “harem” of various teenage girls that were part of our lives. Part baby-sitter, part older sisters, part best friends, they were instrumental in helping get him from infancy to where we are today. I could go at considerable length here, certainly can’t omit a number of male influences either. His gaggle of girls brought into our lives some amazing young men, who shared things like football and video games and all sorts of other guy stuff. But what they really gave him was time and attention, positive influences & role models. They were prisms of sorts, lenses that allowed him to project himself into different roles & begin to contemplate questions like “who am I” and “what do I want to be”. They were also invaluable support as we faced the most traumatic parenting moment of all:
the start of school.
Every one of you helped get us to today, my gratitude for the help is tremendous.
We were mostly an own-our-business and work-from-home a lot family in his youngest days. You’ve never seen a more sad sack pair of parents than us on his first day of kindergarten. Oh we got out of the parking lot fine enough, heck I bet we were at least 0.1 miles from the school before the tears started. He was fine, we were pretty much wrecks that spent the rest of the day watching the clock & counting the time until he could come home. Minus the tears part, I’m not sure we’ve entirely recovered from that sentiment yet.
Looking back, 13 years of school, it’s kind of a big blur right now. 3 schools (including three in a four year span), 2 towns, and lots of … stuff.
Son of mine, from the first school you learned some things that have served you incredibly well. You hold doors open, you say sir and ma’am at the appropriate times, you keep an eye out for the younger students around you. Those behaviors all became so deeply imprinted on you that they quickly became simply part of who you are, intrinsic, natural. Those things may not be purely academic but they’ve proven time & again to be among the most valuable lessons you ever received.
From the second, you began to learn about your own adaptability. Uprooted, transplanted, thrown into deeper water than you’d encountered before. But you steadied yourself, you grew, you swam. You learned the value of “fake it til you make it” and began to develop some valuable skills in an area we might call “figure it out“.
And then the third stop on the road so far. That deeper water from before suddenly got a lot deeper, and with a lot swifter current. I don’t know if there’s really any better summary of those years than one of our running family jokes, the one about how we should print t-shirts that read “The Acad Experience” with a nice Jimi Hendrix motif. I’d feel dishonest if I didn’t say something here about how that phrase has more nuances and possible interpretations and applications than could be covered in several thousand words. But a lot of those are … things for another day.
Today, well, that’s for recognition and celebration. And you’ve certainly received and earned a share of those. One of your greatest assets might very well be that I really don’t have to point out a lot of the good you’ve taken from The Experience, you detailed many of them quite well in your own speech at Vespers. You’ve learned that “hard does not always equal bad“, that “you can’t always get it like you want it“, to “be careful what you wish for” and that “they can kill you but they can’t eat you, it’s in the rules“. Okay, that last one is mostly via your Mom but it still seems to fit here somehow.
You learned the value of hard work, the importance of maximizing your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses while you improved those areas. You learned how to experiment with things until you found the methods that worked best for you. You learned how to make lemonade when you ended up with a large case of lemons.
And now here we are. By the time you read this there isn’t even a wake-up call left before you graduate.
I wanted something profound for today, to find some perfect wording to convey some inherent & invaluable truth to you. Thing is, I’ve repeatedly used most of the best material I have already. “Work is what funds play”, “If you want to find the motive, following the money rarely fails”, “When you reach bottom, STOP DIGGING” and above all else “Just be Will. That’s going to be enough for any situation“. (The fact that your father has “only one nerve left” , perhaps the very earliest lesson you ever consistently repeated back, really doesn’t fit into this category so don’t go there). The irreplaceable former headmaster Bob Chambers gave you even better advice that I’m always ready to repeat “Be where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to be doing, on time” and you’ll rarely find trouble.
That’s ground that’s really been covered already, some of it pretty well worn at this point. But I do think I’ve figured out what I really want to say to you today:
You’ve done it. You hit enough shots, you battled through adversity, you played enough defense, you hit the free throw down the stretch. The clock is about to reach 0:00, it’s okay to look at the scoreboard and raise your arms in exultation.
You did it.
It was not easy, the breaks didn’t always go your way, you fought, you scrapped, you battled. You made us all proud, for not just the outcome but for the way you represented yourself and those who supported you.
It’s a big win, but other challenges lie ahead. Today is neither the end nor the beginning, it’s really a sort of way station. Keep striving, keep learning, keep growing, keep doing. There’s much more ahead of you.
With all my love,
your very proud Dad