Hope and graduation

The past week was a bit of a blur and part of me is grateful for that. Too much it seems was going on in the world. I am rather glad I missed most of it. Tuesday was my brother’s high school graduation and while not everything had gone entirely to plan in the days leading up to the big event, things had begun to finally work themselves out.

We made our way into the arena where the ceremony would take place. Though it was only midmorning, the weather was already hot and humid, however, thanks to my grandfather’s attendance (and his handicap placard) we didn’t have to walk far. I scanned the program while we waited. There were over six hundred names in total, double that of my graduating class. We might as well get comfortable.

The orchestra began to play as we rose for the national anthem. Most of us stood in silence, preferring to let the trained voices of the chorus do their work. But not my grandfather. At 101, he belted out the lyrics as proudly as if he was a superfan at a rock concert (something by the way he’d never willingly attend – he’s more of a jazz man). Then it was on to Pomp and Circumstance, as the graduates filed into the building dressed in their black robes and graduation caps.

After what felt like ages, I saw my brother enter. We shouted and waved, but we weren’t quite loud enough to capture his attention. I saw him scan the crowds looking for us, but not matter how much I jumped, waved, or made silly faces, he just kept scanning. Sometimes my lack of height really is a disadvantage.

The crowds sat as the principal took the podium. Due to the number of names that needed to be called, she asked that we keep our applause to a minimum so that all students and their families might have an opportunity to hear their names called.

I saw my brother rise and get into line at the stage. I fiddled with my camera’s zoom readying to make the shot. I zoomed too much and couldn’t find him. I looked away from the viewfinder, but without the zoom, the distance was too far to make out which of the uniformly clad individuals was him. I heard my brother’s name called. What? Is he already crossing the stage? I was stunned. My grandfather cheered. At 101, it is amazing what rules no longer apply. His cheers snapped me out of my stunned silence and I shouted a quick whoop as my brother took his diploma and made his way back to his seat.

graduation ceremony
And like that, my brother is a graduate

As we exited the arena, an announcement requested that we vacate as quickly as possible in order to allow the next series of graduates to enter the building. They wouldn’t be the last either. Graduation ceremonies will run throughout the next several days filled with speeches about hope, pride, and opportunity, even if flavored with a bit of nostalgia regarding what is being left behind.

I couldn’t help wondering what my grandfather must think of speeches about new beginnings at his age. Did the nostalgia now outweigh the hope and promise? His phone rang as we maneuvered out of the parking lot. His wife, seated by my side, smiled as she listened to the conversation. She leaned over to me. “His brother-in-law is 104 you know.” I, wide-eyed, assured her I didn’t. “Oh yes, and one of your grandfather’s old girlfriends, who is 102, is at the same assisted living center.” She laughed. “Your grandfather has been trying to set them up for the past couple of years, but she doesn’t seem to want to return his calls.”

Clearly, hope, pride and opportunity are not limited to only the graduate, so use them well, and use them often.





Pardon me while I remove my hat

I read a number of blogs, many of which are nice enough to offer up a prompt or writing challenges for other bloggers. These challenges are especially nice on days when you want to write but don’t for the life of you know where to start either for the lack of words or due to the flood of too many.

One of these challenges was simple. Take a picture of a hat and tell the world about it. Except, I am not all that big on hats. Sure, I’ll wear them in the winter to cover my ears, or while at a horse racing themed party, but they aren’t really my thing. I certainly don’t have many pictures of me wearing one.

Years upon years ago, my family piled into an RV and drove out west. After sitting in the RV’s cab for days, we decided to change it up by sitting on horseback while descending a side of the Grand Canyon. Mom wanted us all to wear hats for protection against the sun. None of us had one. We entered a gift shop at the top of the canyon and looked around. I eye-balled one on the rack. My sister saw it too. Mom said we could match. I shuddered at the very thought. I told my mom my sister could have the one we both liked. I didn’t need to wear a hat at all, a policy statement I seem to have adopted for life since. Mom noted my opinion, but I wore a hat anyway.

But this wasn’t the hat story that initially sprung to mind when I read the challenge. Instead, it reminded me of another hat on another day even further back. A pastel colored wide-brimmed fabric hat with metal snaps that allowed the brim to be secured to the hat’s sides. It was my grandma’s and she called it her Aussie hat (my apologies to Australians). She and my grandfather had come for a visit and she was looking forward to putting her new hat to use. I remember it was a warm day with blue skies, a perfect day to walk to the park.

We had only barely arrived at the park when a pair of boys rode up on bicycles, one of whom was a friend of mine (a friend I may have secretly had a bit of a crush on). The boys took one look at my grandma as she made her way into the park a short distance away and snorted with derisive laughter. “Check out that hat.”

They didn’t know she was my grandma, and I remember feeling so very conflicted claiming her as such in the face of their critique, and like that, I saw my grandma differently. She was still a lady whose slight stature made me actually feel tall. A lady whose frosted sugar cookies set my standard. A lady who suffered through yet another viewing of Rikki Tikki Tavi (we knew she was terrified of snakes and it amused us to see her squirm) just because she wanted to make us happy. A lady prone to spoiling her grandkids in all the ways the stereotype has it right. That lady. She was exactly the same, but I was different. I was a teenager. (dun dun daa!)

The tagline of my blog is how to appreciate the everyday. I chose it because I recognize now that time is fleeting and how there is a reason to celebrate the little things in life (and the people around us) as they add up to the big things. I try to find something to appreciate today, in order to prevent regret tomorrow. It is a technique that helps with tomorrow’s regret. Yesterday’s can be a different matter.

My grandma and grandpa stopped coming to visit quite as often. Travel became more draining on them or we simply became too busy. There were finals, work, the demands of my children, and colds that just won’t quit. A water crisis certainly hadn’t helped. There was always something.

I considered posting this last week, in time to meet the challenge. I wanted to write about how I’d grown as a person, how ashamed I am for not making more of an effort, but it was Mother’s Day and I told a different story instead… You always think there is more time…

I may no longer be a teenager, but unfortunately, neither are they.

I am sure if Grandma read this, she would think this post barely worth writing. She would say things like how I shouldn’t worry, how she heard all about how I was doing through regular calls with my mom, and how proud she and my grandpa are of all their grandchildren (and great-grandchildren too). She’d said as much during those rare times we’d somehow managed to get together. Too few.

Your opinion has been noted, Grandma. However, I still want to say you will always be my Grandma. I am proud of you too.