Upon Graduation

It is 6 a.m., and she is sleeping softly. She is snuggled, as always, with a blanket loosed from its makeup hours earlier and a pillow that holds thousands of her dreams.

I am lost in my thoughts. What do I do now?

Little did I know it was going to hurt this bad. I’d believed it would pass without too many memories bouncing about in my head. I was wrong! This is truly painful, and I’m not sure there is a cure except for the passing of time. With the advent of June, the graduation of my oldest child-my only daughter-looms. Within two months of graduation, the high school sports season in Michigan will once again start, and I will expect to be in the stands as she shoots a foul shot while the crowd quiets. I will expect to rise and fall in my seat like waves on the ocean as the momentum of the game changes. I will expect to cringe each time she misses a shot or crashes to the hardwood floor after a collision from going for the ball.

That’s what I’m expecting, but it’s not going to happen this year. Where did the past four years go? Somebody forgot to tell me to hold on for the fast ride. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m going to miss the two hour rides to her away games; the pizza, popcorn, and pop dinners; and the fierce competition of girls’ sports. Yet, at least for now, there will be no more sweaty jerseys to hug, no more fund-raisers to work, no more words of encouragement to deliver after a tough loss, no more cutting out articles and pictures from the local papers, no more Saturday night team get-togethers until 2 a.m.

Son now what? Our son will be entering the eleventh grade this fall. Because he is a three sport athlete, I won’t have any problems getting my athletic fix. Yet there will be something missing. Maybe it’s the juggling of two kids and two sports, or which parent is going where on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and who is going where on Wednesdays and Fridays. My son knows both of his parents will be there on each of his game nights, but I suspect he will miss the other fan, his sister, who never let on too much that she was a fan.

This step in my maturation as a parent has struck me quickly and quietly like a wave with a three-mile start, building until it crashes on shore. Unlike the wave with a strong undertow that takes things back out to sea and their beginnings, I have no moon-based tide or rip currents to battle before life detaches from me with my daughter in tow.

I’ve gone from the toddlers’ dad, with used carrots on his shoulder, to a min-play goer. Softball coach, sports booster, fan, confidant, travel planner, chauffer (“But I get to choose the station, Dad”), computer sacker, (“Dad, just let me do it!”), and now father of the graduate. In a nano-second our lives (hers and mine), have reached an early pinnacle; but it’s not the top of the mountain-uh uh, that comes later.

Elementary spelling bees, creative but confusing plays, eagerness to tell of her days at school, junior high dances, OM (Odyssey of the Mind) competition, finding her path, summers at the cottage, high school awards, Mexico adventures, and in a flash receiving her diploma.

From time to time I’ve felt like I didn’t do enough as a parent. What if…, maybe I should have…, yet I see what a woman she has become-what a person she is-and realize maybe I wasn’t that bad.

I’m new at this; I’ve never had to release my charges before. This hurts!