My Family (a long time ago)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Graduation Day

Congratulations to the Class of 2011! Across the United States, people are graduating from high school, college and graduate school, and moving on to the next stage of their lives. Whether graduating with honors or just making it by the skin of their teeth, all graduates should be commended for their accomplishment. Whether young or old, all graduates are to be applauded, for not everyone graduates. My daughter is a graduate for the Class of 2011 and I especially want to commend her, an honor student and an incredible artist, photographer, actress, singer and person. I’m brimming with pride just thinking about her.

As I sat in the field house listening to the various speakers at her graduation, I really had mixed emotions. I was extremely happy for my daughter as she finished up her high school years, knowing that in a few short months she would be leaving us and going off to college. I couldn’t help but notice all the optimism of the day. As each student and guest speaker gave their speech, the graduates were told how they could do anything, that the world was theirs for the taking and that there were no limits except those they put on themselves. They spoke of their accomplishments, how much they had changed and grown over the last 4 years, and how they were now prepared to meet the world head on.

The mixed emotions occurred as I thought back to my own high school graduation 32 years ago. I was never one of those rah-rah, let’s get psyched up kind of kids. Sure I was happy to be graduating, but I kind of felt that the graduation was more for the parents than the kids. As I sat in the hot sun of the football field, I just wanted the ceremony to be over. I can’t remember the speeches or who gave them, but I know they were similar to the ones I heard at my daughter’s graduation. I remember that I really couldn’t get into the “we can make a difference and change the world” speeches. Because honestly, I didn’t think I could make any difference. Sitting in my daughter’s graduation, as I looked back over the last 32 years, I felt that I had fulfilled my own expectations. To say I was a bit melancholy would be an understatement.

The worst part of my graduation was that I totally stiffed my family. As soon as the graduation was over, me and my best friend Tony jumped in his car and raced back to my house. I quickly changed in to some more comfortable clothes and was flying out the door when my parents came home from the graduation. Needless to say, they were a little ticked off at me for not meeting them after the ceremony and at least taking a few pictures. When they asked about taking a few pictures before I left, I made some lame excuse about already changing and having to get somewhere. I never did take any pictures with my parents on my graduation and the only pictures I have from it are a couple of pictures of me walking onto the field in my cap and gown. Me and the parties I was going to with Tony was all that was important to me that day. Not my parents, not my family, not anyone else.

As my daughter’s graduation was winding down, I started to wonder what she would do when it was over. I wanted to be able to take some pictures with my daughter, some of her and my wife, some of her and my son and some with all of us together. My wife and I really wanted to go have a meal as a family, just the four of us. But the question in my mind was would she want to do that? Would she just want to get on to a party with her friends? What if she was just like me and didn’t want to be with her parents?

After finally finding her in the crowd of people outside the school, I am pleased to say that she was very happy to take pictures with all of us. We took pictures of her with her friends, we took pictures of her with my wife and I, and we took pictures of her with her brother. We laughed, we smiled and we had fun. Then we went to a restaurant and had a late lunch as a family. Again, we laughed, we smiled and had fun. I cannot tell you how relieved I was that my daughter was not going to be like me on graduation day.

Later on that night, as I looked back over the day, I realized something. As much as I haven’t solved the world’s problems or come up with a life changing invention, I feel that I have made a difference. My daughter spent her graduation day with her family, unlike me who wanted nothing to do with my own family on that day. That’s a big change from one generation to the next. It really was a great day – both for her and for me. And to my family, I can only say, “I’m sorry for being such a jerk.” – Even if it is 32 years late.


  1. I have moments like that myself but it takes courage to confront them so many years later. I love you.

  2. I remember you doing that. Stephen (#9)