Tomorrow my eldest (and tallest) son will take a walk up on a stage in a hot gymnasium, step up to the superintendent, take the diploma in his hand and at long last, graduate from high school. I'm sure at least a zillion other parents all over the land are feeling the same wonderment and confusion as I am right about now. I can hear myself asking the same questions as every other stunned and confused father...how did he get so big so fast? How did he become such a fine young man all of a sudden? What happened to the kid who played soccer all the time? How did he end up being able to drive? College? Why are we filling out applications for college? Who's this big lug who calls his mother 'Shamu' and his father 'Dirt' and lives through it? Well, maybe not too many other parents have to wonder about that last part but then, none of them have anything like my ever-hungry offspring either.
Yeah...no one has kids like mine do they? I guess all parents that care one whit about their kids think the same. Everybody's kids are the best kids. How could it be otherwise? They're the be-all and end-all for so many years that you can't help but see them through lenses that filter out all but the best in them. You pour your heart and soul into raising them from the day they're born and hope against hope that you're doing it right. You probably aren't but you can only run with what you have. In our case, that wasn't much. As with all new parents, we didn't have a clue.
We found out early that with children, there never was and never will be an instruction manual, most advice is wrong, experts suck and nothing really matters except what you feel. The only thing anybody ever said that was genuinely true was that it wouldn't be easy. Wonderful yes, easy...no. That should be imprinted in the genetics of our species by now but it isn't. Nobody knows one damn thing when they start down the road. You just rolls the dice and takes your chances that somehow, it'll all work out. Sometimes it does...sometimes you end up in the ER. That's just how it is. You wing it daily and screw it up regularly but somehow at the end of it all, if you love those kids enough and believe in them enough, everything comes together with time. With so much of your own life sewed up in those walking, talking hormonal imbalances that they become, you really have no choice but to believe. How can your children not be just a little better than anyone elses?
Of course, ours really are the BEST and I'll go down swinging if you want to argue.
Tomorrow is the day. I guess it's supposed to be one of those so-called 'chapters' in life when things are suddenly vastly different. Not so much, I think. Big events rarely come with so much preparation and anticipation. Except for your wedding and that 9 month joyride before the kids are born, you just don't see it sneaking up on you. Turns in the road come unannounced and jump out at you when you aren't looking. Like the fact that my boy isn't really a boy anymore. Nope, never saw that one coming.
So After Friday night when the cap is gone and the gown returned, I'll still be goggle-eyed wondering how it all came about. And after the shindig on Saturday to make it official with the rest of the inlaws and outlaws, the Graduate will still need gas money. Life in general won't change very much or very fast but in a way...some things will be different.
He'll be one step closer to being his own man. One step closer to heading out on his own way. Those steps up onto the stage are only the next ones on his long walk. The next steps on his way to being not just a tall man, but a good man. Not a beginning or an end, but a change. A change of the heart, a change for the good.
And I'll be one proud and happy father. Proud that he can still call me 'Dirt' and happy that I still know what he means.