Our family has been through some major transitions over the course of the past year, and the evening of June 3, 2010, not only felt like the culmination of all the changes we have experienced recently, it also marked the end of one long chapter of my life. It was exciting, fulfilling, satisfying . . . and both mentally and physically exhausting.
We don’t always know, at a precise moment in time, that we are experiencing the end of an era, a journey, an ongoing event, a relationship. Sometimes we don’t understand until later that a finite point in time was indeed that moment of finality. In other cases, the full weight of reaching the end of something bears down on us as the moment approaches and for a period of time afterward. In those circumstances, we have the opportunity to anticipate and prepare for that life-altering moment, but we can’t always predict how we will feel once it arrives.
So it was with my youngest son’s recent graduation from high school.
Obviously, like any proud parent, I looked forward to the evening when I would watch him march in with his class to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” wearing his silly-looking mortarboard and robe, and collect his hard-earned diploma. That small piece of paper symbolizes the culmination of twelve years (not counting preschool and kindergarten) of dragging his sleepy butt out of bed, getting him dressed, making sure his backpack held everything he needed for the day, and driving him to school on time (hopefully) before heading off to work. Along the way, there were also many days when I had to arrange for someone else to perform those parental responsibilities for me while I was out of town on business trips. When he was in elementary school, my mother was still alive and able to drive to his school. There were days when his father worked overtime, so he was excited about riding in Nana’s car to her house. Later, when she could no longer drive, he became well-known to the local dispatcher who took my calls for appointments with our local Dial-A-Ride service. She would say, “Oh, Matthew’s going to Grandma’s today!” without asking for the address. After my mother began residing in an assisted living facility and we moved into the house my parents built in 1959, that dispatcher congratulated and commended us for keeping the home in the family — and assured me that Matthew would be picked up and delivered to our new home safely.