10 hour car ride. In Both directions. In three days. Why drive, when you can fly?
Fighting traffic to airport. Finding parking in overflowing lots. Standing in interminable TSA security lines. Hard-back molded plastic seats, waiting. Delays. Waiting to board. Fighting for overhead bin space. No open seats. No legroom. Non-reclining seats. Unclean arm rests and seat tray tables. Claustrophobia. Acrophobia. And then, the other side. Waiting to deplane. Waiting for luggage. Dragging luggage to car rental, more waiting. And, then, a one-hour drive to Winston-Salem.
But “that” wasn’t it.
There was only this option, for this could be the last road trip with Family. Road trips with Family. McDonalds. Dad trying to make time, foot heavy on accelerator. Tummies full of soda, unscheduled bathroom breaks at highway rest stops. The Karaoke. The arm signals to Truckers urging a pull on the deep throaty air horns. The honking in tunnels. The spilled milkshakes. The spats in the back seat. Are we there yet? Budget hotels with swimming pools, had to have a swimming pool. Single rooms, twin beds with too-soft mattresses, undersized bathrooms, always two towels short. The thrill of Room Service. Kids petering out, little bodies sleeping side by side, their gentle puffs of breath, gone dreaming.
I turn my head to the window to look out at the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains, I wipe the tears, and step on the accelerator. Like a firework in the face. Accept our gratitude for the promise of a next chapter in life. And a next. And a next.¹
The procession. The speeches (who cares?). Birds, with the best seat in the house, flutter over 1200 graduates, and more than 2400 family members in the courtyard in an outdoor ceremony. The faculty sit on a grand stage, with big screens flanking each side with the show running real-time. The steeple of Wait Chapel soars above. Our Son sits rows ahead, sneaking sips of champagne from his deep pocketed robe. Text messages and photos fly in all directions.
I open the program, and run my index finger up and down the columns in search of his name. Bachelor of Science graduate, there he is. I pause for a moment, and continue. I pan over to the list of graduates with distinction. The Index finger slows this time, it’s a much shorter list. I jump 10 names at the time, the smooth gloss of the program electric on finger tips, my heart on fire now.
There he is:
Eric David Kanigan – Summa Cum Laude.
I drop my head, close the program, and close my eyes to staunch the flow. The hands clutch the thighs, but can’t intercede, the body trembles, running on its own now. Overwhelmed again.
That’s my Son.
- Photo: Eric, 5, at Kindergarten Graduation (1999) and Eric at College Graduation (May, 2016)
- Janet Frame and University Chaplain Reverend Tim Auman quotes. See attribution in prior post: The Baccalaureate Service. Like a firework in the face.
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