Last week, Saturday (May 5th), my daughter graduated from University of Tenneesee, Chattanooga with her Bachelors of Science in Business Management. As you might expect, I am so proud of her that I could near ’bout explode with it. But it is not “just” for her hard work, diligence, and perseverance, as I am about to share.
I’ll start by saying that as is likely common, a parent always wants the best of the best for their children. It is no surprise that a parent will say all the usual phrases that stand for hoping that their children will exceed and surpass them in every way; that they will have better and more opportunity, that they will suffer less bruises and hurts and pains, that they will know only contentment and happiness, and that, to the degree possible, they’re able, ready, and willing to do what they can to support these outcomes.
I feel and think and say all of this, of course, and no less vehemently than any other parent. I have spent considerable amounts of time wondering if my life and its history had somehow caused me to be less capable or competent at nourishing the above in my daughter; I have fretted and wondered if I did it all “best” or “right”. And I have worried here and there along the way that maybe I didn’t quite “do enough” or “do the right things well enough”. (In truth, I suspect this is not entirely unheard of in most parents.)
But above and beyond this, the circumstances of life since my daughter’s birth to present have not always been optimal (hence the above fears), nor have I always had the ability to be the one to shoulder it all myself. Essentially, my daughter is pretty much all the family I have and what blood relatives still live (but a few) I have been largely estranged from for reasons I will not splash across this post.
I guess the critical flaw in all this fear and fretting has been thinking that any of this would be an impediment to someone as competent, diligent, integrity-driven, intelligent, and strong as my daughter. But you don’t really know that it isn’t until you know it isn’t, do you?
And, on May 5th, I sat in the reserved section for the invitees and families of honors graduates and struggled not to cry my eyes out like a damn baby from the combination of pride and relief. I watched the entire graduating class right down to the last of the six disciplines file in, be called up, walk that stage, and receive the due recognition and reward of their collective efforts.
In fact, when someone with us wanted to step out after my daughter had walked, I shrugged and simply said, “Everyone here has at least one person down there that they are busting with pride for… and I bet every one of them wants this full house to see their child walk that stage. I know there have been those who have left as soon as they got their recognition, and I know there have been those who left as soon as their graduating person(s) walked, but, as far as I’m concerned, I’m proud of every damn one of them and I’ll be sitting until it’s done.”
And I did, too.
It’s been a few days now, and I have eagerly awaited receipt of any pictures from the official photography staff. Today, my daughter sent me one that they apparently snapped as she was standing just after entry. (Alas, all of mine were long-shots with a poor camera struggling to zoom, so not worth posting. Well, except the video; but I’ll save that until after I’ve sent her a copy and gotten her permission to put it here as well.)
I cannot begin to tell you how much I adore this shot; I look at her and she has that dreamy look of “I can’t believe it’s over” combined with “I did it!” combined with an expression of genuine contentment that just washes away all the nattering I spent prior to this paragraph.
She has accomplished something I could not and, in fact, something that no one in our family has managed in over eight generations. I really need to tell her that… so she understands that well over my own pride as mentioned above, there is a familial pride that I simply never thought to experience or know in my life.
“Proud” cannot begin to convey how I feel of and for her. In fact, for all that I’ve spent this many words trying, I strongly suspect this is just something that words cannot really convey. Nor the tears running down my face as I type. Happy tears, involuntary tears, tears of a somewhat tempestuous combination of all the above… things that cannot be truly said, spilling out the only way they can.