Last but Not Least:
How could it be that our youngest child just graduated from college?
By Janice Llanes Fabry
How could it be that our youngest child just graduated from college? We dropped him off on campus moments ago. Having two older daughters, my husband Jan and I have experienced the euphoric pride connected with our kids’ commencements before. But this was a little different.
Sure, when I’d tell people about our son’s upcoming graduation, I’d kick up my heels and shout out, “Woohoo, no more college tuition!” Any parent who has had the distinct pleasure, and I use the term loosely, of shelling out those hefty monthly tuition payments knows what a relief it is to cross that one off the list. Let’s face it, it’s tantamount to writing that last mortgage check.
Beyond the windfall I’ve already spent in my mind’s eye, however, I sensed Jason’s graduation marked a watershed moment in our family. After all, he’s the baby. My husband and I glanced at each other during “Pomp and Circumstance,” which gets me every time, with a knowing look that conveyed, “We did it!”
As far as raising our children, we had crossed the finish line. Nevertheless, my visceral reaction when I saw our young man marching in the procession of caps and gowns came out of nowhere.
Along the way, there were definitely signs that Jason was growing up. They sneak up on the family landscape incrementally. One day, he started filling up the gas tank ahead of the gas gauge registering “empty.” The next thing we know, he’s shaving before growing grizzly without any reminders. The first time he called to let me know he’d be late for dinner, I was so floored that I almost burnt my pork chops.
Then there were all those summer days when he’d get up at six o’clock in the morning, text Jerry’s Post Road Market with his breakfast order, pick it up, and head to his caddying job to help out with college expenses.
More recently, during his full-time job search, I happened to come across one of his thank you letters to a potential employer. I was amazed at how professional and thoughtful it was, and there wasn’t a comma out of place. This from a boy whom I’d nag to send thank you notes for birthday gifts and whose run-on sentences gave his high school teachers a run for their money.
Leading up to his graduation, when I reminded him to pick up his cap and gown, he assured me he already had. “How about our ceremony tickets?” I asked. “I have them, mom,” he replied.
Before the ceremony, Jan and I asked him to come to our hotel room so we could give him his gift and a card. Maturity reared its head then, too. Because I tend to write lengthy, mawkish greeting cards on special occasions, my kids always tell me, “Oh, I’ll read it later.” Who knows how many have never seen the light of day! This time, however, Jason actually indulged me by reading my litany of praises and corny words of wisdom.
When he read aloud my “live your life with clarity and conviction” gem, he added, “and composure.” Wow, he even humored my penchant for alliteration. And they say a college education isn’t worth what it used to be!
For the first time at Villanova University, parents sat alongside their sons and daughters during the school-wide commencement. As the university’s president commemorated two students of the Class of 2015 who died tragically, the entire student body stood up in unison raising their hands with a “V” in their memory. As I looked up at our son, I realized that even at this tender age, he and his peers had begun to understand the fragility of life.
At a separate School of Business ceremony the next day, the dean remarked on some of the events that disrupted the students’ time on campus, Hurricane Sandy among them. My mind wandered off to the “storms” our family has weathered these last four years, from the trials of adolescence to the passing of my mom, who would have been overjoyed to watch her youngest grandchild turn the tassel.
When the dean told the graduates, “We’re certain you’ll continue to make us proud,” I believed him. And as I sat teary-eyed among our family when Jason went up for his diploma, I managed to find composure as I basked in the glory.