Graduation thoughts – decades later…

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“Keep in mind that neither success nor failure is ever final.” – Roger Babson

So today, June 13, is the 33rd anniversary of my graduation from high school. Wow. I know, I know… I just dated myself…

Maybe I am nostalgic because my third child graduated last month, and baby number four will graduate in two years. Maybe I am nostalgic because my granddaughter graduated kindergarten on the same day of my graduation anniversary. Maybe it’s hormones. But today truly has been a day of reflection.

First, how on earth did 33 years fly by so quickly? I haven’t done half of what I had planned to accomplish on that sunny day back in 1980. My plans were to head to college and become an accountant. Fame and fortune and a corner office downtown were waiting. Those plans changed quickly when I bombed pre-calculus and realized I didn’t love accounting enough to waste the time on trying to pass the class a second time around – on my dime. (Yes, I am one of those rare breeds that paid for my schooling.) So when I saw that the accountant gig wasn’t going to pan out, I fell back on to my childhood dream of being writer, and I was going to be the next, best reporter. Ever.

But then, marriage and four kids came along, and I never finished that journalism degree. In hindsight, maybe that was good, as print journalism took a nose dive. The military life had us moving around, and by the time we finally settled back home and my brood started to enter school, I had left the world of newspaper advertising and began freelance writing for local and daily papers and magazines. It was a wonderful balance.

I married a great guy – my soldier, a true hero – and we have four great kids of our own, and two recent additions – our son-in-law and daughter-in-law. We have two beautiful granddaughters. We receive wonderful accolades on our children – better than a Pulitzer or a byline in a newspaper.

The gal with the diploma didn’t have a clue that she’d meet her husband on a blind date, become a military wife, a mom times four, a military mom or a struggling writer. She didn’t know she’d live in Hawaii or visit other areas of the world. She didn’t know the joy and pain of being a parent; how hard it would be to watch her children struggle, face disappointments or to send a son off to basic training; she also had no clue as to how it would feel to have her husband and son deployed back-to-back in a war zone. She didn’t know she’d watch her dad succumb to the ravages of the worst disease ever – Alzheimer’s.

She didn’t know that she’d realize what her faith meant to her, and that she’d echo the same sentiment as her dad – that the only thing that really mattered was that her children came to know Christ. She didn’t realize what her mother went through, until she, herself, faced similar life situations and drew on the strength of her insanely strong mom.

That very shy graduate, the one who rarely opened her mouth back in the day, couldn’t possibly have known that one day, she’d have op-eds published in two Detroit dailies. That she’d defend her babies and march right into the school on two occasions, confronting teachers that bullied her daughters. That, paid or not, she’d keep her dream of writing alive. That she could face her fears and shyness and actually perform a few skits on a stage. In front of large crowds. That above all, God, family and love would be the priorities in her life.

She couldn’t have known that her fellow graduates would also face life struggles: divorces, deaths, job losses – and that they’d find fellowship in supporting each other as they grew older. That the smaller, more intimate gatherings weren’t to see who was the most successful, but to support each other and cheer them on – during the good times and the bad.

When I think back to the 18-year-old girl grasping the diploma, I wonder – did I disappoint her? I didn’t become the bang-whiz accountant or the ace reporter – that’s for sure. But, what I didn’t achieve for her career-wise, I sure think I made up for in other ways. She has a Master’s in the school of hard-knocks, which went a long way in developing her character. You see, that young kid is pretty damned content with how it has all turned out, and she learned that true success is measured in love.

And by that measurement, she knows that she has been repeatedly and abundantly blessed.

Do you ever reflect on your high school graduation? Let me know in the comments below.

© 2013 – Lynne Cobb

So which team am I going to cheer for?

“Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.” – Vince Lombardi

Fall. Sunny days and cool, crisp evenings. Football weather. The chance to reconnect with  friends at the stadium. Hoodies printed up with team logos, marching bands, brats grilling, whistles blowing – Friday nights under lights across the U.S.

Memories flooding. Some folks may feel torn. Some may be ambivalent. Some, like me, find the irony a bit comical.

High school, and once again for me, it is a bit awkward. Why? Because, should I decide to go to the game, who will I cheer for?

This week’s football game is an “us versus them.” Only for me, “us” is my kids’ high school football team going up against my old high school, who is now “them.”

If I let it, it could prove to be quite a dilemma. The school that helped shape me, that educated me, that housed friendships and memories.

My past.

Days of teenage angst; feeling like I didn’t fit in. The square peg in the round hole. The one who didn’t measure up against my peers…

I haven’t been to that football field since I graduated. But since then, I have met up with some classmates I graduated with, and we have had a great time together at each gathering. Life has beat us all up, and we’ve dealt with stuff we would have never dreamed of when we graduated and parted ways some 30-plus years ago: deaths, deployments, divorces, downsizing… none of us unscathed by life.

But it makes for better friendships and deeper conversations than it did back when we were teens.

I would love to root for my old alma mater.

But I can’t. It is the past.

I am in the present.

In the here and now, I have to cheer on my new home team, which boasts of some pretty good guys. The young men who, I swear just yesterday, were about half the size they are now, goofing off and eating pizza in a classroom party I helped host.

Some of these young men have been over to shoot hoops in my driveway. A few of them were here to help with a science fair project that consisted of putting Mentos into diet soda in anticipation of pop shooting all over the sidewalk. (They weren’t disappointed.) Some of these young men were loud boys who needed to be reminded to be quiet at 2 a.m., because, yes – even in the summer – parents have to work. One of these young players has a good throwing arm in part because he and my son tossed bricks to each other to practice (until I shrieked for them to stop!) Many of the guys on the team have grown up with my son; they are some of his closest friends, and their parents are now among my some of my dearest friends.

I will cheer for my new home team because it boasts of a lot of young men I have watched grow and mature over the years.

I will cheer for my new home team because it is the team my son cheers for.

I will cheer for my new home team because my youngest daughter, a JV cheerleader, will be there, rain or shine, sleet or snow, for her home team.

I will cheer for my new home team because each week they bring the hope of a win, a reason to gather, a sense of community.

While I am not forgetting my past, I am putting it behind me where it belongs, while enjoying the present.

To my new home team, and to your young fans, I cheer for your future. I hope that the bonds you make today with your friends continue to grow deeper with time. When you part ways at graduation, I hope you stay in contact with each other. When life beats you up and you have mud on your face and you’re up against hardships that you never knew were possible, I hope that you will find yourself grounded and firm because of your home team.

When you graduate from college or trade school and have a family of your own, I hope the values you learned growing up in this town stay with you. That you welcome a yard full of kids, running, swimming, shooting hoops, squirting each other with hose. (But for Heaven’s sake, please don’t let them toss bricks!)

And after a few years, maybe even a few decades, when you meet up with your classmates, I hope you will find that your friendships are stronger and your conversations are better.

And if you find yourself in an awkward spot on a Friday night, please know that it is okay to cheer a new home team.

Even if it feels a bit odd.

The new home team will appreciate it, and the old one will understand.

Trust me on this.

© 2012  – Lynne Cobb

Newsflash – Batman is a senior

Wasn’t it just yesterday that he was three-years-old, donning a costume and zipping around our house as the cutest caped-crusader ever?

Wasn’t it just yesterday that our neighborhood street was safe, all thanks to him, cruising up and down the sidewalk in his very own, battery-powered Batmobile? (Undoubtedly the very best gift Santa brought him. Ever.)

Wasn’t it just last Halloween when I asked, “What do you want to wear for trick-or-treat?”

Wasn’t it just this last birthday that he requested a special cake?

Wasn’t it just yesterday that it didn’t matter whether we were choosing a birthday theme, a gift for a friend, a Halloween costume or a Christmas gift, his answer was always the same, year after year after year:

Batman.

Wasn’t it  just yesterday that my little boy was Batman, wearing his cape everywhere? To preschool. To the grocery store. To his grandparents’ house. (But not to church. He had a polo-style shirt with a Batman logo embroidered on for those special occasions.)This little superhero had more Batman-themed clothing, toys and accessories than one could ever imagine.

Wasn’t it just yesterday, that I’d iron out the wrinkles in his overly worn cape, making sure it was perfect for the fall costume parades at school?

So how did it happen that today I was pressing a dress shirt and freshening a tie for his senior pictures? And when did he become old enough to drive off in my car, not his Batmobile?

Because somehow, some way, time flew by and Batman is now a senior in high school.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that he entered kindergarten, and his oldest sister graduated from high school?

Wasn’t it just yesterday that he played in the sandbox with his older brother, making roads and rivers and forests with mud water and tree branches?

Wasn’t it just yesterday he watched cartoons with his baby sister as they drank apple juice from sippy cups?

Oh Batman, how I miss you. But I am so proud of the young man you have become. Go forth, my son. The world is at your feet. Be respectful. Be kind to others. Be empathetic and sympathetic. Pray daily. Never take those you love for granted. Work hard, to the glory of God. Always do your best, especially when no one is looking. Give generously of yourself and of your gifts.

When the world seems harsh and knocks you down, get up, brush it off, keep going and remember that you are loved.

And if all else fails, just quietly whisper to yourself of something you’ve always known…

“I’m Batman.”

Love, Mom

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

 

Patience – it’s really not my virtue

My lack of patience must be genetic or something, because there is no real clear reason for it. It is such a character flaw, that it has to be inherited. Certainly someone in my family tree coined the phrases, “Are we there yet?” and “How much longer?”

Oh sure, I can wait for bread dough to rise. I can sort of wait for the first layer of paint to dry. A wet floor – sure, I can wait – especially if I am the one who mopped it. Waiting on a robust cup of coffee – no problem. I’ll even patiently wait for a good cup of tea to steep.

But sitting in a waiting room at the doctor’s office – not so much.

Normally, I have my knitting with me, a dual project of trying to keep my nerves calm and to get lost in time. But seriously, you can’t really knit when you are constantly interrupted.

“May I see your insurance card?”

“Ma’am, can you sign this?”

Not only do I have to sit and wait, I am constantly interrupted while I do so.

This is how last evening went for me: I find out at 5 p.m. via a panicked text from my darling teenage daughter that she HAS to have a sports physical for cheer. Today. Sports registration is tomorrow.

“But mom, know one knew it!”

Apparently, this is the year that the district is enforcing registration. And she was right – I got the email – today was registration.

So, right after practice at 7:15 p.m., off we go to an Urgent Care that offers sport physicals. And, bonus, “We’re not busy right now, so it’s a great time to come in!” says the perky receptionist.

Score!

Ten minutes and several reams paper – in the tiniest of print ever – we are ready! Woot – she can get her physical and we’re outta here!

Except that, in the time it takes me to deliver the paperwork to the front counter, sit down, go back up with my ID, sit down, and run back to the counter to sign something, sit down, and bring my credit card and swipe it, someone comes in to the Urgent Care, and she needs stitches.

Luck is also a genetic trait I inherited.

To pacify me, they stuck us in an exam room to wait it out. Maybe that is the front desk’s way of making one feel like they have progressed in the Waiting Game.

Looking around the a-typical exam room, I strolled down memory lane, remembering comforting my little girl during well-baby checks. Such a bland, sterile environment that is creepy. Back in the day, I could usually calm her with a mass of cotton balls made into things.

Except, now, I was the one who needed the calming. My patience was pushed to the max. Was there really only one doctor in this clinic?

Yep.

I leafed through a parenting magazine, looked up, and saw a box of exam gloves.

You know what happened next.

Giggling like a girl, I blew the glove up like a balloon, posed it and took photos of it modeling in the exam room.

And my darling daughter, why, she gave me the best compliment:

“I gotta hand it to you, Mom, that is pretty funny!”

Yep, sometimes you just have to laugh.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb