Thursday, May 10, 2012

Because May means graduation day

We got something rather startling in the mail the other day.
It was a handful of graduation announcements, forwarded from our Galva address and delivered in a bunch.
"It can't be that time already!" I exclaimed to my wife.
"Well, it's May, you know," she replied, displaying the intellectual superiority and keen powers of observation that will probably someday land her a spot as an FBI profiler or a private eye.
All I know is that time sure flies.
Many of this year's Kewanee High School grads are well remembered as a lively roomful of third graders by my retired-teacher spouse. She, for one, is amazed at how quickly the years between eight and eighteen can pass, as she recalls kids who were then working on tough stuff like button-buttoning and zipper-unsticking and other important parts of the elementary curriculum, who now sit poised on the edge of adulthood and a whole new set of decisions, directions and days to remember.
The time I spent covering sports for the Star Courier gave me a chance to know and observe a whole crop of kids who amazed me with their ability to gracefully balance lives filled to the brim with athletics, homework, other after-school activities and part-time jobs.
And we both fondly remember the soon-to-be grads who were part of the last Confirmation class we taught at St. John's Church in Galva, a busy bunch of mostly eight-grade students who sometimes challenged every article of faith we attempted to share, resulting in even greater conviction and understanding for us, and even some of them, I hope.
Our daily looks at the e-edition of The Star Courier, Facebook and the online Galva News website this year have revealed some wonderful results from the efforts made by teachers and parents and the kids themselves.
Many of them have now grown to become students and athletes and workers and real people in their own right. 
And that's a good thing, all by itself.
And whether they now go on to college or work or even start families of their own, I wish them well. Very well, indeed.
But there's one more thing.
One more graduation, in fact.
Our older son, Colin, claimed he wanted to be a filmmaker when he graduated from high school some fifteen years ago. It wasn't an obvious choice back then, as Galva has rarely been described as a hotbed for world-renowned cinematographers. But that's what he wanted, so we stood back and watched.
Then something happened.
It's called life.
We weren't surprised that Colin, who was always a hard worker, would choose to find employment while in school. For one thing, we told him to. And, after all, he was the young man who, while in high school, simultaneously held down jobs at a local hardware store and a downtown restaurant, with a spot of lifeguarding at three different swimming holes on the side. 
He started working nearly full time in restaurants while in college, and soon was truly embarked on a career as a chef that has seen him succeed in a wide range of culinary arts, ranging from fine dining bistros to trendy grills to Thai cuisine. 
Then life got even livelier.
He fell in love. 
He got married. 
And he began a new life as a husband, father and an important breadwinner while his smart,  beautiful, ambitious wife worked to earn a PhD in sociology and criminology.
I hope he was always happy with who he was and what he was doing. I know we were proud of the responsible, caring man he had become.
Just one thing, though.
He never finished that film degree.
It was not until his wife, Geri, received her degree and got that all-important first teaching job at Minnesota State University in Moorhead, just across the raging Red River of the North from Fargo, that opportunity knocked again.
With her encouragement (and partly thanks to an all-important tuition waiver for the families of faculty members) he got back at it. He rearranged his work schedule to a grueling before-dawn-unil-early-afternoon shift and became a full-time student. It had to be tough, as none of his other job/family/life commitments went away, but he did it with a stellar college career that has seen him receive academic honors and be chosen to present his work at conferences, film festivals and other venues. 
We received a copy of the program from a recent student academic conference in the mail from his proud spouse the other day. I thumbed through the pages until I came the most special one, right between those highlighting a budding biologist and an anxious astronomer.
There was a picture of my son Colin, along with a bio describing him and the work he would be presenting at the conference. It started like this:
"Colin Sloan is not your average student. He is married and a father of two. He spends his mornings slaving away over a hot stove, cooking up some of Fargo's finest luncheons at the HoDo (the Hotel Donaldson, an upscale boutique hotel with a well-regarded gourmet restaurant), then he spends his afternoons working toward the completion of his film studies degree at MSUM, WHICH HE WILL GRADUATE WITH IN MAY."
By the way, those are my capital letters right there at the end.
I don't know if Colin will be the next Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese or Spike Lee. Heck, I don't even know if he'll ever get to work in the film industry at all, a field so crowded and competitive that whole movies have been made regarding that well-known frustrating fact.
But I do know this.
I know that he has--with slight delays for the aforementioned work, love, marriage and fatherhood--done what he always said he wanted to do.
And that's a good thing, all by itself.
So, congratulations, dear son. We're proud of you.
But then again, we always were.

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