I unequivocally and readily acknowledge that I am old. I fear that if the present trend persists I will continue of age until the one and only final solution to the aging process presents itself. There are moments when I tell myself that I am only as old as I feel but then I experience the soreness that originates from my lower back and my arthritic hands and fingers as I clumsily struggle to manipulate my shoelaces.
Like many of us, I tend to associate primarily with people who have experienced approximately the same number of years as I. Although I regrettably attend more funeral services than I care to, I attempt to rationalize those losses attributing the deaths to sudden illnesses rather that old age; after all, I am approximately the same age as many of the dearly departed.
I have a granddaughter, Sarah. She is now twenty-two years of age and, like many of that number of years, she is convinced that she knows more than I, or many of the elderly, do. I will admit that she is a very bright girl as evidenced by her academic accomplishments. She graduated with honors from high school and gained acceptance to the highly regarded University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.
With the assistance of scholarship and grant monies she spent four years at what is widely recognized as the top journalism school in the nation. Sarah held several part-time jobs while in college yet managed to maintain a ridiculously high grade point average. When the end of her studies at “Mizzou” was announced via an invitation to the university’s commencement ceremony Sarah was informed that she would graduate with honors, Cum Laude. Her parents and I were so very proud of her accomplishments and accolades and we looked forward to attending the graduation ceremony which would be held at the campus’ Hearnes Center.
A young woman who announced her nationality as Argentinian gave a commencement speech. The speaker spoke in broken English as she stated that she worked for an international news service which sought out, and reported on, human rights violations. The journalist spoke words encouraging the graduates to seek out and expose injustice as she referenced the volume of such injustice in the United States, a country she was admittedly not a citizen of. I found her comments and opinions to be somewhat ironic and I felt that I was not alone in that opinion as the applause following her words was sparse at best.
The commencement ceremony ended with the traditional throwing of oddly shaped caps and the thunderous roar of celebratory cheers. The diploma recipients hugged and laughed as they celebrated their accomplishment which signaled the end of their college years.
Rob, Chris and I made our way from the upper section of the large arena and outside where the throngs of young at heart and years continued their embraces. It appeared to me that in only a mere matter of moments the celebrations had transitioned into sad and heartfelt goodbyes. It was as if the 452 young men and women had suddenly come to the realization that they were leaving not only their alma mater but the friends with whom they shared the past four years of their lives; friends whom they may never again see.
I found an out-of-the-way spot to stand which somewhat protected me from the bumping and inadvertent shoving. As I stood there I looked up and noticed that the day was a particularly nice one and the sky itself seemed to be painted in soft pastels. “Excuse me sir, can you tell me what time it is,” a young man still wearing his graduation cap asked. “Sure, it’s 12:51,” I replied. I recall wondering how the recent graduate ever got to his classes on time with so little knowledge regarding the time of day, but perhaps I was being a little too critical.
For quite some time I stood and silently observed the movements of and the words spoken by those around me. I was certain that this scenario had been played out many times and the emotions displayed were ones which had been repeated over and over again throughout the years. The parents of the young men and women must have, in some way, suddenly realized that the children they so lovingly raised from infancy were now all grown up.
Following the passage of many minutes and after the taking of countless photographs I was reunited with Sarah, Rob and Chris. Unknown to me a post-graduation tradition involved the consumption of a meal and the three had devised a plan to partake of that meal at a well thought of restaurant which served Mexican cuisine.
The drive to the eatery took no more than ten minutes and, at least to my way of thinking, the establishment was much less crowded than one might expect given the day’s goings-on. I had little actual concern over the restaurant’s lack of patronage but couldn’t help wondering where the other hundreds of families had gone.
We found our meals to be quite satisfactory and the conversation was enjoyable. There were comments about the graduation ceremony, the size of the audience and the invited speakers. For the most part I just listened as I felt the words spoken between Sarah and her parents were of far more importance than any I could offer.
As both the amount of food and volume of conversation dwindled the time had come to leave. Sarah said she was expected at a post-graduation party so we drove to her nearby apartment. Once there, goodbyes were exchanged and hugs were given all around. Sarah thanked me for my attendance and said, “We’ll stay in touch, for sure.” After a brief moment of silence I replied, “Just like always.”
As Sarah walked away and toward the stairs which lead to her cramped second floor apartment she stopped and for a moment looked skyward. “What a beautiful bright blue sky and just look at those white clouds.”
I recall thinking that my differing interpretation of the sky was probably indicative of my advanced years and one’s vision most certainly changes with age. My granddaughter, Sarah came of age that day in Columbia, Missouri but she wasn’t the only one; so did I.