My daughter has graduated from college.
Bittersweet, but much more sweet than bitter.
This event triggered a lot of logistics, because my parents wanted to travel to the ceremony as well. Added into the mix was my convalescence from surgery. Things did not go according to plan, and we all did as well as we could with the problems that arose along the way.
The first event was to be my father and stepmother coming to stay with R. and me for two nights. They would head up to Montreal on Sunday. They arrived on Friday, and I made spaghetti and meatballs, one of my dad’s favorite dishes. As we sat around with glasses of wine after dinner, the conversation wandered to tales of border crossings. At this point, my stepmom realized that they had not brought their passports with them.
An uneasy silence descended as my stepmom and I searched the web. Conclusion: with no passports, they would be turned back at the border. Saturday morning she checked into having the passports overnighted, but the cost would be $800. So, we said a sad farewell, and they headed back home to Cape Cod after breakfast. The new plan: they would drive straight to Montreal on Sunday, passports in hand.
Saturday was very quiet around the house. I did accompany my husband to the town’s Memorial Day observance, which included a walk up a hill to the cemetery. It was a hard walk for me.
On Sunday, my mom arrived. The plan was for her to travel with R. and me. We had reserved a suite at a hotel close to McGill that had two bedrooms, living room, dining area, and kitchen. We would go to Montreal on Monday for the ceremony, and sightsee on Tuesday. I also gave her my old computer, a 12” PowerBook G4 that I had cleaned up for her. We had some computer lessons before bed. I also had the uneasy realization that I was not feeling as well as I had just a day or two earlier. My super-duper pain pills got added to my packing list.
Monday we made great time to Montreal, and although we couldn’t check into our room yet, the hotel set us up with parking. We got over to the university in good time, met up with A., and ate our packed lunch in the shade as happy graduates and their families milled about after the first graduation ceremony of the day. I was working like crazy to finish socks I was making for my stepmom. We met up with her and my dad, and I finished the socks as we waited in line to enter the huge tent where the ceremony was to be held. I was so glad to sit down. My physical unease was increasing, and so was my emotional unease, as I began to worry that something was going wrong with my recovery. It was an effort to put that on the side, and enjoy all the good things of the day.
The ceremony was beautifully done. A faculty brass quintet provided music. Because McGill holds several graduation ceremonies over the course of a week, speechifying was appropriate but not excessive - there was only one honorary degree given at this event. The honoree was chemist George Whitesides of Harvard, and he gave a heck of a speech. For those interested in what Dr. Whitesides does and thinks about, you can check out his TED talk here. A sidenote: my dad is a chemist, and he and Whitesides have met in the past. They were able to talk together after the ceremony.
The tradition at McGill is to tap every recipient of an advanced degree on the shoulder with a red rod, and to cap every recipient of a bachelor degree by tapping the student’s head with the hat of the presiding official. Here is a picture of A. about to be capped.
Here she is, getting her diploma. These diplomas are 11” x 17”, and they were all printed, signed, and sealed in time for the ceremony.
Afterwards, we took family pics. Here is my mom, A. and me.
A. and her proud dad.
A. and my father and stepmother.
A. and her longtime boyfriend M.
We had a most enjoyable dinner afterwards at a Greek restaurant. A. picked the restaurant, and it was a good choice, as the emphasis was on seafood, a big favorite with this particular crowd.
The next day, my dad and stepmom headed back to their home. Meanwhile, R., my mom, and I had to chuck our plans for sightseeing. Neither my mom nor I were up to it, plus it was raining heavily. Mom and I hung out in the hotel room, enjoying some quiet time for conversation, and covering a few serious topics. Meanwhile R. and A. took care of some dad-daughter business and brought us food. The day cleared in the afternoon and I felt a bit better, so we ventured out, visiting A.’s apartment and having dinner at a superb Indian restaurant in her new neighborhood. A. ordered for all of us with great assurance, and her choices were perfect.
Wednesday we drove home. I called my doctor, worried about my symptoms, worried that I had done too much and hurt myself, and worried that I would be unable to return to work on schedule. It turns out that I was just going through part of the healing process. The sutures deep inside me were dissolving. As A. said, “No wonder you’re feeling achy, the only thing holding you together now is you.” The relief I felt at this news was profound.
Thursday my mom left, new-to-her computer in hand. I resumed my last few days of being home before going back to work. Nothing has really changed - except it has. The growth of a child from infant to adult is gradual, and it can be hard to go back and identity the points in time when she moved from one stage to another. This is why we have graduation ceremonies, to mark when our children grow. To understand the relevance of this particular ceremony, just look at her face in those photographs. Our daughter is an adult, living her own life, and those of us who love her were so very happy to celebrate that on May 31.