walk the plank: coffee, tea or lemonade?
i never walked the plank for my high school graduation. by the time i was 17 i had seen through the artifice of my education and walked away instead. i even graduated a year early, should have been proud. but i had no interest in participating. i tried to explain it to my mom and she wouldn’t hear of it, she insisted on making plans, buying me a cap & gown.
i used to wonder what she did with them. hopefully she got a refund.
fast-forward 30 years.
my mom wanted to book a trip to seattle around my daughter’s graduation. i told her she was welcome here but that my daughter hadn’t mentioned it to me, i didn’t think it was that important to her. i contacted my daughter but she never responded. i explained it just didn’t really seem that important. but my mom insisted on coming, despite the caveat emptor.
lather / rinse / repeat, ad nauseum.
yesterday was my daughter’s graduation ceremony. i booked the time off of work & ironed pants, which i rarely wear (ed: technically long underwear are pants). i charged up the cameras, & grandma got dressed up. even the ex was clocking out.
an hour before she was supposed to be there, my daughter called me, first time in months. she was 90 miles away, heading to Wallace Falls State Park on a hike with her boyfriend ( good kid, they’re perfect for each other ). she thought the ceremony was tomorrow, and they were just too far to make it safely home on time.
i agreed, and congratulated her on her achievement, and good fortune in hiking weather.
it was an immaculate day, and what a beautiful destination. i did not remind her that the first time she went to wallace falls i was there, she fell in the frigid water and the rest of the trip was ruined because i laughed before i saw the horror in her eyes ( that water can be lethally cold even in the spring ). i didn’t remind her because i didn’t want her to remind me. and i breathed a sigh of relief, because i knew i would cry at that stupid moment she got that stupid piece of paper.
it was not easy to get.
however, we were afforded a consolation. they were back in town by evening, we all agreed to meet for dinner at the ex’s, and we did. over the course of the evening i learned that my daughter had a new job, and a new car. her boyfriend was looking for a new job too and they were looking at maps of california.
“going to california with an aching in my heart” – led zeppelin
i told her i might join her there. i’d probably see her more in california than i do here. i’m going to be a writer or an actor, something. she rolled her eyes, everybody did.
it was the first family event we’d had since the divorce eight years ago. it was magnificent. grandma looked great, my son was there (!) and we all played apples-to-apples. two dogs were running all over the cards and a cat to prove the dogs weren’t even cute (they were super-cute, but kittehs).
when it came time to leave, we discussed today. my son, the ferris beuller of gen-SC2 (starcraft 2) has been chronically truant for nearly two years. we’ve gone from physical gamesmanship (i win) to mental gamesmanship (first win against rango at age 12, commanding 500 pieces in a real-time strategy game) to emotional gamesmanship (everybody loses) finally ending in a draw: carrot-vs-stick anti-truancy diplomacy drawn to a fine art. juice & pastries, rabbits in the bed, a loud radio, a vacuum cleaner six feet from the bed, a guitar on full blast left to feedback, what ever it takes, every day. the ex reported me for child abuse and i was investigated for nearly six months.
the last two months i don’t even have to wake him up anymore, the shower’s already running when i’m up. no more rabbits, and the pastries are in the kitchen until there’s none at all. the only bell he’s missed was when i overslept because i was convinced it was saturday. his mom’s pitching in, too.
so when the prosecutor that threatened him with juvenile prison using a justice officer and a piece of paper that bore my signature elected my son for an award for improved attendance, the ex & i ignored the fine details in the retelling (her signature was on it, too). we only mentioned the award, how great he was doing, this was our summer. his sister was graduating and he was getting an attendance award the very next day, some kindness at the podium, a reason to go out, maybe grab a movie afterword.
he was truly proud, and should be. everybody falls down, and it always hurts. but falling down is easy,getting up is the hard part, it takes courage & strength. not everybody gets up every time. those people fall through the cracks, and the social nets that have been designed to prevent this have been failing my son.
“you need to go home. there’s nothing more you can do” – junior high 2 years ago
it was a long drive to the awards ceremony and my son admitted his reluctance, but after the dinner and all the talk about his achievement, with explicit encouragement from his sister, he agreed to go. right up until it was time to go.
“it’s time to go” – rango
we didn’t go. grandma got denied, junior got to relax, and all rango got was this stupid post. and i was relieved, because i knew i would cry and i already have plenty of photos to sort. besides, the sink’s been busted for days and i’m suffering from excessive time pressure. but first, a frenzy of messaging, people were already enroute and needed be informed of the cancellation.
one of them wouldn’t take no for an answer. a counselor from his support team at the new high school, all dressed up and already stuck in horrible seattle traffic, inquired if she could come over to shake his hand, congratulate him on his achievement.
“coffee, tea, or lemonade?” – rango
coffee it was. and despite the plumbing disaster at the sink, grandma got to show off the freshly mopped floor, a sparkling sink, and brought a blueberry pie to the table.
when the counselor showed up i gave her a tour of the #bootspark studio, and she sat in the old rocking chair, the blue throne. my only piece of furniture in a house dedicated to artistic imperative.
we had our awkward moment, grandma prompted us, and we made our way to the breakfast nook in the plumbing malfeasant kitchen, an old embedded island table & benches that sink too low.
coffee was served. my son joined us, and got his handshake. we ate blueberry pie from oregon and we talked at length about the extent of his achievement. we discussed our plans for the weekend, going shopping to start building him a new computer, bringing grandma with us, going to a movie. grandma was there the whole time and the pie was finished off before sundown ( i made sure of that). i proudly brought out #turktherabbit, and the counselor took him right to her lap, grandma none too happy about rabbits at the table but the boys in the family sharing nods of approval.
it wasn’t what anybody wanted. it wasn’t what anybody had planned. but it was every bit as unforgettable as wallace falls \m/~