The month of June will forever spin the threads of two momentous occasions together in my mind.
Graduation and Father’s Day.
The last time I graduated college in 1993 there was no pomp but plenty of circumstance. The day I received my degree I simply opened my mailbox, ran my fingers under the edge of the thick manila envelope and slid my diploma into my hand.
I lifted up the heavy silk cover: Bachelor of Arts it read in fancy font. I stood there in the driveway looking at it for the longest time. Finally I snapped the cover shut, walked into the house and tossed it onto the stack of papers spilling over my desk.
I was lost. Even worse, I was hurt. I didn’t care that I had missed attending my graduation ceremony held over 3,000 miles away. What was the point now? So I barely finished college. So what? My dad was dead. He didn’t get to see me graduate. He didn’t get to see anything I did anymore.
At a deeper level I knew that wasn’t true, but I was determined to remain angry, to continue to feel cheated and hopeless. Why should I bother chasing my dream when the world proved to be so cold? I had no motivation because my biggest cheerleader was gone forever.
So I spent the majority of my early twenties lamenting my pain, my loss that no one else could ever possibly understand. Losing my dad was my excuse for everything. Doubts took root in my mind. I gave up. I would never succeed. I would never become the person my dad thought I could be. My world was dark so why should I waste energy trying to create sparks?
Ah, but life has a strange way of seeing things through whether you’re on board or not. Fate intervenes and things correct themselves. Lessons are eventually learned no matter how hard you try to refuse their gifts. Threads in the tapestry connect and the circle closes.
It always closes.
A few years ago as I sat in the back of my first college class I felt that old familiar fear creeping in, threatening to suffocate that tiny spark.
But this time I had my cheerleader again. He sat in the empty chair next to me. I felt him there in every classroom for the past two years whispering, You can do it, Punky. He was seeing everything I was doing after all.
And I had to do it right this time. I wanted to show my dad I could do it. That I could finish this and see it to the end. I had to close the circle I had carelessly left open and frayed over twenty years ago.
Last month as I crossed the stage in my cap and gown in front of a thousand people, the sparks inside me creating a supernova of joy exploding in my heart, I had one thought: I did it, Dad. I actually did it.
After I walked back to my seat with my diploma in hand, I glanced up into the stands searching for some sign of my dad. Did he see me now?
Laughing and cheering, I stood up with my classmates and ceremoniously turned my tassel from the right to the left. Of course, I knew the answer.
And my circle closed.
Congratulations to all my fellow graduates.
And thanks Dad, for being there with me every step of the way.
Happy Father’s Day.