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.
78 thoughts on “Getting to the End is the Point”
This is a beautiful post. Congratulations on your accomplishment to include knowing that your dad is always with you and moving forward….we never lose them, it just takes time to realize that.
Thanks so much. Now I find that if I just think about him, I can feel his presence.
I know I’m not you’re Dad (and for this you should be thankful) because I’m not old enough (and for this I am thankful), but I have to tell you: I know this post was just a taste of what you went through after losing your father, so what you’ve accomplished is truly remarkable. I am proud of you, and without question your Dad is as well. And so are your children; you can see it in their eyes. Well done 😉
Oh, thank you Ned! Your comment brought tears to my eyes. It was so important for me to march in the ceremony and to have my kids there to see me do it.
Oh man. Tears. So many tears. I am very proud of everything you’ve accomplished and I am sure that your dad is as well. Amazing piece, Darla.
Thanks Misty. You’d think that after 23 years I wouldn’t still get so emotional but damn writing this post made me sob. I don’t think I’ve cried that hard in years. Felt good to get it out, though. Sigh.
Grief really doesn’t have an expiration date. And neither does joy! Congrats, Darla. (I wanted to call you ‘Punky’, but don’t think I’ve earned that quite yet. 🙂 I used to dislike the nickname my folks gave me, but now it is precious to me.)
To fulfill your dreams takes courage & perseverance in the best of circumstances. I am sure your Dad is standing as proud as a peacock with his heart overflowing for you, knowing what strength it took to pursue this diploma. Good on you!
Thank you and I know he is very proud as I am of him for being such a good dad to me.
Congratulations! And, oh, how I wish I had tissues at hand . . .
Thanks, Deb! And I think I went through half a tissue box writing it. Hard to write when you can’t see the computer screen.
Congratulations to you. I’m sure your father is as proud as everyone else who knows how hard you’ve worked and how deserving you are of celebration.
In other words: Yay, you!
Thanks, Hippie. I really didn’t think I could do it at one point but just hearing my dad silently telling me I could do it was enough to keep me going.
Whoo, hoo, hoo! Of course he sees you, and of course he’s proud of you. Not just of this great accomplishment, but of the wonderful woman you’ve become, Darla – so full of love and joy and talent. This was teary and lovely.
Thanks Miss Pego! I contribute the person I am today to the dad he was to me growing up. He was in many ways my mother and my father — very loving, understanding and always so supportive. He gave me so much advice about life and I try each day to be like him.
I hardly ever cry but this one brought me very, very close to tears (and I’m reading this in the middle of class. Oops). Your determination to get back up on your feet and back to feeding your mind is fantastic. Virtual confetti and high fives for all of your strength and hard work.
Thanks Alexandra. I so appreciate your comments.
Dammit. Stop making me cry. When graduated from nursing school, my mother had been gone for many years, but like you, I felt her presence.
COngratulations – you rock on so many levels. Those are some cute kids you have…but you were the cutest little thing, ever. Love the pic of you and Dad.
Thanks Katy. No doubt your mom was there at your graduation. That old photo of me is probably one of my most favorite pictures because it’s not only of my dad but of my little brother who I love dearly.
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Where the hell is my hanky, Darla? Beautiful. Just sweet and heartfelt. Congratulations, my friend. Well done. Your dad, would be proud as are your kids, husband, mom, brothers and half the world’s bloggers!
Aw, thank you Elyse! I think my kids were pretty impressed.
Congratulations on both graduating and finally closing the circle. So beautifully written. And yes, I too need a tissue. With all sorts of graduations happening, I’ve been thinking about you lately, wondering just when you finished school.
I love that you were finally able to know that your Dad was with you (way to heal!), as I believe he’s always been. I love when you write pieces like this: right to the heart, and well crafted. Bravo!
Thanks Sue. I don’t know what it is but I’m compelled to write about my dad every Father’s day. It’s like I have to do it, I have no choice. I need to tell the world just how special he was to me.
And you’re right, it helps me heal in incredible ways. Just getting this post out unleashed a torrent of tears and I think I was bottling them up for years. Blogging’s good therapy.
Lovely post. Your Dad is watching over you and no doubt is so very, very proud. Congratulations.
Thanks Lisa. I almost can’t believe I’m done with school now.
Way to bring tears to everyone’s eyes! This was beautiful. Congrats Darla! I’m sure he’s so very proud!
Thanks so much Lily.
Congrats Smarty Chick! His was a very moving and motivating post.
Thank you Honie. I can’t believe it’s over. I’m still in “school-mode” and I find it hard NOT to be panicking about upcoming exams or papers.
Maybe it’s sympathy panic for me. Ha! I’m happy for you. What’s next?
I’m so happy for you, Darla, and I just FEEL the joy coming from your pictures!! Wonderful post, wonderful graduation, and wonderful everything! XOXO-Kasey
Thanks! I can’t tell you how elated I felt the moment our class walked out into the cheering crowd. All the professors were in a line clapping for us and it was the rare moment in my life when I could just be proud of what I had accomplished. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for days afterward.
I know that feeling, and it is the best! So happy, happy, happy for you!!
Congrats! Despite what you once thought, graduation is an accomplishment.
Gorgeous sweet heartfelt essay. Go you. You did it. 🙂
Sigh. I still can’t believe this old fart went back to school!
Congratulations! As a Dad, a grad, and a Dad of grads I was touched.
Aw, thanks Dave.
Fantastically wonderful and heart-wrenching. Crying with tears of pride for you ** go sistah ** and for a loss suffered so early in life.
Way to go! 🙂
Thanks, MJ. It’s a loss that has shaped who I am today and in many ways brought a lot of positive into my life because I try not to take anyone for granted.
I’m not going to read the other comments until I reply.
Beautiful. Poignant (love that word). Haunting and heartfelt.
I weep for you and congratulate you on a job well done!
YEAH for Darlagradutationer!!! 🙂
Aw, love the word poignant too. Thanks, Tar!
Yeah I will also say congratulations to you,
Congratulations, Leonore!! This was such a sweet post and I needed to go grab a cat to weep into while I read. Your dad is so totally proud of you and so are we! *hug*
“Grab a cat to weep into” Cats are great for that extra comfort aren’t they? Thanks Darla, I know my dad is very proud.
It was probably one of the most awesome days of my life.
Tons of hooting and hollering going on here and beyond for your accomplishments Darla!!
Thank you, Life!
How wonderful that you had a dad who was a cheerleader. You will always carry his voice in your head, praising and urging you on.
My dad was like my mom in many ways so I miss him terribly. But you’re right, I always have him close by when I need him and he carries me through many days.
Congratulations Darla! 🙂
This was a beautiful post.
Thanks so much!
This made me cry. I am so proud of you and happy for you. Huge congrats!
Thanks Val. (I should have put a warning about tissues at the top of the post)
A bittersweet story, beautifully penned. I lost my father my sophomore year in college (age 19). I bottled up the pain and went on with life. When my mother died a few years ago, I went to a grief support group at hospice. Guess who I grieved for? I spoke a little about my mother (who had a long, good life) and volumes about my dad. It came gushing out, how he never saw me graduate from college, or from Naval OCS, or serve my country, or have a career, or get married, or have kids, or have grandkids and on and on. I happily join you in wishing them a Happy Father’s Day. Thanks to him, I’ve had many myself.
I’m so sorry you also lost your dad at a young age. I think it took me years to get over the bitterness I felt that my dad would never walk me down the aisle, never see any of his grandkids. Of course, now I know he has seen everything I’ve done in my life and I will see him again one day. Happy Father’s Day to your dad.
I love the photo of you in your cap and gown with your kids next to you. How wonderful that they were able to share this special day with you. Like you said, life has a funny way of working out.
It was so important to me to have my kids see me walk across that stage to get my diploma. Especially since I skipped my last college graduation. Life does have a funny way of coming full circle. Thanks, Jackie.
This post hit me where I live, ive been in a similar situation. You should be very proud of you!
Thank you. I am just grateful I had my dad with me in spirit to get to this point.
You’ve made your dad proud and then some, DP! You are an amazing woman and an outstanding friend. And I’m not just saying that because I’m afraid you’ll poke me with needles.
haha! Well YOU are a kick-ass woman and fantastically incredible friend and I would never dare come at you with needles.
Congratulations and thanks for sharing your beautiful and inspiring blog.
I thought I would be able to write something witty and put a smile on your face but I ended up with a couple of tears. Oh man I can’t say that I know what it is like to loose a father but I can understand the harsh years of the 20s and also to feel the triumph of a graduate degree! You go girl! They are always with us if we keep their memory alive…
Losing a parent makes you feel very alone. You’re not though, there are many, many people walking in your shoes. Well done for getting past it 🙂
This is a very moving post, thank you. Congratulations on what you’ve achieved! I lost my dad just a few weeks before the birth of my first child, which he was really looking forward to. I was useless at school, and felt like I was a disappointment to him in that regard. But you’re right on the money, life closes the circle and ties the threads, and I know he was with me on the proudest day of my life when my firstborn graduated with first class honours 🙂
Congratulations on your accomplishment, Darla. I’m sure your Dad is in the wings and rooting you on.
My Mom died shortly before the birth of my first grandchild. She must have suspected that she wouldn’t make it thru the operation as she’d crocheted a beautiful outfit for our little granddaughter ahead of time. Mom might not have been there in the flesh when our granddaughter was born, but I know she was there in spirit – as was your Dad. 😉
Wow, this is great. So happy that you were able to do this after all those years of doubt. I know that your dad was with you that day, giving you support and encouragement as you achieved this goal. Congratulations!