These days I travel with wads of Kleenex at the ready. Or toilet paper. Or napkins. I’m tearing up at the drop of a hat. Misty over big things, like my son’s scholarship to college. Over small things, like an innocuous remark.
A photograph may set off a chain reaction – recollections of my boys when they were younger – on their bicycles or playing in the old yard. A line in a book or a scene on television may transport me to a time and place ages ago – to an event, to a feeling, and even the familiar tumble down the rabbit hole of disbelief when I look at my life. At what I find strange, and what I find wondrous.
I think about my boys, my marriage, the years that have followed. And I’m weepy.
I think about the future, and I’m wistful.
I consider myself fortunate; I feel relief, I feel pride, I feel appreciation. An important finish line is within view. My kids are alright. They’re better than alright.
Generally, I’m more comfortable with a flippant response, or maintaining a certain remove from the depth of my emotions. But this morning I swam in my own sentimental sap, sitting at a school function that was not graduation. You know, one of those year-end events with no discernible purpose, but we nonetheless show up. As parents, often, it’s just about showing up.
The principal spoke. Kids gave speeches. The adults fidgeted on wooden bleachers while the students squirmed in seats on the gym floor. But we were there – hot, tired, and dutifully present – turning off cell phones, snapping pictures, recording videos, and applauding our kids.
Looking at success
And I fought back tears.
I fought back tears when I saw all those young faces. I fought back tears as we saluted the flag. I fought back tears as I listened to a boy tell of the grandmother who raised him. I fought back tears when a student reminded us of Edison’s take on achievement; it wasn’t one thousand failures that came before the light bulb, it was one thousand steps to successful invention.
And now, at home, I find myself at an utter loss for words.
Instead, I’m tearing up. Again.
So call me a sentimental fool as I yield the floor, surrender my masks, acquiesce to emotion, and offer a round of applause to all of us in the midst of this wild adventure. To the mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles and grandparents who show up. To the teachers and administrators and counselors who give so much with little recognition.
And I marvel at our children – at their energy, their perseverance, their willingness to work hard. And despite everything – their astonishing optimism, which will serve them well.
© D A Wolf