The night was hot and humid.
We were the first class, in as far back as anyone could remember, to have to graduate in the gym.
I say, “have to,” because in those days, the gym was not air-conditioned.
It was raining. Hard. So, the gym it would be.
We stood in our purple caps and gowns, and we sweated. And sweated.
The guest who was invited to give our class commencement address was oblivious to everything but the sound of his own voice.
So, we waited. Sweated. And waited.
As many times as I had successfully extricated myself from undesirable school activities over the years, this activity, the final one, wasn’t escapable.
To distract, I looked at the faces of the adults who helped me get to that day in my life.
There were many.
In their eyes and expressions, I saw joy, hope, and love. Joy for the fact that I had made it. Hope for my future success. Love for me.
Individually, they had contributed to my arrival at this event. Together, they were the sum of who I was.
At the time, all I could clearly see was the long, hot minutes that remained between me and the graduation party that only the students knew about.
What I was missing were the years they had invested. An investment of hard work, dedication, and time in the town, state, and country that they had nurtured, defended, and improved for me and my classmates.
That’s the job of each generation. To keep the world intact and improve it before handing it off to the next.
I would see that later, but that night, I did not.
My college graduation saw many of the same faces. Faces still filled with joy, hope, and love.
But, this day, things were clearer. We had all walked the same path, but I was now expected to continue the walk, while many of them were ready to rest.
It was my turn.
The next few decades passed quickly. Faster than I could’ve ever expected.
As we sat in the audience waiting for our grandson to make his way in with his red cap and gown, I thought back to the first time we saw him walk.
As a toddler, he had lots of jet black hair that stood straight up. His walk was unsteady, but determined. He was going places. He just wasn’t sure where.
On this day, he entered the air-conditioned auditorium with a sure and steady walk. His hair tamed by the cap that topped his six foot, two-inch frame.
He sat on the stage, patiently listening to the speaker, who was the only thing standing between him and the end of high school.
I wondered if he could see the joy, hope, and love in our eyes. Or if he had any sense of the pride we felt for all that he had accomplished and the man he has become.
I thought about the world we were handing him. About what was ahead, and about the unlimited possibilities of choices he could make.
Life is short. That moment drove that point home more so than any other in my life.
Make your walk on the path count, Ethan. It is your turn.
©️2018 John Moore
John’s book, “Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now,” is available on Amazon.
Email John at John@TheCountryWriter.com.