Graduation season is in full swing. There are preschool, grammar school, high school and college celebrations galore. Every time I peek at Facebook, there is another wonderful photo of a graduate wearing his cap and gown with proud parents standing nearby. But instead of enjoying the excitement and festivities of this month, my reaction is somewhat different.
Truth be told, I have the worst graduation commencement luck ever.
First, there was my high school graduation. Hours before the big ceremony, our family dog died. Smokey was a 13-year-old black lab/collie mix who, during those drama-prone years of high school, served as a constant source of calm and happiness. She once saved our entire family from a dryer fire. She protected the home against theft. And if we actually had a well, there’s no doubt she would have gladly pulled Timmy from that, too. People often ask me why I refuse to buy my boys a dog, and I quote that line from “Good Will Hunting”:
I had a dog. My dog is dead.
Of course, I also am terribly allergic to most animals, a fact that would only be revealed after Smokey died and I never suffered another ear or sinus infection again.
Anyway, as my classmates cheered the end of high school and their bright futures ahead, I wallowed in my poor dead dog. When they played “Pomp and Circumstance,” it felt like a funeral dirge.
Next up was college graduation. I took my seat next to another young graduate and excitedly leaned in to hear the commencement address. I looked forward to the sage advice from the renowned speaker.
But that’s when the guy next to me started talking:
“OH MY GOD…I AM SO WASTED. I think I’m gonna throw up. You don’t happen to have bucket, do ya? HA HA. I’m gonna die. I’ve been dry heaving for an hour. My dad is gonna kill me. But I gotta say, Eastern Illinois has been the best seven years of my life! What did you study? Wait! Don’t tell me! You’re an education major, right? No? Why do you keep looking away? My breath is bad, right? Hey, wanna play a commencement drinking game? I gotta bottle under my gown here….we’ll drink every time they say ‘graduate,’ OK? Let’s go!”
I heard not a single word of the commencement speech and I smelled like stale beer courtesy of my fellow graduate. Because of these experiences, I skipped the ceremony for my master’s degree.
Then there was the time my husband completed the Chicago Fire Academy. I was again in a sour mood. I had been pregnant with my second son for most of his training, and we did not know if Joe would be allowed to attend the scheduled C-section until days before delivery. My poor husband bore the brunt of my irrational wrath:
“I could totally die giving birth to your child, and you’re telling me you can’t be there?”
“It’s Paramilitary, Marianne. They treat us though we are serving in Iraq. I wouldn’t be able to come home from war for a baby, so it’s still up in the air.”
“But you’re not hunting down the freaking Taliban! You’re at the Chicago Fire Academy. TWO MILES AWAY. You’re climbing rope and doing push-ups where Mrs. O’Leary’s stupid cow knocked over that stupid lantern and this is all stupid stupid stupid.”
I showed up at Joe’s graduation with a 1-year-old and a new baby while cursing my leaking body, the Great Chicago Fire, and anyone who congratulated my husband. It wasn’t like he had been up all night with a newborn.
Heading into this June, I glanced over all the graduation invitations tacked to our bulletin board. I am trying very hard to shake my own jaded views of these important events. These graduates have so much of which to be proud.
So I will raise a toast to Smokey, take a sip whenever anyone says “graduate,” and feel very grateful that I never opted to pursue that PhD.
Just think of what a train wreck that ceremony would’ve been.