THE LONG VIEW: Son’s graduation adds bright spot to holidays

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Pat and Ryan ONLINE.jpg
PROUD DAD—Columnist Pat Grimes shares a selfie moment with his oldest son Ryan, who recently graduated from college.

On the big day, I donned a shirt and tie before getting an early start to the address on the admission ticket. Despite this being a wintertime graduation, the crowd and parking hassle were no smaller than a graduation in spring. Finally I was inside the Convocation Center for the ceremony marking my elder son’s completion of undergraduate studies.

Unlike his younger brother, the Elder’s listing in the program was not among the more distinguished graduates. Nevertheless, his name was on the list, and it was a thrill to read.

On the big day, I donned a shirt and tie before getting an early start to the address on the admission ticket. Despite this being a wintertime graduation, the crowd and parking hassle were no smaller than a graduation in spring. Finally I was inside the Convocation Center for the ceremony marking my elder son’s completion of undergraduate studies.

Unlike his younger brother, the Elder’s listing in the program was not among the more distinguished graduates. Nevertheless, his name was on the list, and it was a thrill to read.

The Younger completed school a year and a half ago; since sophomore year of high school he’d been soaking up college credits with a laser focus on completing school early, graduating at the tender age of 20.

The Elder took a more meandering path after high school. First came a couple years at community college, where he learned a great deal, including the lesson about not passing a class if you don’t attend enough. Despite a couple of stumbles, he trudged his way through.

Transferring what credits he could to the local university, the Elder learned to swim in this deeper educational pond, confronting bigger academic challenges while balancing time between school and part-time jobs. Though sometimes slow to consult advisors to help guide his path to matriculation, my firstborn doggedly moved forward, checking off graduation requirements one by one, completing his studies in midsummer.

We gathered to salute his achievement, made at the tender age of 25, at my former home, now shared by my ex-wife and her partner. The party was joyous, with ample food and drink as well as hearts overflowing with pride in his loved ones, including his little brother and ex-girlfriend.

It felt like the close of a chapter. The Elder’s long climb to matriculation was finished, and I could not have been more proud of that accomplishment. My own 20s were a time of dissipation, wherein I took a break after more than three years of university studies to spread my energies in less meaningful endeavors, which is a fancy way of saying got jobs, got stoned, and never got it together to return to school.

Unlike his father, my boy marshaled the discipline necessary to complete his degree. Given my history, that seems like a major accomplishment, one for which he gets all the credit. Following high school, he’s received my encouragement and sometimes uncomfortable interrogation about his progress, but little more.

The next chapter has begun, with his resume crossing virtual desks at many points of the compass. Hopefully he’ll secure a full-time position he enjoys. But no matter where he lands, the Elder has, in addition to a sheepskin, the experience of persevering through difficulties and reaching a goal. That should serve him well.

Perhaps even greater than my pride is my admiration. Though it did not come easy, the Elder achieved what I did not. Maybe someday I can grow to be more like him.

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at grimespat19@gmail.com

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