A note with instructions for faculty participants in Loyola’s graduation was in my in-box the other day, and that got me musing on the 2004 graduation, when our daughter Mary, our youngest child, graduated from Loyola.
Mary, was a columnist for the university’s weekly newspaper, The Maroon, in her senior year, and a few days before her final column appeared, the adviser told me she thought it was delightful. I stopped in at The Maroon layout room and read it on the flats, and I was moved to write a reply for the same issue. I think I got mine in just ahead of the paper’s deadline, and the op ed page editor accepted it.
My musing led me to Google the column and my response, and I thought my two or three readers might be entertained by the exchange in this graduation month.
Here was Mary’s column. My response follows.
Goodbye, Loyola. I am off to Paris to begin a glamorous new life ... eventually, anyway. Between that time and graduation, however, I will be back under my parents' roof, which I am totally and utterly okay with. Not having to pay rent will not suck.
Plus, it's cool to have a curfew at the age of 22, right?
Some people might wonder if it bothers me that I don't have a job yet. Does the fact that I don't even have any leads make me wonder if I've wasted four years of my life in the wrong major? They might ask whether I worry that the world will never see that I could be so much more than just the college newspaper columnist with a bad picture and a lame catchphrase.
I really haven't thought about these things, to be honest. Sure I may have had a few sleepless nights where I've considered that a career in gaming and bartending might be a safer, more lucrative path, but who hasn't?
Only recently did I find a little extra time during which to pause and seriously think about my future plans.
Last week my roommate and I waited five hours at the hospital until the doctor finally saw her and diagnosed her acute nausea as food poisoning.
Never mind that I could have diagnosed this condition at home in less than a minute, although my medical expertise is limited to knowing what aisle at Walgreens contains the acetaminophen. And never mind that the term "Emergency Room" is severely misleading and indicates that people who go in there to be treated will be attended to immediately. (As if, I don't know, there was some sort of emergency.)
All the waiting is really a good thing, because it gives the sick a chance to fully realize the depths of their pain and the amazing and loyal people who wait for them a chance to catch up on three weeks' worth of crossword puzzles.
Even though sitting in a hospital waiting room is surprisingly low on the list of things I enjoy doing into the wee hours of the morning, I didn't let that time go to waste.
Again, I had a chance to work on some crossword puzzles, catch up on season four of the "X-Files" and do a lot of thinking. A lot of thinking. A lot. And really, when and where else was I going to make time to taste and experience all the fine cuisine that hospital vending machines have to offer? When? I even got to read the front page of the previous day's The Times-Picayune twice. (Twice!)
Around hour three, however, the incredible fun came to an abrupt halt. I had been staring into space for about 45 minutes when it suddenly occurred to me that this was about to be my life for the next few months: one long and uncertain stay in the hospital waiting room that is my parents' house, with limited resources to keep me busy.
As much as I enjoy marathon games of tic-tac-toe - and I do - I suspect it isn't the most productive use of my time, nor might it be the most efficient means to finding a job.
It's strange to think that I won't have school to go back to in the fall. It's not that I'm afraid to leave the safe confines of a college campus.
After all, no amount of studying will give me the friends for whom enduring four hours in a claustrophobic room are worth and who I am confident would do the same for me. Nor will it ever prepare any of us for the bad sushi that will sometimes come our way. The uncertainty of not knowing what is next is what truly terrifies me.
I pondered this thought for another hour.
Finally, at 2:30 in the morning, my roommate and I, exhausted and malnourished, went home - she with a prescription for what I suspect is nothing more than Mylanta, and I with the resolve to just stop freaking out. I don't begrudge those who already have jobs or any sort of post-college plans (for the most part).
I take comfort in knowing that I'm not alone in my doubts, that there's always Moler Beauty College (although I'm calling that "Plan B"), and that I have at least another few years before my parents kick me out (and that's where Parisian sugar daddy comes in). Au revoir, mes amis.
I read in your column in the Life and Times section, a few pages on, that you will be graduating in a couple of weeks and moving back home to think about how you intend to gain fame and fortune when you finally head off to Paris.
That's a lot for a father to digest at one sitting.
Like others who have been responsible for the care and feeding of this year's graduating class for the last 20 years or more, your mother and I are experiencing a tangle of emotions - especially because you are the youngest of our five.
As we've anticipated watching you stride across that stage in cap and gown, we have relived the morning you walked into a kindergarten classroom clutching our hands.
And it hasn't taken much of a stretch of the mind's eye to see you standing in your crib for the first time, wobbly but proud, your diaper draping the latitude of the hip-huggers you wear today.
You were still not much more than a child, or so it seemed, the day we moved you into the dorm for your freshman year, then, just as we wake one spring morning startled to find the azaleas have burst into full flower, one day you came in the door and you were a young woman.
When we paused to wonder at how that happened we realized how much you have changed over these last four years.
You have learned a great deal, in classrooms, in the library and even at places like Madigan's.
You've matured emotionally and intellectually in ways you perhaps don't recognize.
You've developed into one terrific writer. And as we consider all that you have become, we are proud of you beyond measure, as we are of your four siblings.
Sure, I know you have had a few sleepless nights lately weighing a career in bartending or crossword-puzzle solving against going for a graduate degree at Moler Barber College.
And when, with diploma cover in hand, you maneuver those narrow stairs leading down from the stage next Saturday you may see only desert stretching out ahead of you.
It may be cold comfort, but the person in front is likely stepping into that same void, and so is the person in back of you.
I remember breaking under a dinner table interrogation in my senior year and confessing that I didn't know what I was going to do. My mother burst into tears and said, "If only you had taken some education courses, you could at least teach."
Somehow I made it through, and so did my classmates - in part by luck, in part by purpose, even with a few side trips along the way. (And, as it turned out, Mom, I could at least teach.) You and your classmates have the wherewithal to do the same.
Now there's that matter of your living at home for a while. You wrote that you will have "another few years before my parents kick me out," but that was a typo, wasn't it? You meant "months," didn't you? "Weeks?"
Whichever, you may be "totally and utterly okay" with it. But remember, as Ecclesiastes might have written, there's a time to nest and a time to fly.
We do want to make you feel at home, though, for the short time you are with us.
You will find fresh linens on your bed. And we'll lay in a stock of the coffee you've become addicted to in your college years and extra munchies to get you through reruns of "Friends."
At least for the first week.
We'll even deliver the want ads section of The Times-Picayune to your bedroom door every morning.
P.S. About that curfew. Since you'll be a college graduate, we've decided to extend it to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.