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Just Another Thornton’s COVID Graduation
May 1, 2020. My eighth blog post in the Coronatimes
This damn virus really has done a number on everyday events for all of us. While some things may feel the same, they really aren’t, and we’re just trying to convince ourselves otherwise. Other people may feel that one day the all clear will sound and it’s back to business as usual, but as this hallway gets longer and longer, the realization that there isn’t a clear cut finish line will start to sink in.
There have been so many things lost and so many things that are still to be lost: Work, school, concerts, sporting events, festivals, parties, birthdays, weddings, funerals and for many, graduations. It doesn’t matter which graduation; from kindergarten, 5th, 8th, high school, all the way to undergrad and post-grad, every one of them is a reason to celebrate the moving from one stage of life to the next. And they’re gone.
My son Ian is graduating from Marian University in Indianapolis on Saturday. He actually finished in December, but they only walk once a year, so he was included in the May ceremony and subsequent celebration. Cap and gown were ordered and hotel reservations were made. Then the virus happened and life stopped and further life was postponed until an undetermined date.
College wasn’t necessarily Ian’s cup of tea and he went through some difficult times there; so the fact that he had the chance to quit, but stayed, dug in, finished his degree and planned to walk at graduation, was a huge victory for him and for us. The ceremony being canceled felt like more of the same difficultly he had gone through previously. He needed this specific opportunity to have closure on the experience and be proud of himself, for himself.
The end of my college journey was much the same, but in a different sense. I enjoyed college and did well, but had a bad habit of following my heart and boys and changed schools a couple times. I ended up married my junior year, but by my last senior semester, was going through a painful divorce. There were dark days that I plowed through, much like I saw Ian plowing through. I clawed my way steadily toward graduation and when it finally arrived I rolled around in it. I rubbed it all over my body and inhaled it deeply. I savored every last morsel. The end of this stage meant that I was going to be able to start the next one with a clean slate. I had conquered this time and I was ready to move on.
None of the graduates of 2020 will be able to revel as I did. Ian’s graduation ceremony will be a virtual one held via livestream. Names will be read, but no one will walk across a stage to be pictured as they are handed their diploma. There will be no chance to see see all of those people that you were in the trenches with for four years one last time and toast each other’s success. There will be no chance to tell that college experience “thanks for everything” or “kiss my ass”. There will be no chance to meet up with parents and grandparents for poses in your cap and gown and have them congratulate you over and over before asking the never-ending question, “What are you going to do now?”
Damn you Coronavirus. It’s one thing to make us wear masks and gloves everywhere we go, but now you’re messing with our real psyche. You’re taking away some of the most important emotional milestones that make us who we are. Sure, we’ll be able to play catch-up some day and celebrate, but who likes to mark a special day on a different day? Who wants to celebrate their May 2nd graduation on June 15th? It’s just not the same.
Last weekend we had to deliver my car to Ian as his totally broke down. With this opportunity and a looming deadline to have his Marian University cap and gown sent back, I took them and his diploma with us and had him pose for pictures at the Thornton’s where we met. There was never going to be a situation where I wouldn’t get snaps of him in that gown. He was hesitant to take pictures in a gas station parking lot, but as I told him, trust me, some day those shots will be priceless in the ole memory bank.
Hey COVID, it’s time to get off my psyche. And lay off the carbs, you’re heavy.