Today, my oldest child, my son, Corbin I Broc, spelled the same forwards and backwards even though the I is normally invisible, graduates from high school. I am extremely happy for him and very proud of him as well. He turned 18 a couple weeks back and he is developing into a very fine young man.

He is very capable and one of the better people I have known in my life. I do not just say that as a proud father, but as someone that has known many people, great people and many less than such. He is smart and kind and generous and well on his way to becoming someone that I will admire even more.

I’m sitting in an auditorium as I write this working to keep myself in the present, but reflection is natural at times like this. I had a lot of growing up to do still when I graduated high school myself. I was a little younger than my son is and far less mature in many ways. I think back to how far I went soon after graduating high school and later entering the military and then working my way through college and graduate school. 

My son is quite a bit ahead of where I was at this stage of the game. His life has been very different in many good ways. I am happy and grateful that I was able to provide him with many awesome opportunities, but mostly I am simply happy that I could know him and help guide him through his journey.

I arrived at the auditorium early by about 50 minutes. The doors had opened 10 minutes before. By the time I had walked in, the place was already about 80% full. It is a small school with a somewhat small auditorium. 

It is going to be a hot day with temperatures reaching 99 degrees for the first time this year. Even waiting in line to get in with the temperatures at 83 was a hot affair.

Today is also my youngest daughter’s birthday. She turned 11 today. She is an amazing young girl too. She has overcome many many difficult things in life already starting upon a difficult course just months after she was born. 

I love all of my children equally. They are all very different. Even being raised together in similar circumstances, they have faced very different opportunities and challenges shaping each of them very differently. It is an amazing thing watching them develop and grow into the people they are. Its not always easy to see this in them when they are very young. As they age and are shaped by small and sometimes larger influences, their form take shapes. 

Its like watching a beautiful piece of marble slowly take shape and form and turn into a statue, a perfect work of art. Sometimes large chips are removed and sometimes fine, perfecting slivers accentuate a line or a curve in a way that is so subtle that the eye cannot see it, but without that accentuation the smile or the warming feeling they bring to life would not be possible.

Like many teenagers, my son has weathered a bit of a crucible during his high school years. He was challenged greatly both physically, mentally, emotionally and more over and over again. These challenges helped to shape him into a fine young man. 
In about 17 minutes he and his classmates will start their procession down the aisle to receive their diplomas. Corbin has plans to go on to attend Savannah College of Art and Design next fall. His challenges to make that work and fund it are impressive indeed. He has earned scholarships and grants totaling over $21k per year so far. Yet, he still needs to fund a remaining balance each year of about $30k. Just one year of school is more than I paid for three years (total) of grad school at a law school even.
At forty three my undergraduate degree was long ago paid for by my military service. I am still paying off my grad school loans after graduating 13 years ago.

I am not worried for his future, quite the contrary. Unlike myself at 18 or 22 or 28 when I embarked on new chapters in my life in the military and college and grad school, my son firmly knows and has know what he wants to do with his life. His choice of school is definitely expensive, more so than many, maybe most schools. His choice is not just a degree but an investment in himself and his future in many more ways than education alone. His work outside of school and on projects the last 8 years that relate to his goals and his future give me confidence that he will be able to do so much with this investment in himself.
He is still working to bring in additional scholarships. He worked last summer and will work again this summer to earn more money to pay for the cost. He will likely work through all four years of college. He has established a GoFundMe page as well, just a couple days ago and is working on improving that also to help him achieve his goals. 

I’m looking forward to witnessing his growth, his success, his methods for navigating his challenges. I believe I have positively influenced my son throughout his life and helped him to choose great things for himself. His mother also been a positive influence in the same way and so many other family members too. 
We were influences and he made the choices of where and how to chip away at his sculpture. Among other things he is literally an artist in sculpting a bit as well. He’s worked on several claymation projects over the last few years. He understand about shaping characters and in shaping his own character.

Its difficult today to keep my own ego out of my reflections. He is my son and my oldest child at that. Soon I will be empty nesting for the first time. This is a bittersweet experience that I began to taste last fall as well after a separation and divorce from his mother. Since then I have seen him every other week. Soon I will see him far less.

I have looked forward to his growing up and growing on and his personal evolution into the man he is becoming. Still there is sorrow and sadness as we let him go on and make his life his own even more. I will always love him and can’t wait to see him move forward and onward, but I am going to miss his daily presence.

Deep breaths as I try not to tear up sitting here between rows of strangers, fellow parents and family of other students. 
I’m sure every parent goes through this in many different ways. Its probably a bitter sweet thing, a happiness and a sadness. 

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been assisting a feral momma cat near my apartment. Giving her food and water and a bit of a safe place near my porch to keep her kittens safe. Next week, I’ll take her to get fixed so that she will not contribute to the feral cat population further and make her life easier. She has given me a few quick reminders, lessons in rearing children. 

Her kittens are still a week away from the earliest they might be able to be weened and maybe a month and a half away from being fully ready to go on their own. Yet, she is already venturing further and leaving them for longer periods of time. She has to move on with her life to keep herself alive and strong to be able to nurse them and protect them. She also has to give them the opportunity to learn how to survive themselves in the world.

The same thing is happening with my son now. He’s reaching that age where we let our children go and be the adults they have grown into whether they are ready or not. They will make mistakes and face difficult difficult challenges. They will succeed at times and fail at times and we will love them and nurture them as we can. Sometimes we’ll be able to nurture them more than at other times.

I have been consciously doing more and more of this with Corbin all winter, all spring and since his birthday.

Its 11:02 am and almost time for things to begin….!!!

It’s 11:23 am of the next day.

What a difference 24 hours and 21 minutes makes!

I’m getting older and my inner ear is not what it used to be. Spinning rides are no longer a thing that work for me. Similarly, my inner ear did what it could to keep up with the emotional roller coaster that I road on this last day.

Just after I finished my exclamation points ending my writing while at the graduation, the graduates started walking in. My son was not first in line. His graduation class of about 129 students was broken into five or six groups based on their area of focus while in school. Corbin studied Computer Engineering even though he worked more on the side at videography and music composition, tracks that did not exist but would have been closest in coverage by the ‘Graphic Design’ track which would not allow him in when he started. Its a small school and works on a lottery system. Corbin got in on the standby list, deep in the list.

When he did walk in, he was all smiles. My son was very high up on cloud nine. I was somewhat deep in a row but was able to get some decent pictures of him walking in to the auditorium. 

I am a sentimental type and as I sat there by myself in the auditorium, tears welled up many times, just as they are as I write about them now. Lots of reasons for these tears ranging from pride to happiness to joy at his happiness to feelings of loneliness and loss as he prepares to go out into the world and that loss and loneliness knowing that his mother was somewhere distant in the audience as well.

I’d seen a picture of him posing with Corbin earlier that morning. Long ago I stopped viewing her Facebook posts for my own mental health and need to heal. This one slipped through after her mother posted it. It was a great picture, but it also raised my guard to remind me that the day was going to be emotionally challenging for reasons that had little to do with graduation. I felt a need to be strong for my son and protect myself.
Frankly, at the stage of rebuilding in my life, I am not prepared for a severe emotional setback.

The graduation was much as these things go. I do not want to be too negative, but in being honest I did have a visceral (negative) reaction to the speech of the 4th and overall valedictorian who quoted a Mike Rowe letter. It took 4-5 minutes to read the letter. Personally, I like Mike Rowe and had shared that same letter with my son days earlier as I felt it provided some healthy balance to my own higher expectations based optimism.

My reaction came from the political hijacking of the letter in part and in part because this person did not come up with something more original himself. He was a smart kid with the highest grades among many very smart kids and at this speech he chose to copy the words not in part or as a quick sample to highlight his own point, but as a substitution for not sharing his own.

I boxed the negativity away and eventually my son walked across the stage graduating with honors no less. I was proud as he had worked feverishly to make those grades right up until the last minute. Some students find making good grades to be a relatively effortless thing. I myself often fall into that category in many subjects. My son does not. His good grades come from very hard effort and diligence. He worked very very hard to pull off a gpa over 4.0. I was proud of him and happy for him.

Eventually all the graduates had received their diplomas, the class was announced, graduating caps were thrown, the graduates filtered out.

Following lines of other parents and relatives I made my way outside. I waited under a tree along with hundreds of others ducking out of the sun.

Eventually, Corbin and his mother texted me and let me know where they had collected with her parents. 

I went over and congratulated him. Hugged him, told him I loved him and was proud of him. His grandmother took a couple pictures of us with my phone.
His grandfather asked him if he wanted to go out to lunch to celebrate and they started working out where to go. Then they invited me.

His mother had invited me to a combination graduation/ birthday / school’s out for summer party at her house months earlier. I had declined long ago as the School’s out for summer party and the location in general was not one that I could celebrate in. I have far too many happy memories there from over the years that were twisted with the the pain that I let her and even her parents towards the end, let them inflict on me.
When I declined months ago, I couldn’t really put words to it. I simply knew that it would cause new pain and trigger old pain.

I had not been prepared for a family dinner after graduation. It would have been something very normal to do two years ago. I would have expected it. It would have been great. Make no mistake, I love these people. I will always love them. This is not a hate nor a spite thing.

I am healing still. I can talk to them just fine in situations that have no meaning, casual conversation. I had done just that with Corbin’s grandparents two days earlier and his mother and I have finally been making progress communicating just a bit as coparents. It’s progress.
But I was not ready to celebrate in the new reality set in a location of our former family home of many years.

Corbin, my son was awesome though. He was in a very extra special place. Without letting it bring him down, he invited me to go have dinner with him separately later in the day. He’s an amazing guy. I’m proud of my son. It was exactly what I needed and in that moment of everything else happening, son graduating, empty nest looming, healing and growing past old wounds, even a difficult week for business, he pulled this amazing solution out of the ether.

I hugged him and lost control of my tears a bit. It was all good.

Later, I spent the day relaxing and calming down back at my place. I’ve been fostering some kittens for a couple weeks and they are getting close to the age where they need to be weened. So I worked through some transition stuff with them. 

I packed some things to take the rest of the weekend and head out of town to be with my new love and avoid the heat wave.

Later that evening, I caught up with Corbin and we had a great talk while eating. Again I was reminded of how awesome he has grown to be.

I was caught in the moment of his newly found freedom. He’s an adult now. He has his diploma from high school. He will be leaving for college in two months. So many new freedoms and experiences coming his way this year. I had gotten right with myself before catching up with him. But was on cloud nine myself now.

Afterwards as I drove the two hours into the mountains, I drove away the last of my own pain. I realized that I had not been able to go to his mother’s place because I was not yet strong enough to be with people that might choose to harm me intentionally or not. Someday I will be strong enough. I’ll be able to protect myself and defend myself again.

Yesterday, I was not. Still I was able to protect myself by not being there.
Later in the evening, I also got some mixed messages about what the party had actually been. It seems the nature of the party had changed since I had received the initial invite. 

Maybe I had heard something that was not meant to be in this party. 

Maybe it wasn’t originally supposed to be the annual party with my ex-wife’s coworkers and other friends from the area coming to drink and party on the lake. From what I heard that type of thing didn’t happen or didn’t happen in full force or maybe it happened the next day.

I might have been able to handle that, but even so I suspect not. I can safely spend 15-20 minutes there these days when I pick up or drop my kids off. I avoid venturing far into the house or onto the property. I avoid looking at the beauty of the lake like its Medusas snakes.

Yesterday, was an amazing day. I’ve seen some wonderful things in my son. Some I was aware of and some that have grown even brighter. I learned some new things about me and I took a significant step past and through and over a milestone that I had been dreading for months. I survived. In some ways, I thrived and so did my son.

I finish this after doing some yard work, lining flower beds with rocks. I’m in the mountains and there is a great breeze, almost a wind blowing and the sun is shining and its simply beautiful here.

We’re going to have a small fire and a few friends over tonight at my girlfriend’s place here. I am so ready to relax a bit tonight and tomorrow get back to rebuilding my life for the better.

I’m making the most of today. I’m making the world a little bit more beautiful and in my mind that is better.  

I’m hoping you join in and make your day amazing and your own world better maybe more beautiful too!


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