Tuesday, June 25, 2013

For Rachel

Last Tuesday featured the high school graduation of my youngest child, Rachel.  While this was our second high school graduation, my son passed this milestone three years ago, it was still extremely special and very emotional.  While it is true that I cry much more these days, the wet eyes and lump in my throat that Rachel's graduation brought forth, lasted a few more days than the everyday teary moments.

As I have mentioned before, I have a lot of alone time during my second job.  I am usually at the mercy of my thoughts for at least 5 hours each shift.  This past week I tried not to direct the mind meanderings but allowed it to conjure up as many memories of Rachel's childhood as I could.

Some were shared experiences, some individual moments.   Here are a few.

Rachel's birth was difficult, to say the least.  After 24 hours of labor which ended in a brow presentation, the petite woman doctor, clutching a plunger above her head with both hands, attacked and plucked Rachel out of the womb.  It was horrific!  (OK, perhaps that is an exaggeration, but that is how I remember it).  When frustrated or angry with my wife, I will sometimes recall that moment, and no matter the cause of my consternation, forgive her with a "yes honey" and/or a kiss on the forehead.  Amazingly, such a horrendous moment produced as gentle and lovable a creature than I could ever imagine.

As a toddler, Rachel was rarely still.  Even when dead tired she would press on.  I recall bringing her home from an especially long day at the park, carrying her into the house and putting her down on the kitchen floor.  When I turned back to her after removing my coat, I found her fast asleep on the floor, coat still on, head on the cool linoleum.   That drive and energy never left her.

As a young sister, Rachel loved her brother JW, but could only day Da-doo.  She followed him everywhere, always a few steps behind, invariably calling Da-doo.  At a friend's horse farm, she had somehow lost her pants (or escaped during dressing) and was seen running after JW and his friend, diaper falling around her legs, "Da-doo wait", being repeated over and over again.

Rachel started swim lessons around age 5 or 6 at a local YMCA, then progressed to the local swim club.  There she was amongst a gaggle of other little girls waiting for their chance to swim the 25 meters across the pool.  Over time she became proficient at the breast stroke, even excelling for a few years.  While my son had played a bit of soccer, he was never very good, but Rachel actually won some events.  For a few brief years I was able to understand the parental pride of seeing one's child do well in sports, was able to fantasize about the Olympics, or better yet, free college.  Eventually Rachel's love of the water moved her from swimming to water polo but alas, her knees were not up to the challenge and her career was short lived.  Still, she stayed on the team, coaching and encouraging her team mates, which made me just as proud in knowing that she didn't drop out when the going got tough and she could no longer play.

As a child, Rachel had an impish smile with dimples on both sides.  While there were times during her early teenage years that those dimples remained hidden, for the most part she passed through middle school and early high school only hating being in the presence of her parents, as opposed to actually hating her parents as so many of her peers did their parents.  But even if the smiles were less frequent, she would occasionally step out of the required teen attitude, and light up the room with her smile and inner light.  Sometimes as especially happy day released the inner Rachel, sometimes a funny happening that she would share with us.  Happily for us, and especially her mother, Rachel only occasionally became less Rachel and more a teenager.

While Rachel, when asked, claims she will never have children, her love and caring for her pets throughout the years convinces me that she will not only be a mom some day, she will be a wonderful one.  When we decided to put our dog in the kennel for the day of the grad party, Rachel was upset even though she knew it was best for Bubba who gets overly excited when people come to the house.  She loves him and, I am sure, will demonstrate that same love and concern for her babies when she chooses to become a parent.  Like her mother, she has a great capacity for empathy and compassion, two traits which, if there was a test for parenthood, I believe should be of main importance.

Which brings us back to graduation day.  Rachel's high school uses a local college arena for graduation, both because of the size of the class and to eliminate any weather related issues.  Of course, they read each and every name as the young adults walk to the stage for his/her diploma, but they also show the picture of the person, in this case the graduation picture in which all the students looked their best.  The camera generally likes Rachel, and so, of course, the picture that flashed of her ever so briefly on the screens was the loveliest of the lot.  I was just able to cheer before the emotion of the moment overwhelmed me, but I could still clap and clap loudly I did.  As she walked back to her seat, almost gliding along the hardwood floor, she was truly Rachel, as carefree as those diaper- less days of her youth yet brimming with the confidence, relief and sheer excitement of the day, mixed with the boundless hope of the future that lay ahead.

Congratulations Rachel!! 

Your mother and I love you, not just because you are our child but also because you are an amazing young adult, full of love and energy and goodness.  We wish you as bright a future as your smile, and as much happiness as the depth and breadth of the seas.


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