Sunday, May 29, 2011

Last one

You will just have to allow me to be sappy today.

It is early Sunday morning. The "baby" -- Younger Son -- graduates from high school today. He's still upstairs asleep. The last few days has been a whirlwind of parties and celebrations for him and his friends.

The tradition in our little suburb is that parents throw grad parties for their sons/daughters. A lot of them combine with others. Younger Son spent yesterday and much of the day before going to one after the next. There are dinners, ice cream socials, brunches and pool parties. We made the decision when our first graduated that we would do ours a week before graduation, so we kind of unoficially kick things off.

This is the third, and last, time around for this little exercise for us. As Wife says, it's always a bittersweet occasion.

This year we are caught up in planning a wedding but we said from the beginning that we would not let that overshadow this milestone in Younger Son's life.

When Older Son graduated, my dad came. We had dinner the night before here at the house with him, Wife's parents, Wife's sister and all of us. I told Older Son at dinner that night how proud of him we were. I told him we would miss him when he went to college, but that all of us, including his grandmother who had died a few years before, would always be with him, and that we would take a picture of all of us the next day for him to take with him to remind him of that. He did not say much about it at the time, but every time I visited him during his college years, I noticed that the picture was somehwere in his room.

My dad died before the next graduation (Daughter's) but I had my aunt and uncle who live nearby come for dinner the night before and dear friends who live a few hours away joined us for graduation the next day. Daughter spoke at her commencement ceremony and it was beautiful.

Wife's parents were not able to make it over this weekend. They are both not feeling 100 percent and we encouraged them to conserve their energy so they can be here for the wedding. Younger Son was very gracious in understanding.

No other extended family will be with us, either, but the aforementioned friends will drive up for the ceremony. Tonight we'll go out to dinner with "just us" -- Wife, Older Son, FDIL, Daughter, Younger Son and me -- and we will celebrate this little boy who had the nerve to grow up on us, the one who God in his infinite wisdom knew that we needed to make us whole, the one Wife used to lovingly say would "keep us young or kill us."

And I don't now if he kept us young or not (the lack of hair on the top of my head would seem to say no to that) but we're still kicking.

For what he has added to our lives, though, I am without words. He is the caboose of this crazy train we call our family, the part that very much makes us complete.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Moving right along

Needless to say, lots going around here.

Wife and I had our first dance lesson last week and we go back tomorrow for number two. The first one, not surprisingly, was pretty much a sales pitch. Our instructor went through some basic steps with us, told us this dance studio could be our "family" (I appreciate her enthusiasm but I have a family, thank you) and then sold us a package.

It was actually quite reasonable and we'll get three more private lessons in before the wedding, and we have the opportunity to go to some group activities. I think the lessons will serve their purpose -- to keep us from looking foolish at the wedding reception.


We had a big graduation party for Younger Son last Friday night. It was a lot of work but well worth it. We did this for our older two, so it was a given that we would do it this time around.

It took Wife several days of preparation to get ready. Daughter was a big help and I helped where I could, as well as Younger Son, of course.

Fortunately, it was a beautiful night, so we were able to have folks outside.

Early that day I went to get in the car to run an errand and saw a snake lying in the sun on the driveway. He was about three feet long and brownish in color with some little flecks of color on his back. I honestly could not tell if he was a "bad" (poisonous) snake or not, but with Wife and Daughter nearby, I knew he needed to go.

I went to get the shovel, which was under the deck. This probably took all of ten seconds but when I got back, the snake was gone. I looked all around and decided he had just moved on.

I told Wife about it and told her that, even though I thought he had probably slithered far away by now, it would probably be a good idea to keep the garage doors close.

Fast forward a few hours later. I was working at my desk in the playroom, which is over the garage. I was also on the phone. I heard an earth-shattering scream and I knew in a flash that Mr. Snake was back.

The scream came from Daughter who doesn't care for any type of moving creature other than dogs.

I got off the phone and ran down the stairs to the garage. Daughter was on the stairs shaking. Wife's friend Mary, who was helping us get ready for the party, was also down there. She had seen the snake go behind a long table leaning against the wall, which we would set up later for the party.

I armed myself with the shovel again while Mary pulled the table from the wall. I gave him about ten whacks. He appeared to be motionless but when I lifted the shovel, he began to move again.

I was at an odd angle. Mary propped the table against my leg, told me not to move and to hand her the shovel. She finished him off.

I'm sorry if this was a "good" snake but he had to go.


Younger Son will graduate this Sunday and we'll have one more major event behind us. His baccalaureate service was last Sunday and it was lovely. Since it is religious in nature, it is optional, but most students participate.

The graduation candidates wear their gown without their caps and it always takes my breath away when they march in to the organ muscic.

These passages just keep happening.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dancing? At my age?

Another week has passed in a flash.

Wife and I rose early last Saturday morning, went to spin class at the Y, made a quick trip to the Farmers' Market (local strawberries were in! YEA!), came home and showered and were off to Memphis for Younger Son's rugby tournament.

The game started at 4:30 so we had time to stop in Jackson for a quick lunch. The drive over was actually somewhat relaxing because in the car we can only obsess about all the things we have to do, not actually do them, which makes sense in some warped kind of way. Just humor me.

The game had a sad outcome because even though our team scored more "tries" (like a touchdown in football) than the other one, they beat us on penalty kicks. Younger Son was quite disappointed.

We consoled him for a while, assured him he had done well and we were proud of him, then were off to head toward Auburn for Daughter's graduation.

We spent the night in Tupelo, MS Saturday night, then rolled into Auburn about 1 p.m. Sunday. We picked up Daughter and took her to lunch, then stood in line about two hours -- that's right, two hours -- to take her picture in front of the stately concrete and brick Auburn University sign in front of the campus. And yes it was worth it.

We had a celebration dinner with the family that night, excluding Younger Son who was unable to make it down, and Wife and I left Daughter and Older Son with some of their friends for late night celebrating. We made it back to the hotel about 9, took a nice leisurely walk around the grounds, then turned in fairly early.

I don't know how to describe Monday's commencement ceremonies other than to use one word: miserable. Outside, pushing 90 degrees, hardly a cloud in the sky, 3500-plus graduates. Did I mention it was miserable?

Bright spots were (1) seeing Daughter proudly march across the stage, at which point Wife and I gave each other a handshake and almost simultaneously said, "Two down, one to go," and (2) hearing Robert Gibbs, former White House Press Secretary, give the brief (nine minutes) commencement address. He was a good speaker.

The event began at 9:30. Daughter "walked" at 11:15. She had already sent us a text saying that she would be leaving immediately thereafter, as did roughly 95 percent of the graduates. We heard they finished up around 1 p.m. What word can I use other than MISERABLE?!

But Daughter is now a college graduate and we are immensely proud. Wife and Older Son hit the road shortly before 1 p.m. Daughter and I went to lunch, then went to work packing her up. We loaded up Older Son's pickup truck and the back of my Honda Pilot. I left about 5 p.m. and headed home and Daughter followed a couple of days later. She and her earthly belongings are now back here at the home she left just four years ago. She will now seek a teaching job and see what lies ahead.

Tomorrow morning we'll attend FDIL's hooding ceremony at Belmont University in Nashville, where she will receive her Master's Degree, and we might or might not attend the full blown graduation in the afternoon. Mercifully, it's all inside. It's cooler here than it was earlier in the week, but I appreciate that we won't have fight any kind of weather.

We are now turning our attention toward Younger Son and the graduation party we will have for him next Friday night, then his graduation on the 29th. And then of course there's the little matter of a wedding coming up in five weeks.

Not that this matters in any way, but I am approximately 14 pounds away from the weight I would like to be for the wedding (that would be 14 pounds over, by the way, just in case you were wondering). Unless I decide to shed a body part, I won't make it, but if I can drop a little more over the next few weeks I'll be happy. For about 15 years now I have had this matter of about 40 - 50 pounds that always want to come back after I get rid of them. Here's hoping their exit this time will be permanent.

That is not to say that these recent activities are about me. I just want to be healthy for them.

And in the mist of all of this, Wife has signed us up for dancing lessons. She is scared to death we will make fools of ourselves when we have to dance at the wedding.

Our first one is next Thursday night. When she called to tell me about it, Wife said, "the first lesson will be all about teaching you to lead and me to follow."

OK, folks. She walked right into that one.

What self-respecting husband would not have automatically made some sarcastic comment about having been married X amount of years (in my case, almost 27) and expecting a dance instructor to accomplish that?

Above all, we keep our senses of humor.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The pace is picking up

We knew it would happen. We knew it back in October when Older Son and FDIL got engaged.

We knew life would get CRAZY come spring. We were right.

The invitations have been mailed. The wedding will happen June 18.

In the meantime, there are parties. The happy couple are receiving some lovely gifts. Wife is planning the rehearsal dinner and little gift bags for out-of-town guests.

We went to Little Rock last weekend -- Older Son, FDIL, FDIL's parents, Wife and me. Our old friends there, most of whom have known Older Son his entire life and many of whom were there the night he was born, threw a dinner party in his and FDIL's honor on Saturday night.

We saw people we had not seen in ages and it kind of reminded me of a class reunion. I stood up the entire night and I never ate or drank anything until Wife urged me to get one of the strawberry desserts that one of the hostesses had made especially for me. My throat was sore by the end of the night from talking so much.

Sitting around with a small group toward the end, Older Son expressed his appreciation for the wonderful event and for the many years of friendship. He commented that, even though we have been gone nearly 14 years, the strong relationships endure. FDIL, with her gracious never-meet-a stranger personality, expressed her thanks as well.

Wife's and my hearts were full. We were proud of Older Son and FDIL. And we had a great time.

Back at home, we are preparing for Younger Son's high school graduation which will take place May 29. We'll throw a graduation party, as we did with the older two, on May 20. We're going with a Mexican theme and Wife is planning enchiladas, black beans, Spanish rice, and chips and salsa.

But there's plenty going on before that. We'll be going to Memphis Saturday where Younger Son will be playing in the state rugby tournament. If they win in the semi-finals Saturday, they'll play in the finals Sunday, but we'll have to miss that one. Daughter graduates from Auburn Monday morning and her celebration dinner, which has been on the calendar for months, is Sunday night. Memphis is about six hours from Auburn. So Younger Son will have to understand (and he does).

After graduation Monday, I'll send Wife and Older Son home and Daughter and I will go pack her up to move home. We're going to hit it hard Monday afternoon and evening, and hope to head home Tuesday morning. (Wish me luck on that one).

A week from Saturday is FDIL's graduation from grad school so we'll be attending that event also. I'm proud of all my graduates.


A couple nights ago I got a little snippy with Wife (OK, OK, it happens to the best of us and I have apologized). I told her there were just too many things competing for our time, including what I have mentioned here, as well as a family reunion I'm supposed to attend in Savannah, GA the weekend before the wedding. I was also bemoaning the rugby and graduation conflict.

Wife listened to me rant, then very rationally discussed with me how we would make it all work, helping me see the beautiful forest among all the massive trees. I told her she is very wise.

Last night Wife told me, without getting snippy (she is a better person than I), that she is not overwhelmed -- yet -- but she feels like she is rushing from one thing to the next and is having trouble slowing down and relaxing and enjoying the moment. I reminded her how she helped me the other night and told her again that I have never seen her so organized and efficient.

So what do we do? We are breathing in and breathing out. We are taking the occasional cleansing breath. And we are trying to savor each moment.

For you see, these are good times and sweet times, even though they are busy times. We are blessed to be here and we are making some great memories. I want to look back with a smile, not with regret.

And I am confident that I will.


Here are some shots from last week's party in Little Rock, and from a shower Wife's friends here hosted for FDIL a few weeks ago. I am not even going to try to label each one. The first is Wife and me with Older Son and FDIL, and FDIL's parents at the Little Rock party; then the next is Wife with her buddies in Little Rock; then FDIL and her dad. The rest are from the aforementioned shower.