As I found out today, the college graduation of our firstborn son brought out great parental pride but also just a tinge of sadness at the quick passage of time. As I watched my son, Stephen Patrick, stride across the stage at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside to receive his diploma, my mind wandered to times long ago.
As Stevie shook the hands of the chancellor, the dean and the provost, I could see him climbing over my back as a toddler, wearing a rugby shirt and little blue jeans. I saw him in his flannel shirt and baseball cap at the pumpkin farm, riding in a wheelbarrow full of carefully selected pumpkins. I saw him, the proud big brother, holding his newborn sister, Samantha. I could hear echoes of Christmas 1996, with a new baby in the house. “You know what my favorite Christmas present is, Dad?” he asked eagerly. “Samantha,” he replied, beaming at his new sister. I saw him a few years later, pick up his baby sister, Ruby, and help us give her a bath.
My mind wandered, but was brought back to the present for a moment. “Stephen Hanneman, bachelor of science,” professor Gregory Mayer called out over the public address system. Stevie, the young man, took his diploma cover from Chancellor Deborah Ford and strode back to his seat, the white tassel on his mortarboard dancing the whole way. How did this day arrive, watching my 24-year-old achieve one of the biggest of life’s milestones? How did he get here, one of 509 graduates in the Class of 2016? I realized that the golden-voiced soap-opera actor, Macdonald Carey, was right when he said: “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”
Reminiscing might be one sure sign of aging, but graduations are good times to indulge in memories. Stevie overcame huge obstacles in his life to reach this day. We watched him pull his high school career from the clutches and turn things around. He killed it on the American College Test (ACT) and suddenly, a great future opened up. He put himself through school with student loans, working various jobs, and the unwavering help of his dear girlfriend, Maggie. How I wished I’d been able to provide more help and be there more during those years. But at the same time, how proud I am that he made it happen for himself.
Standing at the graduation reception in Wyllie Hall, I gave Stevie a big hug of congratulations. I knew, like the pumpkin farm and the bicycle rides and soccer games, memories of this day would be etched forever in my mind. I realized anew that as a parent, you do your very best, pray a lot, and then let them go.
Happy graduation, son. Your Dad is so very proud of you.
©2016 The Hanneman Archive