Posts Tagged ‘graduation’

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Managing life with a “broken family” is tough on the best of days; much tougher on the worst. My parents split up when I was a senior in high school. My dad came back home from time to time but things were never the same after the first time he left. When I earned an academic scholarship to a school just 25 minutes away from home, he didn’t want me to accept it because I would have to live on campus as all freshmen were required to do and in his book, no decent woman moved out of her parents’ house before she was married. But I accepted the scholarship and made plans to attend anyway. That was the most rebellious and selfish thing I had ever done. On move in day my mom and dad drove me to campus. My mom and I unloaded the car and carried all of my things into the dorm. My father refused to be a part of it so he stayed in the car the whole time.

During my first year at Stanford, my parents made a last ditch effort to stay together by moving from northern California to southern California where my father thought they could get a fresh start. They would be near his family. My mom agreed because she wanted to save the marriage. However, by the following year, my father had moved out again, permanently. This time, he not only moved out, he moved in with another woman. My mom had a lot of trouble accepting that and looking back at it now, having been through that in my own adult life, I don’t blame her. It’s a really tough type of rejection to get through. One of the things my mom did was that she made it very clear to us “kids” that we were not to go visit our father at the house where he lived with the other woman. She was hurt and she wanted us to have as little to do with our father as possible.

Four years after that move in day, when it was time for me to graduate, I received four tickets for graduation. Of course, my mom was going. My boyfriend at the time (that I married three months after graduation) was also using one of the tickets. I called my mom and asked her if I could invite my father to my graduation. She said no. She said that if he attended, she would not. So I had to choose to have either my mother or my father at my graduation. I chose to have my mother attend. I ended up selling the two extra tickets. That was about two months before graduation. Then, a week before graduation, my mother called me to say that my father was very hurt that I had not included him in the graduation so she had told him that he could attend. While I was happy that he would be there, I was on the spot because I no longer had a ticket for him. I asked all over campus and placed ads all over. There weren’t any tickets to be had. I talked to my boyfriend and told him that if I couldn’t get a ticket, I wanted my father to use his ticket. The tickets were required only for the main graduation at Frost Amphitheater. No diplomas would be presented there. It was basically, all of the speeches. Diplomas would be awarded at small department ceremonies throughout the campus. Those did not require a ticket. In the end, I was able to buy one more ticket for my father (at about twice the price of what I had sold two tickets for!) so my mom and dad and my boyfriend all got to attend the main ceremony and then the small ceremony where we received our diplomas. My department, Spanish and Portuguese, had their ceremony at the best place possible, at least in my book. It was held inside of Memorial Church complete with stained glass windows, countless mosaics, and five pipe organs with beautiful resonant tones.

Before graduation, my mom and dad met my boyfriend and I for breakfast. After breakfast, my dad very proudly handed me a big wrapped box. He wanted me to open it before the ceremony. As I opened the big box, I kept coming up against tissue paper and more tissue paper. It reminded me of the Christmas my dad had finally been able to afford an engagement and wedding ring set for my mother, more than ten years after they married. That Christmas he gave my mom a huge box filled with tissue paper that she had to dig through to get to the little box from the jewelry store. Now, all of these years later, here I was opening a box with a lot of colored tissue paper. Finally, I got to the end of the tissue paper and found a lot of $2 bills! He gave me cash and to make it more special, he told me he had gone to the bank and asked for $2 bills; each of the bills was brand new. My mom was happy as I opened the box and my dad was happy. That was probably one of the last times I ever saw them happy on the same day in the same location.

We went on to the ceremony and afterwards, my brothers and their wives and one of my aunts and uncles joined us for a graduation barbecue hosted by the Chicano/Latino student organization. It was very special to have my family there. My sisters had not been able to make it but all three of my brothers made it! It made me feel like they were there to support me and they were proud of me. It’s difficult for me to explain how it made me feel to have them so proud of me. In fact, I’m sitting here typing this with tear filled eyes at the memory. It was the best graduation gift I received…having my family with me on that special day.

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