It had to happen, eventually.
After 11 months and two days of posting something here every day, every goddamn day, as the blog title suggests, on Monday night about 8 p.m., I found myself staring out the window at the darkness falling, listening to the birds chirp.
Blank. Utterly blank.
Which is odd, because you'd think I'd have something to say. My older son had just graduated from high school the day before. Usually a time when any pundit worth his ink stains can turn a glib palm toward the sky and pontificate on demand. Pith should flow like a river. Insights galore.
Maybe that was the trouble. This subject was too easy, a slow pitch right down the pipe. Graduation went exactly as it was supposed to go: Caps and gowns were worn. "Pomp and Circumstance" was played. Speeches made. The future envisioned. Dreams nurtured. Throats tightened, eyes glistened. Mine anyway.
But all that was so usual, so expected, nothing I couldn't lift off the front of the Hallmark cards lined up by the mylar graduation balloons in our foyer. As for the out-of-the-ordinary stuff, well, what's there to say about that? The Glenbrook North High School chorus sang "The Star Bangled Banner" to the parents, which was surprising and lovely, but you really had to be there. Later the school held a senior night, from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., with games and prizes and a four-part searchlight sweeping the night sky out front. It must have taken a ton of planning on somebody's part. T-shirts were designed, games set up, six hours worth of entertainment for hundreds of 18-year-olds. Someone put a lot of time and effort into this, a lot of someones. Many parent volunteers. I couldn't do it; my palms sweat just thinking about doing it. I never even heard it was going on until last night.
What I mean is, thanks. The kids loved it. Or so I'm told. Well, not quite told. That was the impression I gleaned. Nobody tells me much of anything anymore.
Maybe that's why my mind shut down. None of this is about me. It was somebody else's dream I was walking through. The bystander, making a cameo. The parts that I had input in -- the endless readings of "Hop on Pop," the preparation of oatmeal, the chauffeuring -- are so far away already, now drop-kicked even farther into the distant past. All I had to do was show up and sit there, and I showed up and sat there magnificently. But if I had skipped it, the whole thing would have unfolded just the same and I can't say the boy would have cared one way or another.
No wonder I don't want to think about it. Or, more precisely, can't. Because the only thought I have is the most banal, cliched thought ever on this topic:
God that was fast. Eighteen years, bing, boom, thanks pop. Actually, not even the thanks pop part. That only happens in the movies.
No wonder I'm uncharacteristically mute. "God that was fast" is not exactly the most profound insight into the parenting experience. Maybe because it's all the same for everybody, if you do it right.
Maybe that's what I'm afraid of saying. Because honestly, beside it now being over with, mostly I have no regrets. Which is rare for me. But really, no regrets at all. I wasn't an absent dad or a bad dad or a neglectful dad or a domineering dad. I nailed it, dad-wise, I think. It all has worked out, so far, yet to say anything about it smacks of bragging, and for all my logic and reason, I still believe that bragging is giving the finger to fate and earning the retribution that's coming. I don't want to do that. My gut tells me to fall quiet, don't attract any attention and maybe this string of luck will just keep spooling out, unbroken.
Kinda blew it here, now, though.
In for a dime, in for a dollar. There's one more thing to say. The one thing I don't want to say because it's so ... it's so ... what? Great, I suppose. Yes, great. I usually believe that wonders should be remarked upon, but this one, well, I should just tuck it away, but there's this blank page to think about, so let's just get it out there and be done and we can move on.
So ...we were all gathered Sunday in our kitchen, after commencement, my parents, everybody, about to have dessert, to launch into our cheesecake—oh, heck, they advertised last Christmas—to launch into our absolutely delicious Eli's Cheesecake. And my wife has us all, the two dozen or so family members present, sing "Happy graduation to you," which seems odd—like wishing people "Merry Halloween." But as I said, this graduation isn't all about me, so I keep my yap shut. We finish singing —a least there were no candles to blow out —and some of the relatives call upon the boy of the hour to make a speech.
"Speech, speech," they cry out—not me, by the way. I am mute. He sort of looks at us and doesn't seem to feel inclined to say anything, so someone-- again, not me, I'm tucked in the corner, watching--calls out, "What is the secret of your success?"
He does not pause, does not ponder, but replies with one word: