My husband Rick finished his training at Empire College and his graduation ceremony was on Monday. When he was laid-off, the Employment Department sent him back to school to get his certifications up to date (he's a computer tech). My husband despises school, so the year of classes and exams was torturous. He likes learning, but he has no patience for the hoops one is forced to hop through to fulfill the requirements of school. At last he finished, and to celebrate he decided to walk with his graduating class.
The graduation ceremony was almost as grueling as his classes.
Queen Teen and I arrived just as the graduating class was walking in to the auditorium to "Pomp and Circumstance." We found a seat in the back near the wheelchair spot and settled in for what I knew was going to be a long production. Queen Teen gave it her best, really wanting to be there for Rick, but by the third speaker she was shaking and begging to leave. We went out to the lobby and walked around for a while, but after 30 minutes she still didn't want to go back into the auditorium. So we kept walking, back and forth, from the front door to the back, stepping outside for fresh air, then back inside to peek through the doors for a glimpse of what was going on in the ceremony. Holy crap, they were still "speaking." How many frickin speakers did they have? Another 30 minutes passed and the key note speaker, a guy from a local credit union, started his incredibly boring, pointless, all about him, speech. I wasn't the only person getting fed up. The lobby was slowly filling with other parents with their restless, crying, and grumpy children in tow. The only thing that seemed to keep Queen Teen calm was if we kept walking, so I pushed her wheelchair more, back and forth, for an hour and a half. I didn't dare stop because then she'd tremble violently and beg to leave.
I have to applaud her effort, though. She really wanted to be there for Rick, and when at last they handed out the certificates, she agreed to go back into the auditorium so we could cheer for him when he walked across the stage (I cheered. She buried her head against my thigh). As soon as we he got his certificate, Queen Teen and I went back to the lobby and began walking again. 20 more minutes passed before everyone got their certificates and left the stage. After several minutes of searching, Rick found us huddled together amidst a mass of people. He was hot and irritated from sitting for over two hours under hot stage lights in a cap and gown over his jeans and dress shirt. "Let's go," he said with a scowl.
He felt terrible for putting Queen Teen through what turned into an ordeal for her, but really appreciated that we'd stayed to the end. What made the whole thing worse was the feeling that the graduation ceremony was more of a marketing tool for Empire than a real celebration of the student's accomplishments. The speakers talked about the school, not the students, and I felt like they were trying to convince family members to sign up for classes at Empire too. The dean of the school, who was the first speaker, even got the town wrong! Come on, it was Santa Rosa, not San Jose.
I feel bad for Rick who had wanted something better to celebrate the fact that he'd stuck with his classes and got straight A's. I'm really proud of him, and of Queen Teen, who struggled with her anxiety and did her best to be there for Rick. She's really growing up.
But I think when it's my turn to graduate, she'll skip the ceremony. The after-party's more fun anyway.