Next week, my daughter Cary graduates from the University of Georgia.
I have two thoughts about this.
First, there’s no way I’m old enough to be the father of a college graduate.
And second, Cary is kind of my hero.
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For starters, she’s graduating a semester ahead of schedule, which is a feat I’m hoping but do not realistically expect my three sons to duplicate.
Mainly, though, Cary knows who she is and where she’s going.
That’s way more than I could say for myself at her age.
One semester less than four years ago, she headed to Athens with a clear plan: she was going to study early childhood education and become an urban school teacher.
As a parent, this was thrilling to me. When I went to college in Nashville, I had no plan except to do fun things with interesting people, read a lot of good books that probably weren’t related to my classes, and get invited back at the end of each year.
I believe this is called finding yourself.
Later, after graduating and serving in the Army, I found myself back in school, this time in Athens and, to my great fortune, married to Bess.
And still with no idea what I wanted to do.
I knew, though, that I’d better find something fast.
In fact, I came to this realization a stone’s throw from the University of Georgia, while standing in St. Mary’s Hospital holding a tiny new human being.
This was Cary.
Well, Baby Girl Kendrick-Holmes. She arrived several weeks early, before we could arrive at a name for her.
But I remember standing there in the hospital and realizing that she seemed to be waiting for me to say something.
So right there, I said to her, “I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to take care of you. Everything’s going to be all right.”
This was a defining moment in my life.
It may have been a defining moment in her life, too. Sometimes I wonder if she didn’t look up at me and think, “When I grow up and get old enough to leave home, remind me to be more squared away than this guy.”
Because that’s what happened. Like I said, she left home to become a teacher and work with the kinds of kids who are going to need extra love and attention before they can grasp the day’s lesson.
A couple of weeks ago, “Miss K-H” successfully completed her student teaching. In a week or so, she’ll have her diploma and teaching certificate.
In the meantime, Cary’s been substitute teaching. Her first day teaching all by herself was in a fifth-grade classroom, which is not quite her ideal age group.
When I texted her to find out how it went, she texted back: “The phrase ‘baptism by fire’ comes to mind.”
At least you can laugh about it, I said.
That’s when she texted me this account of her day: “A kid walked out of class, another kid said the F word, a kid got hit in the face, and there was a fire drill. Those are the highlights. And it was a half day.”
When I read that, I knew she was all right. Sure, she was doing something hard that not many people could do, but she was laughing about it, and she was going back to do it again the next day.
I’m proud of you, kid. You’ll go far, and you’re going to take a whole lot of people with you.