Today I'm picturing a scene from 18 years ago.
I'm standing in St. Mary's Hospital in Athens, and I'm holding a very small person. She is hours old.
She has no name. Her name was going to be Charles Estes Dimon Kendrick-Holmes III but thank goodness she's a girl. Bess and I are thinking about naming her Cary Elizabeth and calling her Cary Beth.
Nurses have taken her mother away, and now it's just me and this little girl wrapped up like a burrito. We're in a semi-private room, which means not private, which means another new mother and new child could be wheeled into the room at any moment.
But it's Easter weekend and the nurses have assured me that we'll have the room to ourselves, though I don't understand the connection between the resurrection and the number of babies born on a given weekend. I can lie on the extra bed, but if I get under the covers I'll have to pay for the whole room, and insurance won't cover it.
I'm out of the Army and back in school, finishing a collection of short stories so I can get a master's degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing. That and a couple bucks will get me a cup of coffee.
So I'm looking at Baby Girl Kendrick-Holmes and trying not to look into the future and think about things like jobs and bills and the high cost of college.
She's beautiful and perfect in the way that babies are. She's squinting and even smirking, and I detect an air of cynicism. Somehow, I can tell she'll be the kind of person who doesn't suffer fools gladly.
Then I realize it. She's waiting. She's waiting for me to say something.
I'll never forget what happens next. I start talking, and I begin with "I don't know how I'm going to do it but" That's how liberal arts majors begin discussions about the future.
"I don't know how I'm going to do it," I say, "but I'm going to find something to do that pays money and we're going to be fine. Your mother and I love you, and you're going to be fine."
The room is silent. Not even a gurgle or a coo.
That's when I realize that life's not about me. It's not about waiting around for the perfect job or the perfect set of circumstances. It's not about waiting for your ship to come in.
When you love people and those people depend on you, you've got to get cracking. If you fail, they fail, and that's not an option.
It's a scary realization, especially when that person weighs 6 pounds and 7 ounces, but it can also set you free.
"We're going to be fine," I say. And the tiny girl wrapped like a burrito stops smirking. She believes me.
We name her Cary Alice, which is good because most of her friends are named Something Beth, like Mary Beth or Sarah Beth.
Today, Cary's a smart, kind, beautiful young woman who doesn't suffer fools gladly.
In the fall, she heads back to Athens. Tonight, she picks up her diploma in the Columbus Civic Center.
I won't be cheering, and nobody will, because the school district won't allow it. I'll just sit and watch and relish the silence, which will be heavy with hope, love and a little bit of fear.
We've been down this road before, and everything will be just fine.
Happy graduation, everybody.
Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, firstname.lastname@example.org.