Tonight, AJ graduates from high school. He is ready to drive and will be starting the University of Cincinnati in the fall.
I’ve only been in his life for four years. His mother… There is no one closer to him than his mother. So the last four years for me, and the last eighteen for her, have been all about getting him started in life. Now he’s ready. Tonight, he will march down the aisle in cap and gown and receive his diploma.
It makes me think back to my graduation. I remember our principal, Mr. Szakovitz, scolding us for tossing our caps in the air during the ceremony. We might, he warned, put an eye out.
What I also remember was the commencement speech. Unless your speech is given by the President of the United States, someone like Steve Jobs or Larry Page from Google, or a comedian like Conan O’Brien, you will not remember your commence speaker’s address. My commencement speaker was a professor from Youngstown State University, and the first thing he told us was, “Twenty years from now, you will not remember this speech.” I remember that part 28 years later.
Watching AJ get ready for his final act as a student at Deer Park High School makes me a little jealous. His life is a big, blank canvass for him to paint on. Few choices have been taken from him so far, and most of those he can probably work his way around if he so chooses. When I was 18, I had no clue what was possible or what opportunities I would ultimately miss. His mother was already working full time, and she was married by 19. I’ve always admired Nita for being in charge of her life like that, and her only regrets come from when she didn’t live up to that standard. All I can say is she did better than I did for several years.
For AJ, it’s going to be a new experience. He’ll be entering the workforce. College will be a new experience for him where he is in control of his education. But it will be scary. He’ll be living with us while he’s in school, at least for a couple of years. But more and more, he will have to take responsibility for things he used to take for granted. He’ll have to help with expenses. He’ll have to drive himself to school and to work. Eventually, he’ll have to get an apartment and deal with utilities and groceries. I remember all that. Now?
I used to say I wish I did a lot of things differently. Now not so much. I only wish Nita and I could know that we were out there for each other in the late 1980′s, knowing what we know now. (And somehow still have AJ born.) But that’s it. Frankly, if my life had gone differently, AJ would not be my stepson. Instead, I’m here, and his mother and I get to see him close this long chapter of his life tonight. Tonight is all about AJ and what he can do with his life going forward. We’re excited for him.