On Friday evening before he went to work, Aaron asked me if I’d heard anything from my Mom or step-Gary about Philip’s high school graduation. When did we need to be where, did we have tickets to the actual graduation, et cetera. I didn’t know yet, as Mom hadn’t called me to confirm the final plans, and I told him so. His parting shot was, “If I come home tonight and find out I have to get up at 10am,” followed by some sort of consequence I can’t exactly recall. Something like, “I’ll be pissed,” or “I won’t be happy,” or something along those lines.
Guess when we had to get up Saturday morning.
I’d offered to drive out to Cleveland, but Aaron ended up being awake enough on Saturday morning to drive it himself, so I rode shotgun as per usual. After gassing up and getting cash for tolls, we ended up leaving Toledo a little later than we would have liked, but no biggie.
As it turned out, we beat Mom and Gary and Philip to Denny’s, anyway.
I’d forgotten what a joy it is (*sarcasm alert*) to go out in public with Gary. He likes to make bad jokes to strangers and generally make everyone in his party look down and away in the ever-so-familiar “I’m not with him” expression. Saturday, of course, was no exception. I think Aaron was the only one not trying to deny any relationship to Gary, as he really has little to none to deny. Mom, Philip, and I were all just trying to grin and bear it.
Lunch at Denny’s was good but generally unremarkable. Mom wasn’t hungry; Gary ate one tomato, sliced; Philip ordered a giant spread of food and read over his our-school-doesn’t-call-it-a-Valedictory speech; and Aaron and I enjoyed our entrees from the Carb-Watch menu. Philip left after he was pretty much done with his meal, as he had to get out to the school to line up and get nervous about his speech. The rest of us finished up, paid, peed, and went out to our cars.
Next stop: Riverside Cemetery, plot 16-74, I believe. Memaw’s burial site.
Since Mom lives in Texas now, I can appreciate her wanting to visit the site. Make sure it’s in proper repair, pay her respects, all the things one should do with a relative’s gravesite. Honestly, though, it’s not a side-trip that I would have thought of myself.
On the way to the cemetery, Aaron and I discussed the whole concept of cemeteries and burial, and I came up with the irreverent idea that cemeteries are like giant U-Stor-Its for your dead relatives. Really—if you want to keep their remains somewhere specific, be they intact or cremated, you have to store ‘em somewhere. Having so many stored all in one place just reminded me of… well… yeah.
Maybe it’s just because I’ve gone agnostic, and don’t believe that we’re all going to literally rise from the grave at the Second Coming, or maybe it’s something else, but I just can’t get into the whole idea of going and looking at a slab of stone that represents a loved one, and having that *mean* anything. They aren’t there. None of their memories are even there. They didn’t live there. They didn’t die there. Why does this marker mean anything?
Don’t get me wrong: I mourned my Memaw. I mourned her well before she died. By the time she finally let go, though, I was ready to let her go. She was old enough that it wasn’t tragically unfair, although 69 really isn’t all that old these days. It’s just that, well, once we finally found her gravesite, I was kind of at a loss as to how I was supposed to react. It’s been just over two years since she’s been dead, although this was the first time I’d visited her gravesite since the funeral, and the first time to see her stone marker. Mom cried, of course, and Gary appropriated some flowers from another area of the cemetery to adorn Memaw’s grave. I just said, “Yup—there she is,” and nodded. I asked Aaron later if he thought I was cold or heartless for being over it, and he said he didn’t think so, since I had already grieved and moved on as much as I could.
During the drive from the cemetery to the graduation, Aaron and I agreed that (at this point in our lives, anyway) we both want to be cremated. We’ve had the discussion before, but the idea of what to do with our remains afer the cremation hadn’t really come up yet. Aaron would like to have his ashes scattered somewhere; the thought of having people standing over his grave and crying isn’t a thought he likes to contemplate. I told him I’d scatter his ashes at the Goodwill.
Enough of this death and sadness bullshit. Off to the graduation.
Even though Philip went to Valley Forge High School in Parma Heights, the graduation was in Lakewood at the high school there, due to space considerations. Once we got to Lakewood, having followed Gary down highways and side streets, the challenge became finding a parking spot. See, Philip’s class has nearly 400 students. Figure one car per student, with some having two or three or more cars of friends and relatives, and that’s a helluva traffic jam.
So, there we were, Aaron and me, coasting along behind Mom and Gary, trying to figure out where to park. And then, out of nowhere, Gary does a U-ie and parks in a solitary open spot on the other side of the street. WTF, we said to one another, and went to the parking lot that Philip had told us was the designated parking area. We got one of the last spots, all the way in the back, parallel parked by the baseball diamond. The line to enter the graduation snaked all the way around the school, and Aaron and I scoped it out as we made our way to the back, looking for Mom and Gary. Surely they were already in line?
Their sweet-ass parking spot was right in front of a fire hydrant. They had to park two streets away instead, and met us just as we were planning to get in line.
After waiting in line for a while, and after using the facilities once we got inside, we managed to find ourselves a nice aisle spot up in the back of the auditorium. I shit you not, this auditorium was probably as big as Kobacker Hall at BGSU. I wish it had good A/C, though, because it was absolutely stifling for the half hour we sat before the ceremony and the entire two-hour ceremony.
The graduation was pretty much on par with all the other graduations I’ve been privy to, except for a few points:
- As mentioned above, the heat was atrocious. Even the graduates onstage were fanning themselves with their programs.
- The symphonic band was actually decent, even though we still had to listen to Pomp and Circumstance about 15 times through. I was underwhelmed by the Senior Choir, especially their lamely uplifting “Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes / How do you measure a year / How about love?” song. [Note: I didn't realize this song was from Rent. Now I need to go download it and see how it's really supposed to sound.] Their rendition of The Lord Bless You And Keep You by Lutkin was uninspired; my high school choir did it SO much better. It’s called phrasing. Oh, yeah, and intonation, too.
- Philip’s speech was the more deep and thoughtful of the two student speakers’. He implored the graduates and their families to contemplate their futures and their beliefs, and he apologized for having thrust his beliefs onto his own classmates and teachers so much over the years.
- The faculty speaker talked on laughter. His speech was entitled, “At Least I’m Not A Big Green Sock,” referring to a student who had graduated from a prestigious university, only to have Kermit the Frog give the keynote address at his commencement exercises.
- In Mr. Maurer’s speech on laughter, he unwittingly mentioned a phrase from my own college commencement exercise, in which the speaker exhorted us with open arms to “laugh often and much.” On the speaker’s arm cue, we all were expected to repeat his catch phrase, “Laugh often and much.” When the speaker at Phil’s graduation started on laughter, we were already tittering. But as soon as he said, “Laugh often,” all four of us were practically on the fucking floor. OMFG. That was the highlight of the ceremony for me.
- Phil’s principal was the Fun Nazi, so dubbed by Aaron. He stood up at the beginning of the ceremony and denounced any hootin’ and hollerin’, as this was to be a dignified occasion. In the middle of the announcing of the 400 names (*snore*), he got up again and gave the security officers permission to escort out the hooligans blasting their air horns.
OK. Musical pieces over, graduates with diplomas, tassels turned, now everybody out. Gary, of course, had bailed early and brought the car around into an I-guess-it’s-not-illegal spot in the drop-off lane in front of the school. True to Mom’s word, he did indeed know that, in a crowd, Mom will beeline to the least crowded spot on the furthest edge of the insanity.
Time for pictures.
Now, Mom’s camera has been broken for some time now. She was counting on me and my Lomo to take pictures. Lynn, Philip’s mom, was also there with her camera, as was Phil’s girlfriend, Samantha. The three of us were snapping away when my shutter release button stuck down. Two-thirds of a roll down, one third to go, and my camera was toast for the day. We all agreed to trade photos once they’re developed, though.
[Side note: I took my Lomo apart on Sunday and put it back together, and it seems to be working fine now.]
With all the pics done, Philip said he’d meet us at his aunt Annette’s house for the post-grad party, and he took off with Samantha. Aaron and I trekked out to the car and brought it around (after some detours and confusion) to follow Mom and Gary to their hotel in Parma, so they could change clothes.
OMFG. Aaron and I stayed in the car in that motel parking lot. No way were we stepping foot into that place. There were people living there along with the roaches and rats. That place was fucking scary. I felt bad for Gary’s friend, Rick, and Rick’s girlfriend Amber, who had both come from Lansing MI to visit Gary and had stayed at that hotel, too. Yeesh.
Anyway, after Mom and Gary got changed, Gary and Rick went to gas up and get other randomness at the Speedway, leaving Mom in the car with us, which was cool. When they finally got back and we got ready to caravan over to Richfield for the party at Annette and Jack’s house, Mom decided to stay in the car with us, in case we got separated from Gary en route and needed directions.
Half an hour later, we were in the sticks of Summit County. Not that it was a bad thing, though; Annette’s back yard was gorgeous. Woods, trees, picnic table, hot tub, deep fryer, smoker, bonfire, large grassy expanse, on and on and on. Jack, Annette’s husband, made some awesome food: deep-fried chickens, macaroni salad, potato casserole, baked beans, green beans, brisket; it was all SO GOOD. And I ate SO MUCH.
What was really cool, though, was that everyone there was talking to everyone else. Aaron and I (and Rick’s gf) were kind of the middle age bracket. There was also Mom and Gary and Rick and folks around their age (give or take eight or nine years), and there were the two teenagers, Philip and his gf Samantha. We all got along, and we almost all got freaked out over the giant bumblebee (and its brother’s vengeful return later in the evening… or was it a bumblephoenix, as Philip suggested, rising from its own ashes?), and we all loved the food, and we all enjoyed the relaxing chill-out time. No one was really chafing to leave already—Aaron and I were first to leave at 9:00pm or so, after staying for a few hours.
Overall, I’d say the awesome cookout made up for the shitty boring graduation—no offense, Philip. You gave a kick-ass speech, and if the whole thing could have been done after you and the Senior Advisory Board and the Class Officers got your diplomas, it would have been almost perfect.