May 8, 1983 was a special day in my immediate family's history.
It was an extraordinary day.
It was a sunny, mild, perfect Spring day.
In fact, it was a great day to sit outside for a while just to watch people.
Especially if those people you were watching included the first of your sons to graduate from college.
I had to double clutch my emotions as I walked across the stage to accept my diploma from the President of the college.
Sure, most of my family was there to see it.
Kevin couldn't get off work to make it up for the weekend.
Of course, Dad passed away a little over three years prior. However, instead of feeling sad he wasn't there to see it, I was actually pretty happy.
I'd promised him on his grave that come Hell or high water I would find a way to finish my degree. It took a lot of hard work outside of school and some student loans, but I did it.
I finished with a solid 3.45 GPA and was named one of the "12 Outstanding Seniors" by the faculty and administration. It was based on GPA, community service on campus, and community service in the local community.
Somehow, in between jobs and school, I had been able to squeeze in some volunteer work every year. What was a few hours a month with everything else going on?
I walked across the stage. I shook hands with the Dean of Students (Ed Kolek, my boss as an RA on campus), the Dean of Academics (whose name escapes me right now), and Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ, Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame) who was our commencement speaker. Instead of getting the standard handshake, I received a big hug from President Hannah McCarthy. Hannah was a terrific lady and an outstanding leader. She was appointed President in our Sophomore year. Hannah knew what I had gone through in order to get my degree after Dad died.
She was also a big fan of the trio I played guitar with and sang with, "The Bavarian String Quartet". Among the framed items on her office wall were the words to one of our original songs, "Cooking With Cats (Can Be Fun)" and a copy of this picture:
Not all of the "AK" members were present for the yearbook picture above. However, all were present when we had Art Guimond (bald fellow, lower right in the vest) open up the main hall so we could fill the Dean Ed Kolek's office up with just over 5,000 balloons. One of the secretaries' office was right next to Ed's office. We removed a ceiling tile from her office ceiling and one from Ed's.
It took us a little over three hours to blow all the balloons up and load them over the wall.
The main hall also housed the campus cafeteria. It wasn't any big deal for us all to be up in the main lobby when Ed arrived to work from his on campus apartment.
What surprised him was the fact he could not get his office door open.
He pushed the door as hard as he could. It was then he noticed all the pretty colored balloons.
I think our laughter gave us away.
It was quite the spectacle. Professors, hearing the laughter came out to see what had happened. President McCarthy came out of her office to see what the ruckus was.
Ed went to the President's secretary's office. Marion was an ambitious knitter. Ed borrowed one of her knitting needles and got down to the business of popping balloons. He didn't pop them all, but he was quite busy until around 9:00 am.
Getting back to May 8, 1983.
There were other things to celebrate that day. My late brother Gary turned 20 that day. The night before, he opted to stay on campus with me in my dorm room. In hindsight I think he probably would have liked to take that one back.
Nothing says, "We're drinking a lot of beer!" like a group of graduating Seniors. Gary called for a game of "Quarters". "Quarters" is a drinking game where a group sits around a table and one by one try to bounce a quarter into a six ounce glass of beer. If the person sinks the quarter, he/she gets to pick who drinks the beer. The only ways out of the game is if a person passes out, pukes, or accidentally pees themselves. Bathroom breaks are always approved, but occasionally someone gets a little too far in and, "OOPS, There It Is!".
Needless to say Gary wasn't feeling his best early the next day. He would recover in time for celebratory drinks at dinner.
That was little comfort as he sat in the audience for the graduation ceremony.
The best thing about May 8, 1983 wasn't just my graduation.
The best thing about May 8, 1983 wasn't just my graduation and Gary's 20th birthday falling on the same day.
The best thing about May 8, 1983 was that I graduated from college, Gary turned 20, AND it was Mother's Day.
Of course, Gary pointed out that, "Every day is Mother's Day when you have kids like us, Mom!".
Gary always had a way with words.
In spite of Gary's take on the situation, Mom couldn't have been more pleased that day.
Today, instead of focusing on anything negative, I'm going to celebrate.
May 8, 1983 was a great day.
No reason May 8, 2012 can't be as well.
Cheers, Daniel Webster College Class of 1983!
Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.
Air Traffic Mike, ret.