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My last child is about to graduate from high school. Rather than an occasion for unbridled joy, his graduation will be more a moment of extreme relief. Chuck hated school – pretty much every tortuous moment of it, to be frank. It isn't that he hated learning, because he doesn't, it is more that he hated the institution of public education and never managed to find a place in it where he could exist painlessly. It is a terrible thing to send your child off every day to someplace that makes him miserable, but I did not have the resources necessary to find some other situation for him that would have been more his style. Bless him, he hung in there year after horrible year and made it through, which is a testimony to his endurance and strength.
Naturally, he plans not to participate in all the traditional activities associated with high school graduation other than the event itself. He has no desire to go to the prom or buy a ring or a yearbook, or any of the other stuff happy graduates do. I do not argue with him. After all his suffering he has every right to choose what he will and will not do. He tells me that he personally feels that if getting through high school qualifies as a significant highlight in his life he might as well give up right now. I wish he could have enjoyed it more, but I don't judge. He is going to college. What more can I ask?
What he really wanted, which was to see his brother and sister in the same place at the same time for almost a decade, is going to happen, and that is enough of a gift to him to make everything else pale in comparison. It wasn't easy being the last in the family and 10 years behind his nearest sibling, especially since they both took off on their own lives right off the bat. It was hard on him, that's for sure. He will be living at home for at least his first year of college, partly to save money and partly because he is fully aware that he isn't quite ready to be on his own as yet. Chuck suffers in no way from the arrogance of youth that is only tempered by hard experience or the illusions of adulthood a lot of his peers do. Although he has his head firmly planted in the clouds in some ways, in terms of existence he is remarkably grounded. Hopefully, it will save him some of the hard knocks delivered by the road to being all growed up. Besides, he likes the help getting up in the morning!
I raised all my children to go out into the world and find their own way, but when Chuck goes, it will be the most difficult for me. Not because I love the other two any less, but because circumstances were such that I formed a far more powerful bond with Chuck as a human being. He isn't just my son, he is one of my best friends and I will miss his company sorely. I have learned some truly important stuff from Chuck over the years, not the least of which is the true quality of unconditional love. Chuck has always loved me, warts, freak hairs, stupid mistakes and all without judgment. He is remarkable that way and has the most forgiving heart of anyone I have ever known. To Chuck, if you cannot forgive than you will never be able to truly love anyone, a philosophy of goodness I have come to admire and respect completely. Chuck is an optimistic person, always believing that no matter how bad things are, there will be good around the corner. It kind of amazes me that he feels that way after his school years and the unrelenting misery of the experience. Being teased, tormented, bullied, and reviled for 13 years can often make people a little bitter and resentful. Not Chuck. He has had his small handful of friends and never longed for popularity, or the adulation of his peers. He went through a period in junior high school of being a bit negative and expecting the worse from everyone, but he managed to pull himself out of that nosedive without a lot of drama. Better than I would have.
So, my baby is graduating and before long, will leave me for the world, which is exactly what he should do. I didn't raise any of them to stick around and keep me company. It will not be easy and probably a rough adjustment to make, but I'll manage. We will always be friends, and that is something we will have no matter where he goes or what he does. I can do it. I think I might have to get a dog, though. A really nice one who loves me.
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