The race was on, and this time the better man lost. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the race started in the fall of 1986, and apparently I was the tortoise, but unlike the fable, I was the tortoise that lost. Shoot, I didn’t even realize it was a race until about four years ago when Alexandra enrolled in Evangel University. Then I knew that I must finish the degree that I started in 1986, and I must finish before she did. However, I underestimated her drive and determination. Despite losing a semester to UAA, despite having to dissect a pig on the back deck in the middle of summer, and despite working several jobs, acting, dancing, traveling to Africa, around the states and more, despite all of it she still finished and she finished way ahead of me. Alas, I will finish, and I will finish strong, but I will not finish before my daughter and I could not be prouder to lose this race. If I had half the drive and determination of my daughter, I would’ve finished my four-year degree in two years circa 1988, with a 3.8 GPA. Instead, exactly like my actual physical running, I am a plodder, one foot painfully and slowly in front of the other, sweat pouring down my face, pain shooting through my well used knee joints and degenerative lower back. It is not pleasurable, but it is doable, unless calculus is involved.
We had the privilege of witnessing her cross the finish line, the first grandchild to do so. The trip was a collage of memories as Alli attended the same university that Tracy and I met at, Evangel. Except when we attended it was a sprawling college, with classrooms scattered throughout old military barracks. The last one in class had to sit by the 1950 steel radiator heater, boiling as Mrs. Fletcher explained the difference between a debit and credit and espoused the beauty of accounting. It is much different now. There are no barracks, there are only beautiful new buildings, all climate controlled. I hear there is even a state-of-the-art library. Rumor was there was a library when I attended, but I am unable to verify such details, perhaps an indicator as to why I am still racing. The dorms remain the same. In fact I think they have the same carpet from when we attended, unless someone else spilled some RC Cola between the fake plant and glass panel of the main entry just outside the Mrs. Pac Man game table.
While back at the inception of the Godfrey 10, we took time to visit our very first home, the one we purchased for $43,500 soon after we married, while Tracy finished her race, long ahead of me. The house looked older, smaller, and perhaps it was now part of the “hood”. I don’t remember it that way. I wished we could’ve peeked inside to see if the marble tiles and white Berber carpet still styled the living room.
Throughout the trip, the memories kept smacking us across the face; the Old CD store where you could buy and sell CDs, and not the financial kind. The very first Subway sandwich shop I ever ate at, the lake, Steak and Shake, Sonic, my old employer Bass Pro Shops and the ever-growing Battlefield Mall. It was all so old, and there was so much more than I remember. It was impossible to not flash back to those late night Taco Bell runs, and $1 movie nights with my then girlfriend. We were young, carefree and ready to take on the world. We just did not know what that meant. I am glad that the Lord guided our paths, even when we thought we were driving. I guarantee this, in the late 1980s I never imagined our journey would involve eight kids, but I also guarantee that I would not want to have it any other way.
It is fitting that Alli finished her first race, where Tracy and I began ours together. One cannot ever imagine where they will be thirty years later. I can only pray that her next race is as exciting and awesome as ours has been. And with her drive, ambition, smarts and thirst for life, I have a feeling she will not lack for excitement. I will always pray that no matter what she does, she does it in God’s will, and with God’s wisdom, help and guidance, for outside of that the race gets very difficult, and it’s already difficult enough. Although I did not finish that part of my race in 1990 like I was supposed to, I will promise you this, I WILL finish my degree before my first grandchild finishes their degree, if we ever get one. If I don’t, meet me at Steak n Shake in Springfield Missouri, on their graduation day, and dinner is on me!
Two generation of Chapel attenders, errr at least 1 and 1/2 attenders. Someone missed a few chapels.
I have written about milestones ( The Blur, Milestones) in the past, and once again we have reached another one, graduation. It was small, quaint, personal and touching, pretty much the opposite of my highschool graduation. Decorations were minimal as it was held at Beach Community Church, a naturally tropical decoration in itself. The graduates donned a blue gown and blue cap, with the ladies sporting a white sash around their necks.
Each of the four graduates gave a speech, each touching, most tearful and all from the heart. Our Pastor’s wife gave the commencement speech, and it was fantastic. She molded right into the mode of the ceremony, touching on God and humility. Both Alli and Dorian both won numerous awards, and Alli ended up being the valedictorian, giving a wonderful speech with her beautiful smile beaming throughout. Dorian’s speech was short and to the point, typical Dorian. And the morning was filled with inside jokes and much laughter upon the stage.
As I sat there watching the events unfold in front of my, wiping an occasional tear from my eye, and dealing with a consistent lump in my throat, I recalled the years of home schooling, the entry into high school, public school, and now a small private school in Costa Rica. Which led me to recall my own college years. I remember the good times, I remember the buildings, the smells, the tiredness, stress, tests, tons of friends, but most of all I remember that is where I met my wife. That is my current connection to that world, from this world. That is where this period of my life started, 25 years ago. That is what lead to today. It was impossible to not contemplate the next step in my two eldest children’s lives. Where will they go? What will they do? Who will they marry? And as I sat and pondered these things I realized that when I graduated from high school I did not think once about any of that. I assumed I would be successful in whatever I did or wherever I went. I assumed it would all be taken care of, I assumed it would be easy. I was ignorant, arrogant and naive, but I was supposed to be.
But after I met my wife I knew one thing, that wherever I went, whatever I did I wanted it to be with her, and in that I have been successful. So I pray for Alli and Dorian that they will follow God’s path for their live’s sooner than I did, listen to what he whispers to their heart, and most of all that God would bless them, as he did me, with someone who will walk with them, nudge them, be honest with them and be their helpmate for all their days on this earth. If so, then it will not matter where you go or what you do, as long as you are with whom God appointed you, and where God sent you. And I pray that one day as they watch their children take that walk in their cap and gown, they too can reflect on where it all began.