Draped in black robes, the Class of ‘80 waited their turn to be called by the dean. The air was strangely cool, but the weather of southern Indiana was always unpredictable. I scanned for my parents. I’m sure they were proud of me. After all, they had paid for most of my education. This was probably more of a grand finale for them than myself.
The melodramatic annual affair was pro-forma for the dean and professors present. My eyes were starting to water from the brisk wind, dulling my vision. I wanted to wave at my parents but I couldn’t manage to find them. Then the dean finally got to the W’s; “Denise Waldrews, Sam Walker,” and finally, “Mike Watson.” I trotted along the wooden platform and received my diploma. The wind flailed my tassel into my face.
I sprung to the ground where mothers and fathers were congratulating sons and daughters. Everyone was either smiling, crying, or both. “I made it!” I announced proudly to myself as I roamed the grounds for my parents. I earned a degree in business. Although I had to take a few summer school classes, I managed to complete my bachelor’s degree in four years. I was twenty-two and this was the beginning of my new life.
I was first irritated and later worried when I couldn’t find mom and dad. Surely they would have been sitting on the bleachers set up for the parents. I made two more unsuccessful revolutions.
I noticed the sky had become a shade darker and the people quickly thinned out like last call in a bar. My parents weren’t there. The university was only three miles from home. Didn’t they even come? I complained to myself. I had wanted to give them a hug to show my appreciation for their support and for not kicking me out of the house as soon as I turned eighteen.
I drove home. When I opened the front door dad was sitting in the same chair that he has sat for millenniums. Mom appeared from the kitchen.
“Where were you?” I almost cried.
“Honey, your dad wasn’t feeling too good and said the wind was getting too cool for his arms, so we went on home,” mom said. I believe she had prepared that excuse from the moment they left the university. I could tell she was sorry for not staying, and if they had taken two cars I’m sure she would have remained and let dad go home by himself.
“But everybody’s parents were there. Didn’t you bring any jackets?”
“Mi-kel, I was having trouble breathing,” dad said, extinguishing a mostly consumed cigarette into the ashtray. “And I can’t take that chilly wind on my arms.”
Mom searched for additional words but they still came out the same.
“I’m…we’re really sorry, Michael,” she said.
I forgave them. And we never talked about it again.