When our son Anthony was born in 2004, also the year I began blogging, I started to ask myself some questions with one of the first ones being when he would be graduating high school. So I pulled out a calculator — it was 2004 and smartphones were still years away — and did the math.
“If I figured this out correctly…he’s going to be graduating in 2022 when he’s 18. That also means that I’ll be (*punches in some numbers*) 53. Holy shit, I’ll almost be a senior citizen when he does.”
I saw myself as aged, haggard, and about the size of a house since I was nearly that size at the time. But as I sit here and type this, I can attest that aside from aged, the others are not true. If anything, at 53 I’m in much better shape than I was at 35.
But enough about that. Part of raising a child is being there for all of the milestones that life gives them and for me, it was especially important seeing all of Anthony’s milestones since my dad never got to see mine — not even kindergarten since he was already sick at the time.
Here is Anthony at his kindergarten graduation and I nearly cried when he ran out of the room with his construction-paper mortarboard and cookies in hand. In fact if I remember correctly, the first thing he asked me was if I had finished the bottle of water I had during the ceremony because he was thirsty. It was the first huge event I would see, and keep an eye on that “Congrats Graduate” button given to him by his grandmother.
Then in 2018, we saw him get promoted to high school and yes, I nearly lost it again but especially when “We Are Young” by Fun. was played over the loudspeakers. At the time, it was one of Anthony’s favorite songs and it just tied up everything perfectly. I think I may have cried. Okay, I did. Still got that button.
And finally, high school and the button gets its last stamp. Here’s where the story ends and begins.
As the days drew closer to graduation, I would often think about what to expect while I was on my walk and I can’t tell you how many times I had to stop and wipe away a tear from my eye or just take a deep breath to center myself. Dad not being at mine loomed so large over me and now it was Anthony’s turn, but I would be there. No doubt it would be emotional. Even in quiet times thinking about it, I would start to tear up. Just imagine how I would be at the ceremony.
I have a box of Dad’s things that my mom gave to me after she moved out of a house she was renting years ago because she wanted me to have it. Inside the box are the last things Dad went into the hospital with and it had been taped shut for years. But days before graduation, I decided to open the box and have a look.
It was mostly clothes. In fact, the last ones he wore. As I looked through the box, I reached into the pocket of Dad’s brown Sears flannel jacket and felt something. I pulled it out and looked at it, held it for a while and smiled.
Inside the pocket were a pair of Dad’s sunglasses and it was so oddly therapeutic to not just hold them, but also put them on. His eyes looked through those same lenses and now I was. I put them in my pocket and took them in the house.
I had asked Anthony if he wanted to wear them during the ceremony but not only were they too small for him, he didn’t want to risk losing one of the few things of Dad’s that I own. So we compromised and I agreed to carry them in my pocket as a way for Dad to be at his graduation.
I took Graduation Day off to prepare myself for the event and I have to admit that Ann kept it together better than I did. I mean, I was okay for the most part but once the students started to file in from the holding area and onto the football field, man, forget it. Then “Pomp and Circumstance” started to play and Jesus Tap-dancing Christ, I nearly started to bawl — and Anthony wasn’t even on the field yet.
Ann did her best to calm me down. As I looked around I saw parents setting off confetti poppers, holding up signs, cheering and screaming as their child’s name was called. How I would react when Anthony finally was on the stage?
We started to look for him and spotted his purple Air Jordans. It wouldn’t be long before it was finally his turn.
From the loudspeaker came “Anthony Moreno,” filling the breezy evening air for a moment. Ann cheered, our guests cheered and clapped, and I clapped a few times — but literally could not speak because I was so choked up with emotions. I. Could. Not. Speak.
His few seconds of time felt like an eternity to me as I looked back on my life. I shot a bunch of pictures but also thought about everything Dad missed out with me which was pretty much everything. But knowing I had one of his personal items made it that much more special.
Dad’s sunglasses were in my left breast pocket, traditionally where the heart is “located” when we know it isn’t. After Anthony’s name was called and he took a seat, I placed my right hand on the sunglasses.
“He made it, Dad. He made it,” I said quietly as my eyes began to well up for the umpteenth time that day.
Anthony later told me that while on the field, he had to console a friend of his because he had lost his grandmother earlier in the year and brought a necklace that carried some of her ashes so she could be there.
I can relate.
Dad’s sunglasses are now on my display case along with some baseball collectibles. Anthony’s high school journey is officially over and it’s time to move on to the next phase.
And whatever the next phase is, I will be there — and so will Dad.
Congratulations, Anthony. We cannot be more proud of you.