A Letter To A High School Graduate

Print this entry

Dear Connor:

I bet you thought this night would never arrive — when you walked across the football field at Harmony High School to receive your high school diploma. For me, sitting in the stands with your beloved Aunt Hiss and cousin Abbie (my wife and daughter, respectively), it was just an eyeblink of time ago that I met you at Ms. Geneva’s house outside of Pittsburg. As she did every year when the grands (children, nieces and nephews) were young, Ms. Geneva was hosting Easter dinner with the requisite hunt afterward. You were 3 and sported a serious expression as you tried to keep up with your older kin in finding eggs, especially one with a dollar tucked inside — though you had only a hazy idea at the time what a dollar signified.

That was 15 years ago. Time truly is a bandit.

We have watched with delight and pride as you have grown into a fine young man, ready to take on the next challenge in August — attending Tyler Junior College and playing in their marching band while majoring in mechanical engineering. One of our greatest joys has been watching you grow into a serious musician adept at both trombone, which you played in the band and will also for TJC, and the piano. You took up the latter a little over four years ago. Through a good teacher, hard work and constant practice (I hear that is what it takes, never personally having the self-discipline), you have become a fine pianist who was regularly awarded solo slots at annual recitals — and recently won a state award in music theory.

One of our great pleasures is when you come visit and play our piano. In truth, it is the only reason we keep that heavy piece of furniture since nobody else in our household can play much more than Heart and Soul or Chopsticks. Just the other night, after the fish fry held in your honor here at Three Geese Farm, you capped off the evening with several pieces to our great pleasure.

Then there is chess. You took up the game of kings at school when you were around 10 and took to it quickly — as you do to anything to which you put your mind. Soon we were playing each other when you visited. One Christmas several years ago — exact dates become trickier as I age — I gave you a carved ivory and wood chess set I bought in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico as a college student in the mid-1970s. Your eyes widened as you looked at the ornate pieces. I am certain you will long cherish it, while I hold on to my own treasured set, made by my late mother when I was in college, of ceramic and silver-and-gold paint, baked in a kiln, and also beautiful. That one is yours when I cross over.

When we first started playing, I warned that I had no intention of letting you win. You would have to earn it. It took about three years, but finally on a Thanksgiving afternoon, following an overly hearty meal, I made a dumb move and was on my way to being checkmated. I blame the tryptophan in the turkey, but you won fair and square. We need to play again before you head to college.

Generally, essays such as this take on the trappings of a commencement speech, laden with advice to the graduates — new roads to take, the world is your oyster (to which I am allergic), dare to try new adventures, etc. Not wanting to be an outlier, here is my condensed list of advice, to be taken or ignored, as you wish:

  • Continue to be the kind, sensitive and quick-witted person I know you to be. It will ultimately serve you well, though people will invariably disappoint and hurt you.
  • Your parents are smarter than you think. That is something that will become clearer the older you get.
  • Find something to do for a living that you truly love. That may or not be what is now your intended major. Do not sweat it if you change your mind. Life is far too short to get stuck in a job — or a major — that you dislike just for the money.
  • It does not seem so now, but your time on this Earth will pass incredibly quickly. As I watched you head toward the podium to receive your diploma, I recalled doing the same at the old Lobo Stadium — 50 years ago this month! Enjoy every sandwich, as songwriter Warren Zevon, now gone, once said.
  • Do not cut your magnificent, curly, shoulder-length blonde hair (I am envious; mine just morphed into an ungainly Afro when I was your age) unless it is your decision.
  • Finally, keep playing the piano even if it is just for your own enjoyment. It will provide hours of pleasure your entire life. Besides, we love to listen to you play.

That is all I have, Connor. We love you and look forward to seeing what the world has in store for you.


Uncle G.

Print this entry

Leave a reply

Fields marked with * are required