Preface: My son graduated from college last week. Needless to say most graduations during the time of Covid were a little less than desirable so we made the best of a crappy situation for our young ones headed off to the world. I found myself as the time approached saying, If my son’s greatest disappointment in life is not having a formal college graduation ceremony, I would say, he has led a pretty successful life. But as time came closer to the day, I think it was me who was filled with the disappointment. I like ceremony and pomp and circumstance, so I did find myself wallowing a bit. But like any pragmatist, I also found myself making the best of it and ultimately this is the example I set for my son as he watched me plan a social distancing party, albeit smaller than we would have wanted, but it just made for multiple parties instead.
Since my gift is usually writing and speaking, I, of course, wrote and spoke. I thought that it would be nice to share what I said. Some of it is personal in the sense that it is directed to him and so the people references, you as the reader may not know. I was going to change it, but I decided to leave it as is so you could read it and see where my heart was this past Sunday.
To all of the college grads out there who didn’t get to have the graduation they dreamed of, I am with you and this is for you too.
TIME WILL TELL
There are all of these hopes and dreams from the perch of our young lives as we think about the future of our older lives. And for those of us already here, past that dream state, with much more time behind us then time ahead of us, we have our never ending quotes and commentary to offer.
And offer we do.
We spew our words of wisdom without ever being asked for it, we offer our sage advice because we think it is helpful to impart our life experience to our little ghosts of Christmas past thinking they will be all too eager to learn from our own mistakes of our own Christmas pasts.
I have written endless letters to my own son, read these letters at poignant and significant moments in time. One, entry into kindergarten, Ten, Bar Mitzvah, fifth grade graduation, entry into middle school, saying aloud, Dad and I are splitting up, graduation from middle school, entry into high school, saying aloud, I have breast cancer, Sixteen, Eighteen, graduating high school, entry into college, twenty one, and now here. College Graduation during Covid.
I, like so many parents and grandparents I know, have had a lot to say. And I still do. This is the free pass of parenting. A permission slip to embark on my own personal sculpting of another human being.
As much as I have thought of myself as an expert teacher simply due to my own personal past life goods and bads, only time will tell. There is so much more to parenting than just quotes and commentaries.
There is so much more to being a good parent and mother than baking chocolate chip cookies after school and volunteering as room mom. There are many great moms and parents who have done all of these things, but end up with fucked up children. Then there are parents who do none of these things and end up with amazing humbled children. Is it luck of the draw?
There is no set in stone equation for ending up with a great human. Nature versus nurture surely is an age old consideration. But none of it matters after. We can all have the best of intentions and the only part that matters is the end result.
Have we raised a kind and considerate person who will instinctively be kind and considerate because of our examples we anointed them with so they had a jumping off point?
Time does tell. Because at twenty two years old, watching my son navigate through his mostly privileged life, I can say with a resounding yes, that my former husband and I raised a great man who has his life ahead of him in the way young parents get to dream of.
I watch young parents walk by my house all day long when I sit on the front porch writing. They are so sweet, checking on the baby in the carriage, looking so hopeful and protective, trying to look like they have a plan that will be carried out just as they imagine.
I know with certainty that they can plan all they want and I would never suggest taking that hope away from their lives, but there are so many possibilities to shake up that plan and all we can do is our best.
Our best every day is a big commandment because the truth be told, sometimes I didn’t feel like being a mom or a parent. Sometimes I just wanted to go to the beach by myself and smoke pot and go out drinking and not have to worry about taking care of a little one. Sometimes the calling to freedom was so great that I prayed no one could read my mind lest anyone thinks I was a bad mother. But those moments were really rare.
I loved being a mom and a parent. And for the most part I think I was a good enough one mainly because my intention was secure and it matched the love in my heart. This is the best anyone could do.
I had it easy with you, Michael. You seemed to be born good. I thought I was going to have a hippy son who had long hair and played the guitar. I thought I was going to have a son who wanted to travel instead of getting a job right out of school. But, much to your joy, I didn’t name you Ocean, I named you after the other love of my life, my brother, your Uncle Michael, so your destiny was determined. Goodness. Intelligent. Loving. Kind. Saavy. And incredibly Pragmatic.
I like to think that you got the best of all of the best. The linear mathematical brain and intense love of sports of Dad and Grandpa Bill. The permission to easily cry as a man from Grandpa Manny, the pragmatism and fiscal responsibility of Herbie, the problem solving and personal responsibility of Isabelle, the entrepreneurial spirit of Grandpa Dave, the joy of cooking of Grandma Sandy, Grandma Kitsie and Grandma Ann, the love of the Red Sox from Aunt Kiley and the love of animals from Kiley and of course Aunt Peggy.
Of course from me, the love of travel and the curiosity of life, humility and kindness and charitability, business acumen, asking questions endlessly and knowing that I have always been a safe space for you to be with.
The essence of my brother, your uncle Michael you never got to meet, but I have known on the deepest most spiritual level, he has walked with you for your entire life. This has given me the greatest of comfort for the past twenty two years on this planet. Michael walks with you, carries you sometimes, and has guided you along on this road to now.
As much as these people have influenced you, you have equally influenced them simply by your presence. And this is one of the best benefits of parenting, coming to the realization that your child teaches you as much as you teach him. I would say this is the greatest gift of parenting.
I have said that my little successes of checking off my I did a good job parenting list have been some of those milestones- Bar Mitzvah, getting you to Israel and seeing the world with our dear friends, the Madsens, paying for private high school and getting you through college with no debt, buying you your first real car so you have wheels to not worry about as you start your life. This to me all has the value of the best graduation gift for sure.
But it is with no accident that the time that does tell is the bookend of your most significant graduation gift. The passing of a torch so to speak but not in the way life would normally dictate and this is the beauty of the gift. Neat little plans of how things should be are often not how they end up.
A father should pass on sentimental gifts to his son and then that gift should head to the next generation, but we know now that this is not how our lives have unfolded.
Uncle Michael died much too young, but before all of that, he was a young vibrant and incredibly fit young man. He at twenty two had a lovely girlfriend named Eva whom he lived with. They bought matching watches that were probably more expensive than they could afford, but he loved this watch as they both loved to dive and this watch was for diving.
Little did he know that three short years later, he would be passing it on a generation up not down, so the watch went to Grandpa Dave. Then after he died, the watch made its way back to me where it has sat for the past nine years trying to figure out a safe way to have it repaired.
As luck would have it, at the anniversary of Grandpa Dave’s death, I heard of a place in Newport that repaired Tag watches. It also happened to be in Brick Market one of the first places I remember Grandma Ann and Grandpa Dave looking at when they were moving to Jamestown.
As you likely imagine, I like the neatness of this. So I brought the watch to Saltzmans and they made it like new. And now on this day, the 24th of May which by the way the numbers add up to 11, I get to pass this beloved gift to you on your graduation day.
Three generations of Horowitz men, even though you are technically a White, you are also a Horowitz, the Jewish part of you that will bring with you on your long path ahead traditions like this and culture, and intellectual curiosity that is an inherent part of your birthright. Who is left of the Horowitz men is the bookend, ironically of the eldest patriarch, Herbie at 102 and you, the great grandson. The in-betweens have passed on and passed themselves on through you.
I know you love me deeply, Michael White, but the intensity of my love for you as a human is something that makes me feel like my life has been worthy of my beating heart.
I love you so much and am so incredibly proud of you. Time has told and time will continue to tell in your core being as a man and now on your wrist as you march forth towards the future.