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Do you remember the day you graduated from high school?  Was it a big day? A long, tired, sad but happy joyful tearful day? Maybe your parents dropped some cash to have a catered family gathering to celebrate the day, or you all met at the diner so Mom wouldn’t have a lot to clean up afterwards? Bellies full, lots of reflection and hopefully laughter and too many pictures?  Perhaps everyone repaired home and went to their separate rooms while you changed your clothes and charged back out the door with friends to spend the night doing what teenagers and young adults do when there’s no parents or teachers around.

The school my son attended has a very small population of students, many of whom live on campus because society just can’t handle them anywhere else, in the “normal” places.  Those students are handed over to the school and, once there, most of the parents wash their hands of them. They don’t show up when the kids get in trouble, when their grades are poor–or when they graduate.  My heart broke for the young lady who graduated yesterday and her living parents did not show up to see her receive her diploma, to watch her next steps into the world. Faculty and friends were surrogates and that made the ache a little less.

We celebrated my son’s graduation yesterday with a small group of family.  It’s been a difficult road for him and us and his teachers. He wasn’t easy on himself or anyone else because he’s not a typical teenage sheep that follows the rules and stays between the lines or inside the box.  He is a wild spirit with a huge heart, a deep thinker and deeply creative.  I hope he never loses those qualities as he finds his way in a society that expects us to be productive, to behave and be normal.  It took me a long time to learn and accept he’s just being himself, and that his self doesn’t look like the kind of child my parents expected me to raise.  He is a beautiful thing in this world, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.

He said goodbye to that school as only he can, with his girlfriend, jumping into the campus pool with their clothes on.  May there be many more wet, beautiful days to come for them all.