Saturday, July 26, 2008
For the Kathryn's
I was able to attend my sisters LPN graduation this past Thursday night because the Short Track races were rained out. I suppose I can thank my father for that (rest his soul). He was watching out for my ass and created a little rainfall above in order to appropriately re-arrange my schedule. Seriously, if I wouldn't have showed up, there would have been some serious hell to pay, and you don't want Kathryn on your bad side. Janie and I arrived at Gentry Middle school in Columbia just in time for the ceremony.
It was what I thought it would be. The graduates in their scrubs appearing to have worked very hard, relieved to have accomplished a lot in such a short amount of time. Their families filed in to the auditorium in droves, at least 20-1 on the average. I couldn't help but mumble to Janie that if there were a scuffle, I would take care of things with my glock, because it wasn't long ago that my daughter graduated from middle school, a fight broke out on our way out of Parkway West High School in Chesterfield. I was pretty pissed. There was nothing of that there at Kathryn's graduation. I was touched by the outpouring of support of the friends and family attending and ashamed of my rush to judgment.
There was a bond amongst these graduates, like they had been through a lot together. Like they had truly supported one another through thick and thin. I asked Kathryn how many started the program and how many finished. Eighteen out of thirty one "walked" that day. That is a little more than 50%. And I noticed something else about them as a group. They were all women. Not one guy. It was multi cultural bunch, some from the city of Columbia, others from the outskirts, small towns. Some were overweight, (well, most were overweight, but we can work on that). What was truly significant was that, when each girl received their diploma, they had written down a couple words of thanks to be announced by the head nurse when they walked across the stage. Most of them thanked their families for putting up with them, helping them persevere, helping them and being supportive as they took this meaningful step in the direction of accomplishment. It was obvious that these women were rising up out of their individual battles of social stratification.
The energy of this type of thing is really quite remarkable. You can't buy inspiration as authentic as this. I was chewing it up like bubble gum.
You see, (and I am assuming) there wasn't a person up there who hadn't overcome some sort of adverse situation. Granted, most of them probably self-inflicted (another assumption). Whether it was a teenage pregnancy that kept them from finishing high school, a bad marriage to the wrong guy, mistakes made in substance abuse or over indulgence, or maybe it was just the lack of any purpose at all. All of these women were bettering their lives by embarking on the 11 month journey, leading up to that one moment when they would be handed their certificate of completion, walking across the stage while the head nurse read their (quite touching) affirmations.
Kathryn was no different and at 48 years old, skipped across the stage with her "thank you for coming" grin on her face. Her affirmation: an "ode" to her father, Ralph. Yes, she had it in her head to accomplish something in his honor. He died a couple years ago. Those two, well, it was a little tough for them at times. The good news is that, in the end, they were able to see eye to eye on a couple things. Kathryn continues to embark on things that will eventually allow her to gain fulfillment. Her fear of accountability likely chiseled down a little further and with a little more confidence with this latest important accomplishment. Kathryn had the highest GPA in the class and got an additional award for that too. She was also awarded for being the class Vice President and the most out spoken. Go figure.
So there they stood on stage in the end of the ceremony, those women of achievement who paid good money to be used as a pin cushion when practicing procedures, those who could have easily found themselves on the other side of the 50% who did not finish. These women are now our care givers, the women who, for their own reasons, choose to embrace being a health care worker as a path to independence while contributing to the needs of our sick and aging. I feel pretty OK with that, after seeing them up there on stage, how meaningful it was to them, their accomplishments, their perseverance. How perfect a send off, the ceremony conducted in front of an audience of well wishers who truly, truly, want them to succeed.