The journey forward is tentative for those of us who find ourselves with a lifetime membership in the world’s least-desired club, the one made up of parents who outlived their children. The dues are endless, and they change from day to day, month to month, reflecting both moments of hope and despair, woven intricately together in a design guaranteed to surprise you when you least expect it.
Some arrive here at this destination suddenly, and with no preparation. Others, like me, spend years deluding themselves into thinking they’ve made peace with the inevitable. I went back to school to do my Master’s degree reasoning that if the worst thing happened, I’d be able to keep moving forward. When it did happen – the worst thing, that is – I felt the collision occur. It was me, grinding to a halt while my daughter’s foot from the other side pushed in opposition, the result an impasse between the two worlds in which we find ourselves. She won, though. I knew she would. So did she. I’m finished school and the project that kept me sane throughout holds the two of us together still, the glue that binds us while she and I figure out our new universe.
Now it’s time to graduate and as I contemplate walking across that Chan Centre stage at UBC, instead of dreading it I find myself seeking it. She waits for me there and just as she and her voice inhabited the theatre in life, I know she’ll watch the procession and convocation from her centre spot in the choir stall above with the same ear-to-ear grin she wore every time she sang there.
There isn’t a place on that campus I don’t see her. The Rose Garden? We met there every Tuesday for lunch and planned her wedding on warm fall days. The turnabout on Main Mall and Memorial? She sang ‘O Canada’ there to the Queen. I ducked out of Spanish class early to watch but when I arrived, they were ten deep. A very nice cameraman let me climb up his ladder to get a peek at her. There it was, that grin again. The pub at the SUB? Oh yeah, I picked her up there a few times on Greek Mondays, too tipsy to talk, asleep in the back seat, content that she was packing all she could into what she always knew would be a too-truncated life. She knew it, even as the rest of us tried to fool ourselves.
I told her I went back to school partly for her; to do at least one of the post-graduate degrees she wanted to do herself. We’re finished school now, she and I. When you see me take the eight-second walk on graduation day, look hard and you’ll see her, too. Look up, to the choir stall above the faculty seats. She’ll be front and centre. You’ll recognize her grin.
© Kim Reynolds 2012