It's 8 a.m. The University of Nevada, Reno, class of 2012 is about to graduate; all 1,800 students. I'll never make it. But as it turns out, the fun never stops. The atmosphere is euphoric. Student loans are forgotten, term papers are in and graded and now it's time to let the good times roll.
The ceremony is being held in the Quad, a large quadrangle of lawn, roofed over by gracious elm trees. The crowd, estimated at 6,000, has swallowed the entire expanse. Randy, my forward-thinking son, has brought folding chairs. Rosemary, our amazingly resourceful daughter-in-law, brings me a white plastic chair. We lay claim to a small patch of grass.
Today, our grandson Tony is graduating. Getting to this auspicious day hasn't been easy for Tony. When you are a fun- loving young man with "fatal attraction" good looks and a fondness for celebrating, temptation is never far. He finished and that's what counts.
Mark, our grandson-in-law, is from a different planet. The night before, at a post graduate celebration, Mark received his second master's degree. Mark never leaves a project unfinished. Once, I spent the night at his house. I mentioned that it would be nice if I had a table lamp beside my bed, so I could read. Then I went out for dinner. When I came home there was a table beside my bed with a lamp on it. He'd built the table.
Coming through the bustling crowd, I see a familiar face. It's Dr. Johnson, UNR President. I recognize him from Mark's graduation ceremony. He seems intent on visiting Lily, our 2-month-old great-granddaughter. At the moment, Lily is snuggled in Orllyene, my wife's arms. Swaddled in a pink blanket, Lily is adorable. "Is this your granddaughter?" Dr. Johnson asks. "She's our newest great-granddaughter, and these are her parents, Jenelle and Mark, Orllyene, replies. "I have a 3-month-old grandson, but he lives far from here. I talk to my son once a week and always hear how he is doing," Dr. Johnson announces with grandfatherly pride. All of a sudden, a family type chat ensues. "This graduating class is the largest in University history," he says proudly, and with one more peek at Lily, excuses himself to go get ready for the ceremony.
A brass band strikes up and is followed by a choral group. The crowd settles and the Star Spangled Banner is played. We all stand. Most of us hold our hand over our heart. Sadly, some people continue walking. Where is their respect?
The ceremony begins and soon each college dean calls out a student's name, and they cross the stage and receive their diploma. From nuclear biology to liberal arts, each college is identified. Each person is given a brief cheer from their personal cheering section. I notice many, many foreign names are called. Parents from all around the world have opted to send their kids here. Their education costs a heap of money, plus their kids will be exposed to a way of life quite different from the one at home. Yet, here they are. Seeing us, up close and personal, will help them to overlook our flaws and appreciate who we really are. This graduation ceremony has made me proud of whom and what we are. In many ways, it has been a wonderful day.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley.