Seated on the front row of the second level of the Texas Tech gym makes it hard to "feel" the pomp and circumstance of the commencement proceedings as the class of 2011 marches in. This is a seat intended to place one over the fast break and the last second shot, not a daughter's moment.
But it is a moment, a sacred moment.
The dignitaries and speaker, the long line of professors all parade in as the music is piped over the huge speakers. The jumbo screen competes for my attention as the black robed and color hooded spectacle moves to their places. Then, finally, the faceless voice introduces the 2011 Graduates.
I remember. I remember when she was placed in my arms in the delivery room. She was healthy and her mother was healthy, and I sighed a prayer of thanks. I woke up the next morning and she was toddling through the house, already that personality that demanded to be seen as an individual personified in the daily interactions. This one had a will.
By the second grade she had a nickname: Miss Mud. She reveled in the uniqueness with her floppy hat and the ability to manipulate every relationship into peer status. Even her teachers followed her lead.
How was it that frill and lace were anathema to my daughter? By the fifth grade she wanted tattoos and purple lipstick for Christmas. Dolls? No way!
She was so expressive when she danced in the recitals, but that quickly gave way to the competitive spirit that found the needed outlet of the court with a ball and a team. Yes, it was my daughter that brought the Powder Puff football game to an abrupt halt when she decked an opponent. Yes, it was my daughter who knocked a drunk into the drum set at a nightclub. Yes, it was my daughter who preferred a beat up old Bronco to a sleek sedan. Yes, it was my daughter who went toe to toe with any who would bully another.
And yet she has her mother's grace and beauty to be sure. She walks into a room and one thinks "girly girl." But that never last long. The spirit, the confidence, the raw audacity cannot be contained. Many just give up and back up.
"A competitive soul with a model's looks," is how one described her. Tall, glamorous, striking! I love and loath the photos we are in together, laughing to myself that strangers will see me and wonder if I am adopted. My dad said, "You done good."
Even when it did not feel good! We've had our moments as two strong wills have clashed or my puritanical expectations were but flotsam in her way. Like the morning when, as I readied myself to enter the sanctuary to lead worship, bedecked in my preacher's robe and white stole, acolytes poised, organist building to the moment, she comes up from behind and says, "Daddy, I got a tattoo last night."
The prophecy of old haunts me. The campaign for the pierced belly button and the rancor of a gold stud in the nose grist my spirit. "No, you can not do that," was foreign dialect to her ears. "You must, you should, you have to, you will..." How many words have I wasted on this one who has always had a stout rudder in the current? Even when the bearings were off, she self-corrected or adapted or even had the grace to appreciate the new view.
I wish I could take the credit. But the cliché haunts me: "Whatever."
The announcer calls first the engineering students, then the education students and then the business students. The line is so long, snaking to their assigned seats. Whistles and calls, a soft applause from one corner of the massive room is overwhelmed by the air horn that blast several rows above me. And then the voice calls for the art students.
I am on the edge of my seat next to my wife and her parents, straining to recognize mine in the midst. "There she is," and I see her. The tear was instant but the joy, well, the joy has been there all the time