People Out Loud: Life lessons – Class of 2021 got more than their share of them

June 2021 Posted in Columnists & Opinion, People

To the graduates of 2021, my sincere congratulations for your wonderful accomplishments. It could not have been harder, right?

You weathered COVID-19, quarantines, wildfires, ice storms, and an entirely new but hopefully temporary “normal.” You learned online in your pajamas, caught sneak peeks of your friends on weekends or when the Zoom teacher was looking the other way, missed out on so many events like prom, homecoming, theater productions, speech competitions, club events, and the socialization that makes high school special. It had to have been a huge challenge to learn on-line, maintain friendships, figure out scholarships, and attract colleges with your academics, canary-like singing voices, cello skills, and athletic prowess. Your faces were covered with masks and hand sanitizer took the place of your favorite fragrances. 

The adults around you tried their best. They have never been through this either, and like many complex issues today, there are no easy answers. Someone says masks are stupid, COVID is no more than the flu, and kids just need to be back in school.  The governor is evil. The governor saved Oregon. Others argue that wearing a mask is not a panacea, but it helps. One family refuses to social distance, wear masks, quarantine, and get vaccinated because COVID is “fake news” and the vaccine was inflicted on an unsuspecting public way too fast. Another family stays in, plays board games, reconnects, binges on Netflix, and Facetimes grandma at the nursing home because SHE is the vulnerable one. Facebook becomes the purveyor of facts and the vehicle of rumors. No easy answers. Yet through the COVID chaos, fire fiasco, and ice storm incident, you survived. Your teachers and school staff did their best. The schools fought for what they thought was right. Your senior year was more memorable for what you did not get to do than what you were able to. 

Basketball in June? Football in January? Graduation split in two? 

Then finally, back to the classroom for what was left of your final year of high school. What a life lesson. You made it, learned from it, and it etched indelible scars and memories in your 18-year-old minds. Painful, but a life lesson. Now go forth with new strength to tackle whatever the world throws at you. You have the tools to handle anything after a year like no other. Good for you. 

Happy Fathers’ Day to all of those who play a major role in the life of a child. 

It reminds me of a wonderful song from a few years back sung by Brad Paisley – He Didn’t Have to Be.  A beautiful and poignant story about a stepdad coming into a young boy’s life. If you are a dad, a stepdad, a caregiver, a foster parent, a custodial uncle, or a significant mentor and role model in a young person’s life, good job. It may very well be the most significant role you ever have. Sometimes you think they are not listening; then out of the blue they say something that proves they are. They pick up on your mannerisms. They like your music. They love your dad jokes, or at least pretend to. 

To Trevor and Briana – I love you dearly and am so proud of the adults and smart, funny, genuinely kind, ethical, decent human beings you have become. Do your best. Give this life your best shot. Jettison the lessons I did not mean to teach, like giving menacing looks when you interrupted Lonesome Dove with a request for an Eggo. If there is something I have taught you in this one shot I had to be a dad without an instruction manual, let it be loving other human beings and respecting the fact that we all have way more in common than differences. Seek commonalities. Build on that. 

“Looking back, all I can say about all the things he did for me is I hope that I’m at least half the dad that he didn’t have to be.” 

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