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Anticipating graduation

Adam Cahill | Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day. The birds’ melodic chirping augments my mood even with the hundreds of pounds I’ve lifted already today. With my calves burning and sweat streaming from my brow, I give thanks that the lack of air-condition and elevators these past four years will be my last. And as I turn to lean against the outer door of the dorm and step into the bright Indiana sunshine, I take note of what is going on around me. Cars are all over the place and I can see hugs being given in all directions. Everyone is smiles and there is a lot of laughter among the sandal-wearing population around campus. “See you next year,” “Stay in touch,” “Don’t get in too much trouble,” are just a few of the things I hear. This is how I envision the events that await me in just a few short weeks – graduation.It’s moving out day and the time-honored tradition of throwing everything you own into boxes and bags and shoving it into the family sedan in hopes that it will still let the trunk close is in full force. As I put the last of my boxes into the car, I see a familiar sight. The men in yellow hats and coats are out again, lawn chairs nearby, asking for a relevant life story before granting you the right to park on the University grass. The cars are lined up down the street while the usher laughs heartily with a Ford Explorer. My father snaps me back to attention.”Son? Are you ready to go,” my father asks me.”No, not yet,” I say. “I have something I need to do first.””Take your time,” he says. He ventures into the dorm and heads for the TV lounge.All the parties and tests and papers are over now. The mindless hours of studying and socializing have been completed. I desperately hold onto the hope that they will bring as much reward to me in the future as the process in which I completed them did. I had the time of my life, though that’s not what consumes my mind. I learned about love and friendship, dedication and passion, disappointment and hurt, but most of all I learned about myself. And after four years among the best there are, I know that I have a long way to go. It all boils down to one thing.Slowly, I make my way down to the Grotto, trying to take everything in – the shade of blue in St. Mary’s Lake, the lush green of the well-watered grass, the smell of summer. It’s important that I remember this moment, I tell myself, because it’s what I’m going to be working for in the years to come. One goal. So hard, but so difficult. Walking even slower, I finally make it down the steps to the Grotto.There are quite a few people here, the weekend of graduation having sent many into mutual states of prayer and nostalgia. But although it’s busy and has been many times before, it never seems to lose its personal value to me. The candles represent more than wax, a glass and a small harmless flame – they symbolize wants and dreams and the future. And as I twist and turn my way through the crowd and past the gate leading to the candles I realize that I am no different. I, too, want to bless my wish upon my graduation.Carefully striking aflame an unused match, the candle lights up, only to have me set it down among the others. I stare at it for a second and reach into my pocket, taking out a meticulously folded piece of paper. Running it through my fingers like so many times before, I hold it by the worn edge and light it with the flame of my candle. I watch it burn for a second, drop it into the glass and walk away as the piece of paper dwindles into ashes.Finding my father in the lounge, I tell him that I am ready to go. He doesn’t say a word but just as surely rises out of the chair and after me through the door.I jump into the front seat of the car and turn the ignition. The music blares from the speakers and I lurch for the knob on the dashboard to turn the volume down. He slowly turns to me amused.”Are you sure you’re ready to leave?” he asks.”Now, I am,” I say.”You went to the Grotto, didn’t you?” he says.I nod to him. No use in denying, I suppose.”What did you say?” he asks.”I asked God to help people become proud of me,” I say.My father looks at me and smiles. “You already have, son. You already have.”

Adam Cahill is a senior history and American studies major. His column appears every other Wednesday. He can be contacted at acahill@nd.edu.The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.