We spent the afternoon in the Carleton University field house today. Joe went to pick up his Master’s degree and the kid and I went to cheer. This was the fourth time I’ve been in the field house for a grad, but the first time it hasn’t been one of mine…
I’m pretty sure the last university graduation I actually attended that was my own was my sister’s Bachelors, and that it was in the old gym, when they used to try and have them outside if they could. As we sat waiting for the ceremony to start I tried to explain to the kid how many of her relatives have degrees from Carleton (I have two, her Daddy now has two, her grandma has three, her grandpa had one, her auntie has two…)
Much like my mother, I did not only go to Carleton, I met the man I married there. And then we got married there…
Today the new President of the school told the graduates to think back to their first day on campus and how intimidating it was. I was a pretty consistent visitor to campus from the time I was an infant, so I didn’t exactly have those feelings.
What I feel when I go to Carleton now is my Dad.
It is the place where we spent the most time together, just the two of us. Taking in a basketball game here and a soccer game there.
He was there in the field house the first time I graduated, having completed my B.A., but when I decided to go back, at his urging, to do my Honours year and then my Master’s he was gone.
He died in May, shortly after I told him my amazing final grade in my statistics class and invited him to the convocation. He said he would be out of town and couldn’t make it. My final email to him was a reply: “You’ll have to make sure you’re there next year.”
The next thing I knew he was gone. And the relationship that was starting to repair itself was gone too.
At my first graduation he had been standing at the back, near the doors. I saw him on my way out. At my second graduation, the tears started flowing as we walked out of the room and approached that same spot. The same part of me that knew he had never intended to be there still wanting desperately to see him.
At least now there is a place to visit where I can see him. Confirm his existence. Remember his importance to the school. In the space where we spent so much time together.