Last month, we had two graduations. Michael graduated from high school while Rocky graduated from 8th grade. It was a time of celebrations and ceremonies. Obviously, it wasn’t a time for much blogging.
It was also a time of minimal oversight of Johnny. He made the most of it.
Let me set the stage with a picture of my mother. We had just returned home from one of the many events on the graduation tour. I went to close the van door when I found her. She looked up at me and sheepishly asked for help. I can’t really explain why she ended up in the back seat. Or why she attempted to vault into the front in this manner. Or how she got stuck in the process. Thankfully, with some assistance, she did manage to crawl out of the van and stick the landing. This is sort of how the last few weeks have gone around here. It’s been a whirlwind.
On to the highlights from the last few weeks of May. We were blessed with multiple opportunities with family. The festivities started off with a visit from my brother Dennis. He was in town for his son’s graduation from Notre Dame. Dennis arrived ahead of his wife (Susan) and daughter (Maggie). Sam and I met him for dinner, ironically at the hotel next door to where Mom and I stayed before Becky’s surgery. It was his first chance to meet Becky. He was smitten. I’m pretty sure he’s good for King-sized candy bars at Halloween and Easter. And he’ll probably offer to run Bingo for Becky and her friends. Which, believe it or not, is one of his hidden talents. Dennis calls a mean game of Bingo.
Several days later Becky met Aunt Susan and Cousin Maggie. I think Becky gets the message that we cheer for Notre Dame football. I can hardly wait to take her home to Texas, to meet the rest of the extended family. Hopefully, this will happen later this summer.
In addition to meeting some more family, we also had a chance to have Becky’s Baptism blessing Mass. She was baptized in the NICU with only Sam and I in attendance while many people joined us on Zoom. Since we couldn’t re-baptize her, we wanted to have some sort of blessing for her, especially with loved ones in attendance. The one downside is that my sister’s family had to cancel last minute due to illness. Karen refused to risk exposing Becky to anything so they stayed home.
This was a chance to bless her up proper with her godparents, all four grandparents, and her siblings in attendance.
We celebrated this in the student chapel at Michael’s high school. Fr. Michael, Michael’s Theology teacher and Eagle Scout sponsor, said the Mass for us.
I think this is the first family photo which includes all of us together.
But this post is supposed to be about Johnny. Attendees to both graduations were limited. Sam and I decided that grandparents pulled rank and no one would ask for Becky’s ticket. So the youngest and the oldest secured seats at the ceremonies. Johnny anchors the base of the totem pole so he attended neither graduation.
While we enjoyed the pomp, the circumstances at home surrounding Johnny’s childcare remain unclear. But it can best be described as free-range. The dictionary describes this as “livestock (especially poultry ) kept in natural conditions, with freedom of movement”. That pretty much sums it up. That’s what happens when you are child #7. Everyone thinks someone is watching you. But the reality is that no one is keeping track of anyone but themselves.
There were no emergency calls during the Michael’s graduation, so I had no reason to suspect that anything was amiss. Michael’s graduation was wonderful. I was full of tears reflecting on his 4 years of high school. What a treat to have all four grandparents present for his big day.
Afterwards, we celebrated with dinner. Some of us arrived directly at the restaurant while Michael swung by the house to pick up the rest of the kids. Johnny came bursting through the revolving door and walked with intention over to me. He had big news. He opened his mouth to give me a visual.
I was shocked. I tried to remember if I had put Johnny into hockey. Because he looked like he was on the receiving end of a fist-to-cuffs brawl at a NHL game. Somehow, during the three hours that we were gone, Johnny managed to lose two teeth. I was only aware that one had started to loosen up. Apparently, Rocky gets the assist on the upper tooth. I didn’t ask for details.
As if this wasn’t enough, more happened just four days later during Rocky’s graduation. Even fewer guests were allowed at this ceremony so we left a critical mass of children at home. A similar scene played out, just a different act.
We gathered again at a restaurant to celebrate Rocky. This time, I noticed Johnny walking sheepishly behind his sisters, a baseball cap pulled low over his forehead. I had a pretty good hunch what had happened.
Now Greta and Angela promised that Johnny was alone for approximately 5 minutes. Which is an eternity for an active 6-year old with a cutting implement. He made the most of his time, replicating a previous haircut. I didn’t get a picture of it this time around but this picture establishes enough of a visual. His work looked almost identical to the butchering he gave himself while I was with Becky in the hospital. His form has not improved much.
Oh well. He’s supposed to lose baby teeth and hair grows back. Johnny just manipulated the time line a bit. Things settled down after Veronica’s graduation. Johnny, Mary Frances, and Josephine finished out their respective school years. Grandparents returned home to Michigan and Texas. One afternoon, Greta and I were hanging out with Becky when Johnny arrived home. Alone. And earlier than usual.
I asked Johnny what was going on. And why he was alone. He told me that he told the bus driver that Mary Frances wasn’t coming home. For no apparent reason. He just wanted the bus alone to himself. Literally, it was Johnny and the bus driver cruising the streets together. We had an interesting conversation.
Me: “Why on earth would you tell the bus driver that Mary Frances wasn’t coming home?”
Johnny: “I don’t know. I just felt like it.”
Me: “Well, how is she getting home from school today?”
Johnny: “Don’t worry Mom. He’s going back to get her.”
Me: “How can you possibly know that?”
Johnny: “Cause there were people talking on the black box. And they told him to come back. She’ll be fine, Mom”
Mary Frances arrived home 20 minutes later. She bolted through the front door with some choice words for her little brother. She was hot. There are several questions we could ask at this point. Some to Johnny. Several to the bus driver. I found myself pondering Johnny’s future. And the 12 year path in front of us. Undoubtedly a long, winding path to his high school graduation. I briefly imagined what this might look like.
At these ceremonies, audience members are usually asked to show restraint and decorum as the graduates receive their diplomas. Mark my words: If, and when, Johnny graduates high school, I will be in the front row depressing a fog horn and shooting off silly string.
While Becky lights the fireworks.