On November 30th, the day after my oldest son left home to join the Marines, I noticed a padded yellow envelope on his desk.
I had seen this envelope back in May when it arrived in the mail. It came from his high school AFJROTC instructor. I vaguely remember peeking inside and seeing candy and something else I didn’t pay enough attention to. There was no note. I don’t know why, but it didn’t occur to me to question what was inside it. My son didn’t care about it, so I didn’t think it was important.
Fast-forward to the end of November. My son was gone, quarantined in a hotel for two weeks, waiting for boot camp to begin. I was tidying his desk so I could have a dedicated writing space again (I gave up my office for my younger son’s online Zoom classes). I noticed the padded yellow envelope. This time I dumped everything out and inspected the contents.
The candy was wrapped in a large ring of clear cellophane with a blue ribbon tied between each piece of candy. It resembled a Hawaiian leis. The other item was a glossy royal blue cloth with something embroidered on it. I took it out of the plastic wrap and looked at it.
That’s when it hit me. He was supposed to wear this with his cap and gown for his graduation ceremony.
My son’s high school graduation was a major letdown. It felt like an afterthought, delayed until the end of July when it became obvious the district wasn’t going to allow anything more than a drive-by. We drove to the school at his appointed time. He popped out of the car for a photo op, got back in, and we drove home. Afterwards, we celebrated with pizza beneath a pop-up canopy in a parking lot. That’s all we got, some photos of him wearing his cap and gown. And in all of those photos, he wasn’t wearing his embroidered AFJROTC thing.
What was that thing called? I’ve never worn one. I looked it up and found out it’s called a graduation stole.
If this stole had been given to him in person, someone in the AFJROTC program would have congratulated him and mentioned what it was and what to do with it. He would not have tossed it on his desk and abandoned it like junk.
What a lousy year.
I know others are much worse off. According to the CDC, as of December 27th, over 330,000 have died in the United States due to Covid-19. Within my own immediate circle, a high school student suffering from an autonomic disorder is getting straight Fs this semester. She’s too ill to sit up in bed or walk around the block, let alone stare into a computer screen all day and study for her for online classes. Before Covid, her illness was manageable and her grades were good. Another acquaintance of mine who had been struggling with depression ended her life in October.
I shouldn’t complain. My family is alive, including my parents and in-laws. We’re healthy. We have an income. We’re doing fine.