Reflections on our eldest grandson's graduation from high school - now THREE years ago.
Well, it's here. We are officially OLD. No matter that we started 'young,' having babies in our early 20's and grandchildren in our mid-40's. Because now, we have a high school graduate. Yes, our eldest grandson, Ben - age 18, a generous, kind, smart, talented and funny young man - has graduated from Oaks Christian High School. Wow. And weird.
I distinctly remember, like it was yesterday, the anxious early morning phone call: "Come NOW, Mom. My water broke!" Driving to the Burbank airport to catch a nearly empty flight to Oakland, landing in the densest fog I've ever seen, hitching a ride from complete strangers to get to Lisa and Mark's little house on Abbey Street in Pleasanton where I could pick up my own car, left there two weeks before, and driving to the hospital. Where Ben decided not to come, thank you very much, requiring an emergency c-section and then weighing in at 10# 5 oz. Started setting those milestones early!
He was an absolutely fearless toddler and little boy, climbing everything, jumping from dizzying heights, constructing fabulous inventions, painting early masters, figuring out how things worked. Towheaded to a blinding blonde color, blazing blue eyes, energy out his fingertips - he was a wonder to us all. Our first grandchild - nothing short of a miracle.
He grew up in much the same way he began - fearless, inquisitive, capable of amazing technical expertise and with a wonderful artistic eye. When he was 13, he showed interest and ability in photography. So I gave him my original SLR film camera when I bought my first digital.
Immediately, he figured out more things to do with that camera than I ever dreamed about. The kid had talent - real talent. And the school he chose to go to aided and abetted that talent in a big way.
Oaks Christian is an anomaly in education - a huge endowment from an invested grandparent created a magnificent campus, drew gifted administration and faculty members, and made possible absolutely top of the line technical resources. And all of it anchored in solid commitment to discipleship, commitment and mission.
Ben took every class that was offered in both photography and videography, successfully mastering every challenge. His work won first place in multiple shows and he was in demand as the videographer of choice for most of the faculty, from football coaches to dance instructors. He did good! Real good. And we are all so very proud of him.
A tableau of graduation accoutrementes -(clockwise)
robe & stole, fabulous $$ lei made by Ben's other grandmother, the senior award certificate, diploma and medallion (well the ribbon shows, at least.)
His graduation ceremony was last Thursday afternoon and I drove down to Westlake early in the day to help Lisa with flowers and errand-running. She, as usual, had everything organized to a fare-thee-well, having accomplished both a new roof and a complete re-landscaping of their backyard in preparation for this momentous day. It was a day rich with deep emotion as Mark's presence was strongly felt through every moment of it. And how grateful I am that Mark was able to participate as fully as he did in his sons' lives right up until the day he died last fall! He is, I am sure, so proud of these remarkable young men.
Family came from all around southern CA to attend the ceremonies and/or the wonderful dinner party Lisa hosted afterwards. Lisa and Joel, her youngest, held onto 3 rows of seats (Luke, grandson #2, was playing clarinet in the orchestra) and was soon joined by one great-grandmother, a great-uncle, two great-aunts, two sets of grandparents, two cousins on Mark's side, an uncle, two aunts and two cousins on Lisa's side - and those 3 rows filled right up! It was a great ceremony! Good speakers, a suitably (and intimidatingly!) impressive valedictory address and a lovely setting.
The big surprise, that hit us all in our communal solar plexus, was that Ben was one of 5 seniors honored with a special award! We knew that he had won the departmental award in art the previous week, but this one was completely unexpected. The 3 'prongs' of an Oaks education are: Leadership, Athletics, and the Arts - and Ben received the medallion and certificate in the Arts.
It was just so lovely to hear the tribute offered by the head of the department, based on the comments of all Ben's teachers and on Ben's own fine work and many contributions to the school through his technical and artistic gifts. He proudly wore the medallion for the picture above and it's inscription is shown in the one below. The actual introduction is printed in italics below the picture. It was written by Ryan Kelley, Chair of the Arts Department at Oaks.
The party itself was grand! A great celebration - with another great-grandmother, great-uncle, two more cousins and multiple friends of all ages. And to top it all off, that day happened to be the 15th birthday of Ben's brother, Luke, another stellar student at Oaks Christian High. It was a rich day - tiring! - but incredibly blessed. We are all full to the brim with gratitude for God's good gifts of family, education, beauty, love and laughter.