We sat last night, surrounded by an aura of stale smoke, in the midst of multiple tattoos, in too small and uncomfortably thin seats, to watch our granddaughter graduate. The clientele was much different than the crowds we sat with a few years ago, when our daughter's graduated from high school. This was a much smaller crowd, all packed into the first few rows of a large high school auditorium. These kids were the kids who were falling through the cracks, some who were already addicted to drugs and alcohol, who already had babies, and who should have broken my heart. Instead, I found myself silently cheering the shaky voice of the student speaker, who shared that she was fighting a losing battle with drugs and alcohol, when she joined the GAP program through ESD 112, and turned her life from chaos into success.
As we listened to the stories, told by the dedicated teachers, of the many students who received well-earned rewards, I was moved in ways I haven't been lately. I remembered the first time I met the little girl who walked across the stage, when she was just three, and my son had fallen in love with her mom. I remembered watching my son read to her, and listen to her read to him as a kindergardener. I remembered her hanging on her "daddy" and the pride I felt in being a grandma to three unexpected kids, who loved my son, and loved their step-grandparents.
Tonight I'm letting myself weep for the raw deal this little girl was dealt, when her daddy couldn't face certain demons in his world, and in the throes of drunkenness, successfully ended his life. That act drove many of the "survivors" to the brink of depression and came close to destroying many more lives as they attempted to live in their grief. Emily was in middle school, and she wrapped her grief around her, wearing a quilt I had made for her daddy just days before his death as her shield against the world. I watched his three kids crumble, and his wife bent over in pain, and I kept praying for these people I loved, helpless to change their circumstances, as helpless to ease their sadness as I was to ease my own.
As my granddaughter battled her way through the chasm of sorrow, and attempted over and over to continue to attend school with her peers, she fell deeper and deeper into the abyss and farther and farther behind. My heart broke for her, knowing she was smart, but so wounded.
A few months ago, my daughter in law called to tell me Emily was going to get her GED. I thought it was a good idea. I was tickled a few weeks later when Shari called again to tell me Emily had taken all the tests and passed everything in three weeks! She wanted to "walk" though, and Shari told us she'd let us know when that would be.
She walked last night. There were several of us there to cheer her across the stage. Her grandpa and I were so proud of her, for not giving in, for taking steps to heal her self esteem, and put her on a little better perch than she might have been. She was meant to graduate this year, and she did it, in her own way and in her own time. I have every belief that she will continue on her path to successful living.
Emily was the baby, and the last of the three kids to graduate. Her parents, for reasons of their own, didn't manage to finish high school. I know her daddy would have been as proud of her last night as we were.