Quite often I am reminded that my wife is both too good for me and to me, but some times are particularly worth sharing.
So I graduated from law school yesterday. It was a great day. I’m not much into pomp and circumstance, but even I enjoyed most of the pompous circumstances. I felt important. (I may have even felt architechtonic, a word the keynote speaker used twice, but I do not know what it means.)
At the end of such a glorious day, all of the ladies in my life (my wife, two daughters, and mother who flew in for the occasion) presented me with a couple of gifts. Now admittedly, I chuckled a month or so back when I saw the email that told us how to order graduation announcements. I understand that many of my classmates are at an age where graduation announcements (and the returning gifts) are expected, but for an old man like me, graduation is a gift all by itself. Anyway, I thought it was sweet that these lovely ladies surprised me with some gifts.
I began by opening the gift from my mother, who used graduation as a sneaky way to give me money in our ongoing battle over who pays for things on our all too infrequent visits. I then opened sweet cards from my daughters. Next, I opened the large gift, which was a beautiful frame for my law school diploma.
There was one final gift to open, and inside I discovered a long-sleeved Navy Midshipmen Football t-shirt, a gift that requires an explanation.
My dad was born in 1920, and in 1937 or 1938 he was appointed to the Naval Academy. He turned it down. He was the oldest of six children (at the time), it was the Great Depression, and he was needed to work to support his family. My dad was a smart guy, and a great high school quarterback (back in the day when they used leather helmets and no facemasks). He could have done anything in the world, but as fate would have it, he ended up enlisting in the Navy for World War II (instead of serving as an officer) and returned to a career as a butcher. He also ended up being my dad.
I didn’t grow up with money, but I did grow up with a special relationship with my dad. Although he was fifty years older than me, we spent many hours in the backyard playing catch. And though we didn’t have much monetarily, I always felt somewhat privileged in the opportunities I have had to do all the things my dad never had the chance to do. Like graduate high school. Like graduate college. Like buy a house. And like now, graduate law school.
My dad died in 1994, and I can’t believe seventeen years have passed by since. But with each passing year, whenever I accomplish something where my full name — Albert Andrew Sturgeon, III — is called, I think about Albert Sturgeon, Jr. and try to appreciate it in his honor. And my wife knows this. Which is why the Navy Football t-shirt was such a thoughtful gift.
But she wasn’t finished.
After I opened what I thought was the final gift, my wife pulled out “her” card for me. And it didn’t take long to figure out that she had saved something for last. Turns out my sneaky, thoughtful wife, had tracked down my Sports Bucket List posted on my blog last summer. On that list, sitting at #14, was “Go to the Army-Navy football game and sit and imagine what it would have been like if my dad would have accepted the appointment in the late 1930s and played for the Midshipmen.” And in that graduation card was a ticket to see the Army-Navy game at FedEx Field this coming December.
I have spent an inordinate amount of time imagining what it would have been like if my dad had accepted that appointment. I’m convinced he would have been on the team — maybe even been the starting quarterback. I love to imagine my dad running out of that tunnel with his teammates for the big games in those 1939, 1940, 1941, and 1942 seasons (games Navy won by the way!). And this December, I will be there, all by myself, lost in a world of memories and dreams.
Well, not all by myself. My dad will be with me in spirit. As will my wonderful wife.