Saturday, May 14: Today, we celebrate my daughter Sarah’s graduation from Virginia Commonwealth University. This big day has been a long time in coming for Sarah and her two families. We’re very proud of her for persevering over many years to finally get her B.A. in English at the age of 32. She’s been supporting herself by working at Joe’s Inn as a waitress and attending school, paying her own way for her education during the latter years, not an easy feat living on tips from waitressing. She finally finished her degree without accumulating any student debt.
Mike and his sister Barbara and I arrive at Sarah’s house in Richmond at around 11:30 this morning to find a nice spread of bagels and toppings. Sarah’s Aunt Barbara always provides the balloons for every celebration in our family.
Sarah has set up a spread of bagels with cream cheese, red onions, avocado, capers, roasted red peppers, tomatoes and bread & butter pickles.
Watermelon and cherries accompany our brunch spread.
When we arrive, Sarah’s father and stepmother, Bill and Kema, are already there, along with the youngest of Sarah’s half-brothers, Cody, 20.
The graduation for the entire university is scheduled for 10:00 a.m., but Sarah has opted out of that one to attend the English Department graduation at 2:00. The larger graduation was going to be by department only, and no individual names were going to be called. She decided she’d rather enjoy quality time with her family rather than be stressed out having to sit through the two-hour larger graduation plus her English Department graduation.
We sit outside in Sarah’s backyard and enjoy each other’s company. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve seen the other half of Sarah’s family.
It’s been a rough and rocky road for Sarah. Bill and I married in 1979 and we separated in 1986 after 7 1/2 years. Sarah, born in 1984, was only 2 1/2 when we separated. Bill married Kema shortly after our divorce was finalized in 1988, and I married Mike at the end of that same year. Sarah was 4 1/2 at the time Mike and I got married.
Over the years, Bill and I maintained a good relationship. We were determined to try to make the best of the situation and do what we thought was best for Sarah and for us. Maybe in retrospect, it wasn’t the right thing, but we decided Sarah would live in Northern Virginia with Mike and I for 3 years; then she would live for three years with Bill and Kema in Virginia Beach. The next four years, Mike and I had her with us, and the last four years of high school, she lived in Virginia Beach. Whichever one of her families she lived with for the 3- or 4-year periods, both families would drive up and down I-95, not an easy drive, meet halfway in Richmond and exchange Sarah, so we could keep our relationship with her when she didn’t live with us. We did this every other weekend at first; as she got older, we dropped to every third weekend and eventually to once a month.
It was very complicated, and probably very confusing and disorienting to Sarah, but we tried to emphasize the positives of having four parents and four brothers who loved her dearly and wanted to be vital parts of her life. Her two families have loved and supported her through thick and thin. We even spent weekends at each other’s homes when Sarah had special events such as birthdays, sporting events and school plays; in one, she played Alice in her high school’s production of Alice in Wonderland. We tried our best, I think better than many parents do in divorce situations, but still, I know it was hard on our little girl. I believe because of the hardship of going through a divorce, she experienced a lot of anxiety.
After high school, Sarah tried to go to school at James Madison University but for various reasons, that didn’t work out. Finally, she took a hiatus from college, moved to Richmond and took a job at Joe’s Inn. During some later attempts at college, she dropped a number of classes AFTER the add-drop period, causing both her families to lose a of money with nothing to show for it; in addition, she failed some classes. I think her heart wasn’t in it for a number of reasons, some of which may have had to with living through a divorce. I’m sure there were other factors as well.
Sarah eventually decided once and for all she would dive in and complete her education. It’s been a challenging time for all of us, but in the end, I’m so proud of her for being strong and dedicated and for completing this milestone in her life, despite all the hardships.
This afternoon, Alex and Adam, my two sons, arrive in time to partake in the feast. After chatting and enjoying our bagels, coffee and orange juice, we walk several blocks to Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church for the English Department Commencement Ceremony.
Our adorable redhead is all ready to go.
While she joins the other graduates, we go inside and take our seats.
As the graduates walk in to the “Pomp and Circumstance March,” I catch a glimpse of my darling girl.
Sadly, the acoustics in the church are terrible. We can’t hear the opening remarks of Dr. David Latane, nor can we hear the commencement address, titled “Reflection,” by Dr. Elizabeth Hodges. It’s very disappointing. Either the microphone was bad, or the speakers didn’t know how to use them properly and didn’t project their voices. It seems people should have training in using sound systems properly before such a big event.
Finally the ceremony begins, and Sarah stands in her row to wait for her name to be called.
She goes up to accept her diploma, but sadly, all I get is a blurred photo. Hopefully we can later get a better professional picture from the hired photographer!
Outside the church we get pictures with the graduate. Here’s the Geroux clan: Bill, Sarah, Kema and Cody. Sarah’s other half-brother Nicholas is at a bachelor party and won’t arrive until 5:30 this evening for our family dinner.
And below is our clan: Alex, me, Mike, Sarah and Adam.
Our whole family is here, including Sarah’s Aunt Barbara, Mike’s sister.
And here’s me with Sarah and her dad, Bill.
After graduation, we head back to Sarah’s house to wait until our dinner reservations at 5:30.
While sitting in the backyard, clouds gather overhead and it starts raining, forcing us indoors. This has been the rainiest May I’ve experienced in a long time.
At 5:00, we drive in two cars to Lucy’s Restaurant for a celebratory dinner. We share a lot of wine, dirty martinis and general toasts all around. Since Sarah also works part-time at Lucy’s, they bring out complimentary appetizers of FONDUE (creamy boursin and gorgonzola cheese fondue with fried cauliflower, sliced apples and croutons), OYSTERS & COLLARDS (Fried oysters over braised collard greens with bacon and lemon aioli), and a VEGGIE PLATE (Sauteed baby carrots, grilled zucchini pickled radishes with tzatziki style dip). Of course, everyone orders a variety of entrees; I order grilled French quail glazed with an apricot barbecue sauce over a saute of farro, scallion, baby mustard greens, and sausage. It’s all delicious and we have a fabulous time.
After dinner, we return to Sarah’s house for a fond farewell. We take some more pictures of our extended family. Below is Princess Sarah with her four half-brothers.
It was a very special day for all of us, especially for her dad and me, who shed a few tears throughout the day. It’s been a long road, but we’re beaming with pride today. Sarah is a marvelous young lady, talented, smart, funny, beautiful and charming. She has a marvelous life of possibilities ahead of her. We truly love her and look forward to her next steps in life. 🙂