my daughter’s graduation

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.

Balloons for Sarah
Balloons for Sarah

Sarah has set up a spread of bagels with cream cheese, red onions, avocado, capers, roasted red peppers, tomatoes and bread & butter pickles.

the bagel toppings
the bagel toppings

Watermelon and cherries accompany our brunch spread.

watermelon and cherries
watermelon and cherries
the bagel spread
the bagel 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.

Mike, Kema, Bill, and Cody
Mike, Kema, Bill, and Cody

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.

Kema and Sarah
Kema and Sarah

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.

flowers along the way
flowers along the way

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.

Adam and Alex
Adam and Alex

Our adorable redhead is all ready to go.

Sarah the graduate
Sarah the graduate

While she joins the other graduates, we go inside and take our seats.

Inside Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church
Inside Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church

As the graduates walk in to the “Pomp and Circumstance March,” I catch a glimpse of my darling girl.

a glimpse of Sarah
a glimpse of Sarah

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.

Department of English graduates
Department of English graduates

Finally the ceremony begins, and Sarah stands in her row to wait for her name to be called.

Sarah getting ready to walk
Sarah getting ready to walk

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!

a blurry Sarah accepts her diploma
a blurry Sarah accepts her diploma

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.

Bill, Sarah, Kema and Cody
Bill, Sarah, Kema and Cody

And below is our clan: Alex, me, Mike, Sarah and Adam.

Alex, me, Mike, Sarah and Adam
Alex, me, Mike, Sarah and Adam

Our whole family is here, including Sarah’s Aunt Barbara, Mike’s sister.

Adam, Alex, Sarah, Mike, me and Barbara
Adam, Alex, Sarah, Mike, me and Barbara

And here’s me with Sarah and her dad, Bill.

me, Sarah & Bill
me, Sarah & Bill
the graduate
the graduate
Mike and Sarah
Mike and Sarah

After graduation, we head back to Sarah’s house to wait until our dinner reservations at 5:30.

a rooster in the garden
a rooster in the garden

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.

Mike and Kema
Mike and Kema

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.

Sarah and her four brothers: Adam, Alex, Nicholas and Cody
Sarah and her four brothers: Adam, Alex, Nicholas and Cody
Adam, Alex, Sarah, Nicholas and Cody
Adam, Alex, Sarah, Nicholas and Cody
the four half-brothers: Adam, Alex, Nicholas and Cody
the four half-brothers: Adam, Alex, Nicholas and Cody
Adam, Alex, Nick, Cody and Sarah
Adam, Alex, Nick, Cody and Sarah
Shenanigans
Shenanigans
Alex, Adam, Nick, Cody and Sarah
Alex, Adam, Nick, Cody and Sarah
Me, Adam, Sarah, Alex, Barb, Mike, Kema, Bill, Cody and Nicholas
Me, Adam, Sarah, Alex, Barb, Mike, Kema, Bill, Cody and Nicholas
the parents with their graduate: Mike, me, Sarah, Bill and Kema
the parents with their graduate: Mike, me, Sarah, Bill and Kema

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. 🙂

in search of a “happy” 4th of july

Friday, July 4:  This year I didn’t get to celebrate our country’s independence, or much of anything else.  No fireworks, no barbecue, no parties. Things started falling apart on Monday of this week.  While I was at work, Mike texted me that his mother had been admitted to the hospital with a bad cough.  She is very frail already, and on oxygen.  In the hospital, she weighed in at a wispy 83 pounds.  She’s also very confused, talking non-stop about things that simply don’t make any sense.

Fourth of July on Boulevard in Richmond
Fourth of July on Boulevard in Richmond
On Grove Avenue in the Fan District
On Grove Avenue in the Fan District
Grove Avenue
Grove Avenue

On Tuesday, I got the sad news that Christine, fellow blogger of DADIRRIDREAMING, had died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage.  Christine was a lovely and spiritual woman.  When I was stressed out after returning home to Virginia from Oman, she sent me an hour-long guided meditation, in her voice, which I listen to when I need to relax.  I’m happy to have a bit of her voice to keep with me forever.

a lone bicycle in the Fan
a lone bicycle in the Fan
Fan District
Fan District
Hanover St.
Hanover St.

On Wednesday, my daughter Sarah got a ride up from Richmond and we went to visit her Nana in the hospital.  We were afraid she didn’t have long to live. The doctors decided on Thursday to release her to go home, under the care of hospice. They say there’s nothing else they can do for her.

the iconic New York Deli of Carytown
the iconic New York Deli of Carytown
Carytown, Richmond
Carytown, Richmond
Carytown
Carytown
Carytown shops
Carytown shops

Meanwhile, on Wednesday morning, my sister called to tell me that my dad had been admitted to the hospital for an emergency surgery.  It turns out the surgery fixed the problem and he was sent home on Thursday.  I called to ask if he’d like a visitor. He sounded like he’d appreciate it.

Carytown in Richmond
Carytown in Richmond
Cupcakes
Cupcakes
All decked out for 4th of July
All decked out for 4th of July

On Thursday, after Nana was settled in at her home in a bed set up by hospice in her family room, with a view of her beloved garden, Sarah shared this video with her grandmother, hoping to cheer her up.  It’s a rendition of the Pharrell Williams “Happy” song, filmed in Richmond.

All Thursday afternoon, and over the next couple of days, Nana replayed the video repeatedly. I was happy that it seemed to make her happy.  Later, I found out the reason.  She told one of the around-the-clock caregivers that her granddaughter was in the video.  I said, “Nana, no, Sarah’s not in the video, she just likes it.”  But Nana insisted that her granddaughter was in the video, and continued to watch it non-stop.  Later, I heard she told another caregiver that all three of her grandchildren were in the video.

At another time, I heard her tell a friend who phoned, in an agitated voice: “I need to go now so I can get the cushions so I can get to Richmond.” Somehow, Richmond and her grandchildren and the urgency of her getting to them are all tied up together in her mind. Sweet, but sad.

Carytown
Carytown
Carytown
Carytown
Vintage Clothing
Vintage Clothing

Sarah had to go back to Richmond for work, so we got on the road at 5 a.m. on the 4th and drove 2 hours to Richmond, where I went for a walk and she for a run.  I then showered and headed another hour south to visit my father.  He seems to be okay; he’s just having a little trouble getting around because of the incision.  I visited for a couple of hours, then got in the car and drove 3 hours back to northern Virginia, where I was too exhausted from the stressful week to do any kind of celebrating.

Chop Suey Books
Chop Suey Books
Chop Suey Books
Chop Suey Books
Portrait House
Portrait House
Street Art
Street Art
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

We spent a lot of time with family over the last week: my kids, Mike, his mom and sister, my dad and his wife.  It was a week of connecting, with the sad awareness that ties could be cut at any moment.

I had a lovely walk around Richmond on the most beautiful Fourth of July, weather-wise, that I’ve ever experienced in Virginia. Usually, it’s unbearably hot and humid, and generally miserable in July. I realized that Richmond holds a lot of memories for our family.  I used to live here, and Mike’s first wife, who died of breast cancer, lived here.  I met Mike in Richmond.  Sarah lives here now, working and going to school at VCU.  It’s truly my favorite Virginia city.

The Fan
The Fan
Wall art to honor a former employee of Joe's Inn, who passed away
Wall art to honor a former employee of Joe’s Inn, who passed away
Street art at Joe's Inn, a Richmond dining establishment where Sarah works
Street art at Joe’s Inn, a Richmond dining establishment where Sarah works
Heroes & Ghosts Tattoos
Heroes & Ghosts Tattoos
Vespa Love
Vespa Love

When I drove home from my dad’s on Route 17, a mostly deserted highway that runs nearly parallel to the dreaded I-95, the setting sun cast a glowing light over dancing cornfields, and I felt overwhelmed by the beauty and changing nature of our world.

richmond: sticky rice & a little slice of the fan

Friday, August 16:  I’ve written about Richmond’s Fan District before (richmond’s fan district), and I don’t want to repeat myself, but I’ll just say it’s one of the cutest neighborhoods ever.  I used to live in the Fan, and my daughter lives there now, and I have to say I’m quite envious.  Whenever I can take the time to make the 2+ hour drive from northern Virginia, I make it a point to escape to the city I still love.

houses near Sticky Rice in the Fan
houses near Sticky Rice in the Fan

After walking along the Canal Walk and through Shockoe Slip, I’m awfully hungry so I stop in at a restaurant in the Fan where Sarah and I have eaten before, Sticky Rice.  Sticky Rice is a Japanese restaurant with a sushi bar, and like many corner bars and restaurants in the Fan, it is a bustling place frequented by students of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and local residents.  I don’t actually see any Japanese people either working or eating here.  It also has a warm and cozy atmosphere, especially on what is fast becoming a cloudy and dreary day. (Sticky Rice)

Sticky Rice
Sticky Rice
the sushi bar at Sticky Rice
the sushi bar at Sticky Rice
street view from my booth at Sticky Rice
street view from my booth at Sticky Rice
Inside Sticky Rice
Inside Sticky Rice

I order the Crunchy Shrimp Roll, which is Tempura-fried shrimp with avocado, cucumbers, tobiko and spicy sauce.

Crunchy Shrimp Roll
Crunchy Shrimp Roll

After eating this, I’m still a little hungry, so I order the starter, which I obviously should have started with: Spring Rolls filled with rice noodles, carrots, red peppers, cilantro, basil and mint. Served with a peanut sauce for dipping. Served fresh, not fried.

Spring rolls - to finish
Spring rolls – to finish

Then I go outside to explore the neighborhood surrounding Sticky Rice, which is on West Main Street.  I love the pretty row houses, some painted in pastel colors and some with welcoming front porches adorned with potted plants, hanging plants, elaborate gardens, wicker chairs, porch swings, flags or picket fences.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I find a little street art too, but this is near Hollywood Cemetery, just outside the Fan.

the Victory Rug Cleaning Co.
the Victory Rug Cleaning Co.

It’s looking like it might rain, but I’m determined to go to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, so I get in my car and use my new iPhone to tell me the directions. Sarah taught me how to do this while we were in Charlottesville; after all, I’m just getting with the modern age where the high technology of smart phones is involved.