So, Doug, how was your weekend?
Left the house at 6:30 Friday morning heading for a Kohl’s parking lot in Wake Forest, NC, not to be confused with the university of Wake Forest which is actually in Winston-Salem, NC, but used to be in the actual town of Wake Forest until 1950, when for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, the school decided to pull up stakes and move 2 hours away, confusing the hell out of everybody ever since. We arrived at the Kohl’s parking lot without incident whereupon Pam and I along with my sister Paula, her husband Ron and my nephew Ryan begin a casual stroll through the sparking clean store trying to look like eager shoppers looking for a bargain, when in fact we are desperately looking for a working bathroom. We escaped this excursion without falling prey to the impressive sales all around us and the siren song of $100 worth of Kohl’s Cash burning a hole in Pam’s purse.
Right on time, my daughter arrived, having made the drive from Winston-Salem where the new Wake Forest resides. We all pile into Ron’s battle tank of a Buick and make the short drive to a gravel parking lot, a convenient two mile walk from the graduation festivities for our sweet Jessica Stroup, who cheerfully received her Master’s degree from Southeastern Theological Seminary, the happy beneficiary of Wake Forest University’s bizarre decision 61 years ago to leave town. After a marathon session of picture taking, we drive back to Kohl’s, exit the tank, hop in our own vehicles and make the drive to downtown Raleigh for lunch at a fabulous BBQ restaurant called, “The Pit”. An awesome meal was enjoyed by all. After Rick and Linda graciously paid the bill for our feast, we all gather outside to say our goodbyes, but Pam, Kaitlin and Jessica are nowhere to be found. Naturally I assumed they were all in the bathroom, but after ten minutes, which is a long bathroom stay even for Jessica, I began to worry, unnecessarily as it turned out since they were across the street, taking ironic pictures of the girls standing in front of the scruffy brick walls of abandoned tobacco warehouses. Well, of course they were. Who could resist that?
This is where it gets complicated. Pam and I, Ron, Paula and Ryan then leave Raleigh, along with Kaitlin, to make the 2 hour drive to Winston-Salem, leaving Rick and Linda in Wake Forest for the night. The next day Kaitlin will be getting her Master’s hood from Wake Forest University. Her boyfriend Jon will be arriving along with Rick & Linda who will be picking up my son Patrick at the Raleigh airport where we have flown him from Princeton NJ, where we tell all of our friends he is attending grad school, which is a delicious half-truth since he does in fact attend grad school in that famous town, but at Westminster Choir College, NOT Princeton University, but why quibble with details?
Thus began a 36 hour adventure in cat-herding; four cars, three families, five different GPS devices, strange town, and schizophrenic weather conditions, combining to give the proceedings a spastic Keystone Kop quality. The centerpiece of the chaos was provided by this infamous 4AM text message from my son to his mother, “OK, I’m running a little bit late. I had to stop and get gas”, never a good thing to hear. Of course he misses his flight by two minutes, potentially sending the enter weekend down in flames, until he was miraculously rerouted to another flight which arrived in Raleigh a mere five minutes later than his original flight, praise be to Almighty God!
Somehow, all of us managed to be united at a Panera Bread right up the street from Kaitlin’s rental house for lunch at noon. Rick, Linda and Patrick, Ron, Paula and Ryan, Kaitlin and Jon, and Pam and I all got to witness Rick’s very first trip to Panera Bread. Who knew?
From there it was all relatively easy. The ceremony was lovely, the rain held off long enough afterwards for all the pictures to be taken. There was a lovely dinner together at the West End Café, where they serve a world class pot roast. Then we all went to see The Great Gatsby, since the great Fitzgerald novel was a major theme of Kaitlin’s dissertation. The Roops hated it; everyone else loved it, proving for the millionth time that there truly is no accounting for taste.
Sunday morning saw the Roops head back to Richmond. We stayed to attend Kaitlin’s church, have lunch together and take a walking tour of the campus that has been Kaitlin’s home for the past two years. Then we said our goodbyes and drove back to Richmond, our 72 hour journey over.
I spent the entire weekend with tears in my eyes, partially a result of the pride I felt in the accomplishments of my girls, and the importance of the moment, and partially from the searing pains shooting through my rapidly deteriorating left shoulder. The pain was such that I found myself going long stretches without saying anything, for fear that if I did open my mouth, out would fly an embarrassing string of salty epitaphs, inappropriate for the occasion. So I observed the proceedings mostly in proud silence, but proud I was. Next year this time, we will be in Princeton doing it all over again. My kids are at that stage where they provide me with an endless source of proud moments, moments when I am so thankful to be their father.
So, that’s what I did for my weekend. How about you?