Riley had another melt-down. She said it’s ’cause you won’t see her graduate.
We got a call from the school, saying that she was going to be allowed to walk in the ceremony, and she’ll even receive a diploma, with full credit. I don’t really understand this, but I didn’t argue.
The graduation ceremony was in the afternoon. While I talked with Riley, trying to get her to calm down, Patches and Bo played.
Patches told me she’s practicing with Lamber, so that when she finally holds Roxey, she’ll know how and won’t get scratched.
Heading to the graduation ceremony felt bittersweet. Mom, I agree with Riley–we both wish you could see her receive her diploma.
“Will you be here when I graduate?” Patches asked me.
“Of course, Patches,” I said. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“What about college?” she asked.
“Oh, we’ll talk about that later.”
Riley, sitting in the cab waiting for us, looked so sad. When I slid into the seat next to her, I whispered that this was supposed to be a happy occasion.
“I’m just praying to get through it,” she replied.
She did get through it. When we looked at her diploma, we saw that she’s graduating with honors. Mom, she’s so smart! Her classmates voted her, “Most likely to stay home.” She laughed. “This is so me!” she said. “That’s all I ever want to do!”
When we got home, we discovered Zoey and Roxey playing in the living room.
We all stood and watched them. Patches started laughing first. Then Bo joined in. And soon, their crazy games had us all giggling. Oh, Mom! It felt so great to laugh as a family.
“When are you leaving?” Riley asked me as we had a snack.
“I’m not going anywhere!” I replied.
“Um, college?” Riley said.
“Um college what?” I replied. “I’m not going.”
“You’ve got to go,” she said. “All your life, that’s what you’ve been dreaming of, planning for. You can’t skip college! Mom wouldn’t want that.”
“Look,” I said. “I might very well go to college one day, but I’m not going now. Not when we’re all going through this. Not when Bo and Patches are still kids.”
“But I’d stay to take care of them,” Riley said.
“Nonsense,” I replied. “When I go to college, you’re coming with me. We’ll just have to wait. It’s that simple.”
“You’ve got to think of what Mom would want,” Riley continued. “I know she’d want you to go. You know how she always arranged with Mara Nix to be ready to help out? She’d want you to go, with me staying here to look out for the kids, and Mara Nix coming around when we need extra help.”
“It’s not going to happen that way,” I said. “I’m going to get a job so we know the family is taken care of. Then maybe later, after Bo and Patches become teens, or after they graduate, even, then I can think about going to college. Heck, maybe we’ll all go to college together! And you’re definitely coming with me!”
“Mom would hate for you to put aside your dreams,” Riley said.
I know Riley has a point, Mom. You always did want me to go to college straight out of high school. But I know you understand that dreams are flexible. Sometimes, other things come up that are more important–like being here for Bo and Patches while they’re littlies that need extra care, and keeping the family together while we move through these seasons of grief.
Mom, I know you’re not disappointed in me. Or even if you are, you’ll get through it once you realize I’m doing what I feel is right, just like I always do. And if what I feel is right doesn’t quite match what you feel is right, that’s OK. I know you trust me.
I won’t give up on college for good, Mom, just for now. For now, I’ve got more important things to do as a means of being the daughter and the big sister that you’d want me to be.
Growing up is hard, Mom, but I’m ready. I’m ready to make the tough decisions. And this decision isn’t even a tough one. Family comes first, Mom. That’s a no-brainer.