When you were six, you swore to me you were on a path straight for the NHL. We couldn't shake you either. There was passion in your eyes and grit in your heart. You wore the jersey everywhere you went, including to bed, because sure-fire, you were a Red Wings hockey player in the making. Those legendary cup holders need only wait a moment while you practiced your shot and incubated a dream. Soon, you'd lend them a hand.
At 18, I think you still dream it, but with a touch of reality. You taught me that it's never silly, not at any age. Dreams fill your veins with hope; they make your heart soar, and they keep you alive. Don't ever stop.
Your chin wobbled through "Old Yeller" and a veterinarian was born. The Animal Cop was your hero then, so you were heading to New York to join the ASPCA and save the world. This deep sensitivity draws you to the wounded, abused and mistreated. The man who cries for his dog is a man worth knowing.
When you packed up and ran away, you were kind enough to leave a detailed note. There were your reasons of course, the items you'd be toting, and the forged signature of my "dotter" who would be traveling with you. The leaving was necessary, yet you worried for me. I learned that even in pain, there should be compassion. Don't hurt someone you love if you can help it.
For a runner who races with the best, second or third is commendable. But in one defining moment you asked, "What would it take to be first?" You picked it apart, and the answer wasn't pretty. Conditioning will only take you so far. You had to look inside; find yourself. Locate your fear and your weakness and hold them in your hand. Simply put, if you think you can, you can. And you did. Life's obstacles may get harder, but you possess the knowledge to overcome, if you choose to use it.
The limelight may be your true calling. You've been a comedian, actor and sports commentator for years. A natural storyteller and unashamed ham, you leave 'em coming back for more. Your magic lights a room, snuffs out awkward silences and shoves clouds back in their corner. The ability to make others laugh or smile is a talent, but one that's completely worthless unless you share it.
Of course, it would behoove you to look over your audience first. When you got that great test score and decided to pick up your teacher and swing him around, we found out the hard way that not everyone has a sense of humor. Apparently in the 12th grade, one man's funny is another man's misdemeanor. Ah well, high school is all about the memories.
Not 30 minutes after you drove off with a crisp new license, did those sirens begin wailing. I stood alone in the driveway watching as one after another they flew down the road, surely headed your way. A panic and hysteria unknown to me set in. When you finally answered the phone, you heard laughing, sobbing, insanity. You didn't understand. You won't, until you have your own.
You walked off the field last week, bruised and spent, knowing you never would again. At the top of the hill, you turned and looked back. You breathed in the green length; lights, bleachers, people milling about. Unashamed tears ran unchecked, and I've never been so proud. It isn't where you've been, it's how far you've come.
I told you not to be in such a hurry to grow up, but you insisted, and here we are. The first chapter of your book has been written. It's time to graduate and turn the page. You've weeded through your dreams, mulled the options and formulated a plan. You've decided what to do, and with hard work, you'll reach that destination.
What you will "be," however, isn't the same. Who you become is not a destination but a journey. It's a winding, ever-changing, life-long road where you'll continue to learn and allow your dreams to shape you. Wherever this road takes you, you're going to be great. Congratulations and good luck to the class of 2016!
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