Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Full Circle Graduation

AHS 1995 grad book

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde

My brother Colin graduated from Andover High School on Monday. This blog has always been a place where I have discussed my life, my thoughts, and my feelings on a variety of issues. While some are made uncomfortable by the frankness of my words on here … I don’t know how to be any other person but me.

And being me means being honest. So …

In 1992, my mother informed me that I was going to have a second brother as her and my stepfather were expecting their first child.

I was 15 years old.

My brother Ben and I were the offspring of my mother's first marriage which ended when I was 11 years old. I never thought that 23 years later, my family would look like it does today. Hell, I didn't think I would live in Iowa, Nebraska, Alabama or Virginia either but don't try to predict how your life will go. You'll just end up completely wrong. 

Tomorrow in Andover, my "modern family" will celebrate the high school graduation of Colin from AHS, a school that my mom, dad, stepdad, and brother Ben all graduated from at one time or another. I have an 18-year-old brother, a 15-year-old brother, and an 11-year-old sister to go along with my 31-year-old brother.

I am 34 years old and I’m going to guess that you aren’t closer in age to your mother than your sister. Today in fact, my mother informed me that my little sister played at a friend's whose house is the one my father's parents lived in for the better part of 40 years. I spent my first year of life in that house. 

It really has all come full circle for me.    

In May of 1999, I graduated college and left three months later for Virginia in search of a career, a journey, and myself. My stepfather, in order to comfort my crying mother as I drove off in my U-Haul, said to my mother “He’ll be back in 6 months.”

I did not move home to New England until March of 2011.

My yearbook photo
During those years of being gone, I dated a various number of women, even living with two of them but I was never was 100% committed to spending the rest of my life with any of them. However, I returned home a much different person than I left as you could imagine. The South and Midwest made me into a man. 

As I sit here now in Massachusetts, I do have to wonder however, what impact my brothers had on me while I was a high school student and how it shaped eventually who I am today.  

Two years after the news of Colin, my mother, now 36 years old, stopped me as I was walking into my house after soccer practice one day. “I have something I need to tell you”, she said to me on our front porch step. “You are going to be a brother again.”

My response as I blew past her: “Whatever.” I refused to discuss the news for several days, injuring my mother for several months.

I was 17 years old.

It didn’t matter to me that I was about the same age as my mother was when she gave birth to me, I was furious that she was going to pregnant again and was going to be pregnant at my high school graduation.

Four years later at my college graduation from UMass, my mother would be pregnant again with my sister Maggie. I was 21 years old and by that time, numb to the uncomfortable looks parents would give to my family after seeing a pregnant woman celebrate the graduation of her oldest son.  

So, as I sat in the Tsongas Arena in Lowell this past Monday evening, watching the class of 2011 receive their diplomas, I began to think about how different my life was back then compared to my brother’s right now. I pulled out my old high school yearbook and began to reminisce about the child I once was and how I used to handle myself. The memories weren’t always easy to re-live but things happen in your life for a reason and the lessons you learn always help you later on in life. 

As I thought about how I've changed, I'm proud that I’ve always been an open person. I know that scares a lot of people, especially in my professional life, but I will never again be ashamed of who I am or what I came from.

I’m different. So what? I’m home now and had to leave to understand the importance of that.  

I kept journals for all the years I was gone and there are pages full of my wanting to return home to New England. While I knew the transition would not be easy, I’m very thankful to be here now and to be a part of my family again. Professionally, this is where I want to be and have a long-term future here, something I never saw at any of my four stops along the way. Sure, I love Omaha will always love Omaha (I still work in Omaha really) but I wasn’t going to raise a family in Omaha and didn’t want to drag another girl around the country with me after doing so after college. It wasn’t fair.

But I was only 24 then and the mistakes I made were much different than the mistakes my father made at that age while he was married to my mother.   

Watching Colin graduate from Andover High School was pretty special for me, something I would have surely missed if I hadn’t moved back. I have never been married and have never seriously thought about having a child of my own but Colin was the first human I got to see from diapers to diploma.

The teen-angst he went through (and is still going through) was so familiar to me and I related so much to that uncomfortable-in-your-own-skin suffering of a teenager. It really is wild to watch someone raised by your mother appear so similar to you in so many ways, yet be so different as well.

Tomorrow, we celebrate Colin’s achievement and send him off to Merrimack College where he will be a starting pitcher for their baseball team next fall. He earned a scholarship that is worth over $80,000.

The journey for him is just beginning while mine is starting another chapter. I’m just really glad I’m around to be a part of celebrating the good news. Sometimes, it feels like I never left. Other times, it feels like I missed too much. 

As the oldest of my mother's 5 children however, I'm proud of my family and proud of who we all are today. My mom raised two adults so far. I'm in radio working for two stations in New England. My brother owns and operates his own organic farm in western Mass with his wife Liz and their two kids. Tomorrow, number 3 sets off to find out who he wants to become. 

Seems like a long time from when I was 15 and my mother told me that I was going to be brother for the second time. 

Don't we all love to "Remember When"? From 1995... 

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