Uppermost house: The girl in the crowd

By S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

On paper, I am the dumbest person in my family.

Although I have a college degree, my son (the marine engineer) and my daughter (the exercise physiologist) are both twice as educated as I am, and my wife (the nutritionist) has thrice the post-secondary schooling.

I’m not ashamed or threatened by any of this, of course, because I have no problems with insecurity — plus, I’m losing my hair, which helps.

It does, however, make it more logical (in a Spock-like sort of way) for me to handle the less intellectually stressful jobs around the old homestead, such as scooping up the gooey entrails of dead rodents that the cats drag in and eviscerate in the hall closet.

I’ve tried to put an academic spin on some of the more pedestrian household chores, to make them more palatable to those whose diplomas have finer filigrees than mine, but it doesn’t really work. My son does not fall for calls for help regarding fluid dynamics and the relationships between viscosity, velocity, matrix composition, and orifice diameter (a plugged toilet); my daughter will not help me by personally experiencing the metabolic changes in fast-twitch tissue triggered by verdant truncating (mowing the lawn); and my wife certainly isn’t fooled by pleas for assistance in reorganization efforts following post-masticatory entropy (straightening up the kitchen after supper).

In every household, there are the thinkers and the doers, I suppose. (On this claim, I would get substantial pushback from the collective familial science eggheads, protesting that they both think and do, which I agree they do do, rather well actually. And just so you know, that is the first time I’ve managed to get do do into a column in eight years — not for lack of trying, I’ll tell you.)

Anyway, our daughter was the most recent to obtain her sheepskin, and so a couple of weeks ago our whole family made the long schlepp down to Liberty University in Virginia to watch Amanda receive her BS, along with about 20,000 of her best pals (yeah, the place is enormous).

The main ceremony was held at the university’s outdoor football stadium, a vast mixing bowl choked to the rafters with a cohort of young, smiling and mortarboarded humanity, plus parents, siblings, and other assorted hangers-on. It was bedlam, and drizzling slightly.

We got to the shindig rather late and couldn’t get a spot in the stands. (Really? You had trouble with traffic and parking? Hmm.) Security was ubiquitous and snug and at one point, excited beyond recognition, I slipped through and ambled my way up to the top of a grassy knoll to get a better view. (My wife will tell you that I bolted past security, but she is prone to hyperbole; she also sometimes overcooks pasta, by the way).

Before me on the grass of the stadium floor lay a vast maelstrom of knowledge, organized in ranks and files, each candidate decked out identically, carrying a heavy debt load, and facing frontwards toward the governor of Louisiana, who was speaking loudly. A video stream of his speech was being projected behind him, and his head appeared about the size of a UPS truck.

Nearby on the knoll, a husband and wife earnestly searched for their offspring among the seated throng. “I wonder where she is?” the dad said. “Who knows,” said the mom, sporting a little attitude. “For all we know she’s not even down there. Maybe they’re all rentals.”

Amanda had told us that she would tie a balloon to her elbow so we could find her, but it was clear that school security wouldn’t allow for such shenaniganistic displays of individuality, so she just blended in like a grain of sand at the beach.

But it didn’t matter to me. I knew that my beloved was down there somewhere within my field of vision — that her beautiful countenance was somehow dancing in my eyes, even though I couldn’t pick her out on my retinas. And so I just stood there and proudly wept. I was experiencing one of life’s greatest joys, exulting in the success of others. And this was particularly joyful because the object of my delight was flesh of my flesh. And if a stranger had come up just then and asked, I would have pointed and said, Oh, yes, my precious daughter is right there. She’s the one with the black gown and the square cap. Look, you can even see her yellow tassel.

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