It’s Memorial Day weekend and it’s graduation weekend for several local high schools. We have been invited to three parties today. The first is from 3-6, the second from 4-until and the third from 5-until. Kayla attends the first and third with us. The first is a graduation party, the last a Memorial Day party. Tywana and I go to the second, just the two of us.
Going to three parties in one day is a tricky proposition. You have to figure out how much to eat at each party, how much to drink. Fortunately, Tywana and I have a lot of experience in this department. And, the first party has no alcohol, so this is easy. We have a couple of chicken tenders there and Tywana samples the macaroni bar. The second party has a Mexican bar with fix-your-own Chipotle styles meat, rice and fixins. We are there from about 6 until 8, so I figure this will be the place where I have dinner. We have a couple of drinks while we’re there, then we make our way to the third party where I intend to only have a drink or two then call it a night.
We knew we’d be late to this party. So, we volunteered to bring dessert rather than a side dish. When we arrive at around 8, everyone has eaten since the party started at 5. We take our dessert to where the party has moved to the deck and offer it up. Our host has greeted us as we walked through the front door and offered us drinks. They had served steak, ribs and chicken for the main course. I’m stuffed. It sounds delicious, but I had to choose to eat somewhere and I had a huge bowl of Mexican food at the last party. Then she tells me that she has held a steak back for me because everyone knows I like my steaks rare. She has never prepared a rare steak before, but she’s going to prepare this one, just for me. I’m honored. I can’t refuse. So, she prepares the steak and brings it to me apologizing in advance because it can’t be done just right. It’s actually perfect! It’s not difficult to cook a steak for me. Just get it brown on both sides. That’s it.
When I get there, there is a bottle of red wine already open. I’ll drink wine. I notice some people have wine glasses, but I’m not going to bother anyone asking for a wine glass. I’ll just drink out of this clear plastic cup. The wine tastes just as good. Our host notices and offers me a wine glass. “No thanks. This is good enough.”
Being around all of these high school kids is still really tough. Shayna, Kayla and the kids from the first party used to go boating together. I remember when the the girl graduating was 7 or 8 years old splashing in the lake with our girls. The second party has kids Shayna played basketball with. They’re looking at their own graduation parties in a couple of years. I’m sad because I know I’ve planned my last graduation party and people are just going on and on about planning the upcoming graduation parties for the younger siblings. At the third party I get into a deep conversation with a guy I just met. His son is 17 and looking at colleges. He’s a year older than Shayna would be. This father is in touch with his feelings enough to know that time is getting short. It won’t be long before his best buddy of 17 years will be going off to college. He tells me stories of going to his son’s football practices and how he enjoys spending time with him. I tell him I’ve already walked down that road with Kayla. I don’t tell him about Shayna. I never know when or how to bring that up. I just tell him to enjoy the next year to cherish every moment.
We sit down some good friends of ours we have known for a decade or so. Their girls are around the same ages as Kayla Shayna. They’re concerned about the paths their girls are taking, like all involved parents are, and they’re trying to figure out how to steer them in the direction they want them to go. I remind them that our kids’ lives are not ours to lead. As much as we want the best for them, they have to make their own decisions. And, often the decisions we think are “wrong” are the best ones for them in the long run. I offer them my newfound perspective that whatever is is what was meant to be and that if we can learn to trust that, life is so much easier.
Party days like this are rough. So much to navigate. People look at Tywana and me differently now. They look into our eyes to see how we are doing. Being around kids Shayna’s age still hurts. Knowing when to talk about her with strangers I’m just meeting is still tricky. And I still think of her constantly as we’re packing up to go, just the three of us, thinking “Shayna should be here.” Everything now is exhausting, including partying.