A year ago, when my daughter Elissa found out Dayan’s graduation day would be on May 19, which is his birthday, I had two thoughts: That will be an easy date to remember. And the next year will go by so fast. I was correct on both counts. I never once wondered what day graduation would be. And the year flew by.
My grandson, my oldest grandchild, the boy who made me a grandmother and christened me with the name Yaya, reached this momentous day exactly on time actually. To his family, and especially his mother, it marked the completion of a year that was full of “lasts”. The last marching band performance, the last parade, the last competition and ceremony and award, the last time to walk to school, the last time to walk out of the Carl Junction High School, the last time to play the tuba that he has played for years.
I thought about Dayan throughout this day, as he celebrated a birthday and prepared to graduate tonight, and the word “milestones” came to mind. A milestone is an event or action marking a significant change or stage in development. Dayan has had many of those mile markers in the last 18 years, signifiers of growth, times of deeper awareness, ahas that profoundly shaped his future.
It has been my pleasure to walk alongside him as he has journeyed, and witness those times when a “stone” was placed at a significant juncture. I’ve watched him as an intelligent, kind, compassionate boy who always knew the right encouraging words to share with people. I saw him as a young teenager stepping up to fully occupy his unique Dayan shaped space, gaining confidence in who he was and what his gifts and abilities were.
These past two years, the milestones became defining ones as Dayan could say “This is me…this is not me. This is what I want to do…this is what I don’t want to do. This is the path I am choosing for my life…this is not the path for me…” with a surety that so inspired me. Along with common milestones like getting his driver’s license and a job, he had major shifts as he decided on a future career in politics and selected University of Missouri as the college he would attend this fall.
It is not a coincidence that Dayan experienced two momentous milestones on the same day. He turned 18 years old today and graduated from high school. Both signify leaving childhood behind and entering adulthood, dual doors closing and opening at the same time as a new adventure beckons.
This evening it was with great joy, and a host of other emotions, that I watched my grandson walk across the stage to receive his diploma. Family members surrounded me. We beamed and cheered and perhaps shed a few tears that this milestone had been reached. This boy has become a man. This child has reached the point of spreading his wings to see just how high and how far he can fly.
I am proud of this incredible young man. I am proud of my daughter, who has been an extraordinary momma to her son, fierce in her love and devotion to him, never failing to seek the best for her child and encouraging him to be all that he could be. And I am proud of my son-in-law, who came into Dayan’s life as a stepdad, but who has parented him with an open and generous heart.
When he was a toddler, Dayan and I began an ongoing series of stories that we affectionately called “The Continuing Adventures of Dayan and Yaya”. Those were fun and imaginative stories that we created. However, we have had many, many real life adventures, this boy and I. Spending time together, Dayan has helped me to see the world differently. He has helped me to see myself differently. He allows me to be fully myself. We laugh. We learn new things. We go places.
We have a big adventure coming up, a trip to Italy that Elissa is joining us on. And then soon, Dayan will set off on adventures of his own, going places I will not go, seeing things I will not see. Milestones stretch behind us, a map of times we’ve celebrated and events we’ve shared. The road stretches onward, full of possibilities and opportunities. There are exciting times ahead for him that he will memorialize, saying “Here…this time, this place, is important in my life.”
No matter where he is, no matter where I am…I’ll pause to celebrate those future achievements and milestones with him, whether in person or in my heart.
Happy birthday Dayan. Happy graduation day. Happy first day of the rest of your amazing life. Go forth. Be you. Be Light in the world. I love you!