The Weekend of The Future: Ensigns, Graduates and Over-Time Goals

Monday, May 12th, 2014

When it all occurs at once, it’s usually too much to absorb. On occasion, the confluence of events reinforce one another. As I journey into retirement, curious and unsure simultaneously, I wonder what it will mean, what defines it, when this phase will end. Am I gracefully approaching the can’t-be-too-distant shore or am I swirling in a whirlpool soon to disappear (I’m avoiding the image of heading down the drain)?

I feel as though mine has been a complete life even if the measurement is that I’ve done and seen more than I ever expected. If 40 is the old age of youth, then nearly 62 is the youth of age on my scale. My big thrills now stem from the victories of others. This past May weekend brought me a joy that one experiences when one is a child at Pontchatrain Beach or a teenager at an evening Mardi Gras parade or other precious moments that announce themselves in advance.

On Friday morning, I presented the George Herbert Leadership Award at the Naval ROTC Commissioning Ceremony at North Carolina State University. With treasured younger friends on Friday afternoon, I attended the NROTC Commissioning in the glorious Chapel of Duke University. My elder son flew from Naples, Italy to witness on Friday the graduation of his delightful girlfriend in Boulder, Colorado. That Friday evening, my younger son scored the winning goal, in overtime, to help his high school lacrosse team advance, contrary to prediction, into another round of the State Championship Series. On Saturday, I refereed 5 games girls lacrosse, ages 6 to 12; in the evening, we participated in a dinner for the seniors of Senior Prom, our final prom of four (2 boys x 2). The dinner felt like adult wrens awaiting the first flight of their brood.

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As I read the New York Times, I can persuade myself that “it’s all going to hell in a hand-basket’ wondering exactly when the adult world conspired to devour its young. My frustration and insight may be well-founded and it’s misplaced. The future is as bright and brighter than any other future. There are capable and motivated young men and women, the sons of Marines and the daughters of doctors, eager to serve their country; the bonds of love remain strong even from afar; sports are not life and they can teach you plenty about self-sufficiency to get through life.

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A dedicated paragraph about the Senior Prom. I’ve been the Grinch each year as I make fun of how involved are we helicopter parents. Closely on the heels of the modern rock-star quality weddings of the average couple are the Academy Award quality prom parties with photo shoots, pre-dinners, an appearance at the actual prom followed by the after-parties (I kid you not). Until Saturday evening, I considered this ceremony to be the Age of Everybody Gets a Trophy and An Orange Slice gone wild. As the handsome young men and the 18 going on 28? young women described to me their near futures – at Boston University to study electrical engineering (girl), bio-mechanical engineering at NC State (boy), medicine in Indiana, play lacrosse in Virginia – with bright eyes, deferential demeanor and sober enthusiasm, I grew up.

It’s going to be alright. It may be different. They may be challenged. And they are more ready and more capable than we, the adults or, at least, this one, may understand fully. I’m taking the point of view that what really scares the bad guys are these guys because they are so independent, optimistic and adventurous.

It may not be time to exit stage right or otherwise fade into the shadows; it is time to pass the torch to a newer generation of Americans. I know that I am and I believe that we are all better off for it.