Having recovered from his brief anxiety spell – or so everyone thought – my father made his way back into the graduation ceremony in time to see me happily walk across the stage, shake the president’s hand and accept my diploma. I held it in my hand like a vice grip, afraid someone would come take it away from me and tell me a mistake had been made.
The graduates filed out after the faculty and I made my way to the spot I had told my parents to meet me because after graduation the front lawn of Travis Avenue Baptist Church is mass chaos, with pictures, goodbyes, flowers being exchanged, and congratulations. There’s no telling how many pictures I walked into as I walked across that lawn trying to find friends over the years. But my family, like all the others, began the ceremonial picture taking.
However, we were all hungry so pictures were taken hastily and as was tradition for my very close friends and I, we headed over to Red, Hot and Blue for some BBQ, joined by my friends Tanya and Kristen. After a scrumptious lunch of pulled pork and french fries we all headed back to the hotel – minus Tanya and Kristen. My dad and I rode together. Immediately after getting in my Ford Explorer – a vehicle I miss to this day – he asks, “Is Paul going to talk to me anytime soon? Because I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest and I just need to get it over with.” How was I supposed to respond to THAT? I’d been wondering the same question, and I kinda thought Paul was going to talk to him that weekend, but I didn’t really know. We hadn’t discussed it. We barely talked about marriage. We hadn’t even said, “I love you” yet. Geesh Daddy. How was I supposed to know?
As soon as Paul and I were away from everyone I said, “You have to talk to my dad today. He’s going to have a heart attack if you don’t.” I don’t think that helped Paul’s nerves any as he was trying to make a good impression.
I went home to change and rest. Then it was back over to the hotel, just in time for supper. We walked along the river to Panera Bread, but upon arrival my father said, “I’m not hungry. I’m going to go for a walk and look in a store over here.” Paul piped up with, “Mr. Frank, do you mind if I walk with you?”
Oh my! The rest of us stood in awkward silence as we watched my father and Paul walk away to some unknown location.