07 May, 2014

On this, the last day of classes, ever

This morning I attended my last class of my third postgraduate degree. Once upon a time, I would have been less precise, but after four degrees, residency and fellowship (which involved an awful lot of lectures, if not anything called classes), I know better that to assume that it's really the last anything.

I can't remember my last day of high school, but I assume it was probably fairly anti-climactic. My last day of medical school officially took place in Guatemala, where I was doing an elective rotation. And I also can't recall my last day of my first postgraduate degree, at Oxford, although I remember finishing the fourth and final day of written comprehensive exams and the raucous celebration waiting outside, which was mainly the friends of the finishing undergraduates. Somehow, the "last" day of classes feels a lot more final at the end of undergraduate studies. Maybe we delude ourselves into thinking that we've actually completed a phase in life, a metamorphosis, become grown-up. Because, of course, I do remember the last day of my undergraduate classes, though it was not terribly exciting. Mostly, I remember that my roommate ended every third sentence with a dramatic flourish and, "...on this, the last day of classes, ever." 

Much to my deep chagrin, I only learned this evening that today was also the last day of classes at Utica College, and therefore would have been my father's last day teaching before his planned retirement, the conclusion of a 39-year career. The faculty at his institution have a tradition of accompanying the retiring professor to their last class, and so his friends and colleagues upheld that tradition as best they could. They shared memories and a poem, watched the video of his tree, and finished with a champagne toast.

Blue ribbons on Tree, which is starting to blossom...

I am so sad that Finn and I weren't there. I thought about my father a lot today, though I'm not sure there are days when I don't. I picked up Finn's school pictures today, and it felt like a huge stack for so few people to share them. Finn scribbled on cards and tucked a few inside to mail to my dad's mom and brother in Virginia. Lately, he has been asking to read "Mamma books", and tonight, he chose a book of poetry by Pablo Neruda, in both Spanish and English, and illustrated with photographs of Machu Picchu. My dad gave it to me for Christmas in 2004, after I had spent part of the summer in Cusco, PerĂș. The card fell out when we opened the book.

As I was finishing this post, lightning appeared it the sky and now the rain is falling. When I first moved to Colorado, I missed thunderstorms terribly. The man I was dating then had very few charms, but he did once text me while I was on call to tell me to listen for the thunder, because it was finally raining. I love a good storm.

I used to sing the Emilia song Big Big World to myself when I was being a mopey teenager about a break-up... Miss you much, Daddy.