The last few hours before everything changes

By Joseph Palmersheim

Sun CURRENT Newspapers


The chip on my shoulder grew with the passing hours, magnified with each can of Mountain Dew.

“I already graduated,” I thought to myself, “so why do I have to be here? I’ve spent the past four years with these (people). Isn’t that enough?”

On behalf of who I am today and my snotty 18-year-old self, I would like to apologize to the parents and volunteers at the Academy of Holy Angels’ Class of 1998 all-night senior graduation lock-in party. Only in retrospect do I realize the effort that went into the event and how I didn’t appreciate it at all. The icing on the cake was at the end of the party, when the parent volunteers stood in a line and wished us well on our way out the door. I completely ignored all of you, and I regret that.

No one makes it to where they are all by themselves. Our lives are the products of more than simply our own efforts. Along the way, we have parents, family, teachers and mentors to guide us. So when it comes time to celebrate a milestone, like graduating from high school and moving on to the adult world, it’s helpful to remember those who have helped you get there.

Most of the schools in our coverage areas have some form of an all-night party after graduation. Students might not realize it at the time (as I certainly did not), but it’s the last time for many kids in a class spend any time with each other in the sort of group dynamic that the past four years have established. Once those students walk out the door in the morning, all bound for separate paths, everything will have changed. Acknowledging a moment that changes everything is a notion usually reserved for coming-of-age movies, but in this case, it’s true.

A lot of work and planning goes into putting on those senior parties, not that I cared to notice it at the time. I spent most of that all-night party plotting to escape, or at least talking about it. One of my friends, who shall remain nameless, jumped out of a second-story window around 11 p.m. and managed to peel out in the parking lot on his way home. At the time, I considered him a hero for it, but in retrospect, it was a really selfish thing to do.

It wasn’t just the last time for our class to be together – it was also the last chance for many of our parents to see us all together; to see their kids as, well, kids, at least for a few more hours. As big of a change as high school graduation is for the students, it’s also a big change for the parents. Having my own children, and realizing that they are on loan to me, I understand this now.

Those parents didn’t have to be there at 2 a.m., offering sodas to kids who were getting sleepy. They didn’t have to be there running the casino in the school gym. And they certainly didn’t have to suffer through my karaoke rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”

I should have thanked them. But I didn’t. All I could see, as the dawn grew nearer, was myself.

So, if I have any advice for seniors this year, it would be this: thank the parents at the grad party. And thank your own parents, too.


Contact Joseph Palmersheim at [email protected]