Brian graduated on Thursday. Immediately after he and Austyn began their trip to IL. Austyn was graduating on Saturday with an Associate degree in Applied Sciences, Digital Photography. She had been asked to be one of two student speakers for the ceremony. Jeff and I had both cried through her 8th grade graduation and barely made it through her high school graduation; we had no idea what this one would do to us.
Both of our children have very high I.Q. This is both a blessing and a curse. Raun was bored all through school and struggled with applying himself. Austyn was considered gifted with a sever learning disability. In 8th grade she barely had a 3rd grade reading level. We knew something was off when she was 3 and could not repeat 3 words back to you. We were learning bible verses such as God is Love. I would say it and ask her to repeat it. She could not, it was one word at a time. At some point she was able to repeat a group of words but she some how always changed at least one of the words. School was a challenge. We spent several years home schooling. When we returned to Wheaton, Il we began the testing process for assistance. Austyn qualified for everything they had to offer. By her Senior year she had developed a level of confidence in her abilities and disabilities that she confidently approached each teacher the beginning of each semester with her list of what she will succeed at and what she may need their assistance with. They were always a bit taken back. Austyn did not come across needy. A few of the teachers failed to believed her but a quick read through her file and apologizes were made. In the end Austyn won them all over and graduated with honors.
There was a point that Jeff and I had no idea how she would get through Sr. High. “If we can just get her to graduation” we would say. Get her to graduation, she had graduated with honors and was accepted to Harrington School of Design. Each graduation was a milestone and very emotional. For me it was a sense of relief and accomplishment. We had made it through and it was a group effort. Jeff nor I had ever envisioned a College Graduation.
The Friday evening prior to graduation was a gallery showing at Harrington. We made our way through the exhibits recognizing names of students. Austyn’s final project “The Chair” was on display. Austyn had purchased an old chair from a second hand store and brought it home on the city bus. For a period of 3 months she took the chair everywhere, photographing it around the city of Chicago, farmland in Wisconsin and along the river in Little Chute, WI. At some point The Chair stopped being a chair and took on a personality of it’s own. It came alive. The book “The Chair” sat in the actual chair in the corner of one of the exhibit rooms.
We left the school in search of the English pub Austyn had chosen for dinner. She and Jeff debated the directions, each one sure they were right. At one point they were actually walking in opposite directions. In the end Austyn was right, not an easy thing for dad to admit to. Dinner was great. We grabbed a cab and headed home, Saturday was going to be a big day.
Pomp and Circumstance began and tears filled my eyes. If I lost it now I would not get control. She walked past us with a typical Austyn smile…bigger than life. It was her time to speak and she was fantastic. As she spoke to her fellow students the audience seemed to disappear, she encouraged and challenged. Diplomas were given out and she was walking back down the isle. It was a wonder ceremony. We caught a cab and stopped at Jakes for a celebratory drink. School was over for both, the next ceremony would be the wedding.
As part of their graduation gift we purchased tickets to “Sweeny Todd”. Sweeny is our family’s favorite stage musical. This was the production where the actors actually play instruments while on stage. We had seen several productions of Sweeny and could not imagine how they could possibly do this, not only did this mean they had memorized the performance itself but they also memorized the entire score. We caught the 22 bus and headed to the theater. We had wonderful seats, middle of the first row of the balcony. The curtain went up and we were entranced the entire time. What an amazing production. What a wonderful end to a historical day.