“He’s not there.” Sarah, my daughter-in-law, said.
Strains of the processional music continued to pound through the Harold & Ted Sports Center as the Rollins College graduates tromped by in their dignified acetate gowns. The relief on their faces bordered on spiritual delirium.
“There are only two hundred and fifty graduates. It’s not like we could have missed him. Good grief. Did anybody see Adam?” I prompted.
The blank looks on the faces of our family bordered on stupefying.
“He’s not there; I looked.” Sarah swayed like a blue orchid in the breeze one hand on her camera, one hand at her throat. She peeled her hand off her throat and stared at the palm of her hand. “The palms of my hands are getting sweaty. Where could he be?”
We all stared at the, now sitting, graduates in their identical, dignified acetate gowns.
“Look for a skinny neck,” I advised, “and slumpy shoulders.”
Several people squinted. No. Nope. Nada. Nothing. No Adam skinny neck sightings. I’d like to say we waited for several minutes to concoct impossible conspiracy theories, built on implausible bits of logic, mixed with low levels of radioactive cynicism, but I can’t. The goofy theories were immediate.
“I hope he didn’t get kidnapped.” (His wife) “Or robbed, or raped.”
“He’s at the wrong graduation ceremony.” (His sister)
“Or we’re at the wrong graduation ceremony.” (His other sister)
“Oh man, he’s speaking, and it’s a trick so that we have to listen to him give a speech.” (The sister who thought Adam had wandered into the wrong graduation ceremony)
“I know; he’s getting an award, and it’s a surprise.” (His mother)
“The whole thing has been a ruse; he’s only been pretending to go to college at night for years and years, and it’s all coming undone. He never graduated.” (His father with a moan)
“Don’t be ridiculous. He’s getting a prize.” (His mother again)
“I’ve never heard so much bad Intel, and I work in Afghanistan.” (His brother)
“Do you think he’s fainted, fallen, or broken something?” (His wife again)
“Daddy?” (One of his daughters)
I looked harder at the fidgeting group of graduates in their seats and there under the 1971 banner was a neck, ears, and shoulders I recognized, because I’d washed behind those ears, kissed that baby neck, and patted those shoulders more than once, back when he was just a sunny little boy who loved baseball and Ninja Turtles—back when he brought me fists full of crushed wildflowers with the roots still attached, back when he belonged to me and only me, back when he was mine.
“There he is.”
A collective sigh of relief went up from the group as Adam Carter Zern graduated Summa Cum Laude from Rollins College.
MORAL OF THE STORY: I like to think we are a reasonably intelligent family. Several of us have college degrees of our very own and the United States government trusts one of us with expensive weapons systems, but sometimes we can be full on dopey.
Linda L. Zern (Mother of the Graduate)