If all goes according to plan, sometime between 2 and 3:30 today, my son will receive his diploma from University of Tennessee. I hedge only because it's my nature and because even though it's been almost 25 years, I'm still waiting on the phone call from the folks at UTC saying they've found a problem with my records and that I'm short three hours.
It's funny how time and memories work. I can easily remember the day I dropped the boy off at the beginning of his freshman year. While I imagined a long and emotional day spent helping him get all set up, the reality was as soon as the bags were dropped on the floor, it was pretty clear I was no longer needed. He wasn't rude or anything, but I was in the way.
I was there maybe 20 minutes before I got back in the car and headed home.
I remember very little of the last two years regarding his time at school. It's very likely the last four years have gone by so quickly because it has been a remarkably historic period on so many fronts.
In the last four years, the class of 2011 has witnessed America elect its first black president, the tanking of our economy and weather of biblical proportions. I've lived here for more than 40 years and, like everyone else, bought into the myth that tornadoes could not and would not hit this area because of the mountains. It offered a sense of security on that front that no longer exists.
I'd never heard of a tsunami and don't believe I ever saw significant amounts of snow on the ground twice in a decade, much less in the same year.
For almost half of their lives, the War on Terror has been an everyday reality for today's graduates. It will be years before we fully understand how deeply that has affected their lives, and that is without knowing what is yet to come.
One of the biggest game changers has been the introduction and growth of social media and electronics in general. In a stunningly short amount of time, those things have become so deeply ingrained in so many facets of their lives it's hard to imagine life without them. They rely on their phones for so many things.
Throughout history, every generation has claimed that life for it was different than for the previous one. Kids have always been convinced that there was no way their parents could understand what their life is like. While there might have been some truth to that in the past, the chasm was not nearly as wide as kids thought.
Today, I'm not sure I can truly understand what my kids are going through, and I'm fairly involved in their lives.
For the most part, my world growing up involved the things I could pretty much see and touch. Everything else was a world away and therefore really didn't exist.
Some kids are no doubt just as insulated, but they have seen things, been exposed to things and experienced things in their relatively short lives that I never could have imagined at their age. Some of it is good and some not so much. In a lot of ways, they have been spoiled, as our parents would say. In other ways, they have been deprived of a lot of things we had, such as a sense of innocence and security that comes from being young, naive and oblivious to the outside world.