May becomes a month to remember
My month of May.
This month seems to go forever — spring is in full force with flowers blooming, gardeners gardening, crops being planted ... well most years at least ... the school year winds down, and a three-day weekend/holiday near the end of May entices us to be outdoors.
In my world, May 3 was a joyous day. My first grandchild was born, Colin Vance, son of my one son and his wife, only an hour’s drive away.
Getting the call in the afternoon that he had arrived (and gender had been unknown up until birth), I hurried out of work at the end of the day and arrived at the hospital when he was about four hours old.
My own “baby,” or the father in this case, is 29 years old, so it’s a shock to see a newborn again, how very tiny, how very lightweight ... his eyes hardly open. He is scrawny and a few folds of skin around his neck bring to my mind a brief image of the other end of the age spectrum. His fingers are long and thin, his legs stay in the folded in utero fetal position; these are things I don’t remember from my own children’s births.
I do remember the awe, the love, the sweet feeling of holding a new life. I don’t want to stop holding and gazing at him. His face is very similar to his father’s face at that age; they have the same nose, for sure.
Colin and my daughter-in-law were very considerate to have a Friday birth. I stayed the weekend at their house, feeding the dog and cat and walking the dog. Hospital birth rooms now include a lounge/recliner chair for spouses to sleep and my son stayed at the hospital with his wife and son through coming-home Monday.
I also saw Colin that Saturday and Sunday, sharing him with his other grandparents, visitors and of course, his parents.
I fell in love with Colin immediately. I rocked him, sang to him and kissed his newborn cheeks, smelled his hair and delighted in his grimaces and yawns.
Almost as much fun and sweet was observing Colin’s parents’ interactions with one another and with their son.
My 6-foot-2 son has been living away at college, in the Army and on his own since graduating high school in 2002. He’s always been thoughtful and loving toward me, but he hasn’t needed mothering and is a capable, independent young man. That has never saddened me. I figure that is the point in raising children — love them, nurture them and let them go.
This young man served six years in the Army and two tours to Iraq. He knows his way around a tank, guns and ammunition, as well as a guitar, books, preparing meals and more. He handles himself well in various situations.
So it surprised me — and melted my heart — when he asked one of the nurses if someone would be available to check his installation of the car seat in their car before traveling home with his son. His anxiousness was heartfelt, his protectiveness palpable.
He and his wife attended a bathing-the-baby instruction for new parents held in the nursery on Colin’s second or third day of life. He filled his wife’s prescription at the pharmacy for a breast pump and asked questions about her healing as well as questions about Colin’s care. And he had been present at Colin’s birth.
It was very fulfilling to me to witness this side of my own, grown son.
Fast-forward a few weeks, and I had another celebration — or “life-event” in Facebook-speak.
I got to walk the stage in the men’s Golden Dome Saturday to be awarded my master’s degree at Maharishi University of Management, a pursuit that began three years ago when I first came to Fairfield.
Yes, it’s a year later than I could have earned the degree; but it’s never too late.
I attended classes in spring 2010 in a new graduate program to earn an interim Iowa teaching license. With license in hand, I taught a year of high school English classes in Seymour, southwest from here in Wayne County.
One school year was enough for me to acknowledge I am better at other things and enjoy writing for a newspaper so much more.
But I also wanted to finish my degree, which has involved a final project with many revisions. I am very grateful for the guidance of Chris Jones and Paula Armstrong, my education professors at M.U.M.
I had only attended one other M.U.M. graduation; last year when CNN’s Candy Crowley was the commencement speaker and I covered it for The Ledger.
This year, of course, was more special for me, but others who have attended many M.U.M. graduations also said it was the best one.
M.U.M. celebrated its largest graduating class ever Saturday with 334 students representing 54 countries, consisting of 251 graduates and 83 undergraduates.
Commencement speaker Sen. Tom Harkin was awarded a Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa degree Saturday at M.U.M. “for his extraordinary lifelong service and compassionate and progressive leadership for the state of Iowa and the United States.”
Harkin quipped he was selected speaker “because Oprah was busy.” He should make no apologies.
Perhaps it is my age and perspective; I can barely recall graduation ceremonies 38 years ago in San Francisco when I earned my bachelor’s degree. But Saturday’s ceremony was fun, meaningful and included great speakers.
Harkin spoke about his “Top 10” tips for graduates going out into the world. Since I was a graduation participant and not a reporter, I didn’t take notes and can’t relay his advice. But I remember connecting with them Saturday, even though I wasn’t the mid-20s target audience, and felt he did an excellent job.
Afterward in the receiving line I told Harkin (who I had met on a couple of different occasions working as a reporter in Keokuk for 12-plus years) he did a better job than Oprah might have.
The Class of 2013 valedictorian speaker brought me to tears. A tall, pretty, earnest young woman I’d never met from Vermont, this undergraduate spoke about finding her passion at M.U.M. and how her studies in sustainability brought haunting questions about others’ suffering in the world.
I was inspired to listen about and to capitalist and entrepreneur Nat Goldhaber. He also was awarded an honorary degree Saturday for his role in helping found Maharishi International University in 1971, now Maharishi University of Management.
I haven’t been around campus very much for about 20 months. Friday night’s graduation picnic and Saturday’s ceremony was an immersion back into the community and it was fulfilling, emotional and stimulating.
I met new people and hugged friends. I shook hands with college administrators and trustees, gonged a bell on stage and received a yellow rose and applause.
June has a hard act to follow!
Diane Vance is a staff writer at The Ledger.