It began at 9:00 and ended three months from now. At least, that's how long graduation felt.
I made the mistake—a regrettable misjudgment—to arrive promptly at 9:00. "That's what time they'll start letting people in," Skylar informed me. "I have to go at like 7:30."
I didn't actually know when the festivities were set to begin, but, figuring that it'd be best not to fight traffic and crowds to find a good seat, I thought arriving at 9:00 would be sensible. What I didn't understand was that this was a small graduation for 100 or so med students and another hundred medical-school adjacent students (as opposed to the university at large) and that this ceremony would be held in a venue that could seat the entire population of The United States of America.
I should have suspected this when Skylar told me I didn't need a ticket. "Don't they limit how many people you can invite?" I asked him.
They didn't limit invitations.
Because they could not possibly imagine the med students had even met enough people to fill this stadium. And they were right. A FULL HOUR LATER when this thing finally started, only ~5% of the seats were filled.
The graduates began walking in—a long, slow-moving line. They were masked and wearing baker hats and black and red robes adorned with shit that meant something or other about their achievements. Truth be told, they all looked identical, and I photographed many a thin white man thinking he was my husband until I saw someone enter blowing kisses to the crowd, waving like the queen, and doing a gay little fashion show walk.
"Oh, there he is," I said to Skylar's niece, Grace, our visitor and my companion for the festivities.
Skylar insisted his parents shouldn't come in for this and discouraged my own from attending as well. "Residency match day is a much bigger deal to me and you all came out for that. Please don't come to graduation. There's no reason we should all be miserable," he said.
"Thank you," I told him.
"I wasn't referring to you. You have to come. I'm not going through this torture by myself."
The speakers didn't even start yelling at us until 10:30 or 11:00. Stranger after stranger took the podium for the next several hours to say words like "dreams!" and "change the world!"
They started calling the names of the graduates.
I knew we were in trouble when there was a 30-45 second pause between reading the first name and the second.
Do you know how long it takes to go through hundreds of names when you pause between each for that long? Between each name, family members would yell their support. It was definitely a competition. Some would say "that's my brother!" or "that's my daughter!" Everyone was proud. Skylar texted me during this and begged me to yell out when his name was read "that's my daddy!"
They did this in alphabetical order, which meant that I had to wait days for them to get to my husband, Skylar ZzzzzzxxyWesterdahl.
I swear to Cher I had been sitting in that seat for nearly FOUR hours by the time they read his name.
He bounced to the front, still blowing kisses and waving like he was the queen.
I, a clever man, yelled from my seat, "that's my pool boy!" This received no laughs.
The ceremony ended and Skylar found me outside 30 minutes later.
"I will never do that again," he vowed, like he had just made the biggest mistake of his life.
"No, honey," I assured him. "We are forever done with education."
Nonetheless, I'm damn proud of my little doctor.
This week we are doing a special Strangerville episode, featuring a heart-wrenching story from a couple who had to make a decision regarding a late-term abortion. They (and I) hope that their perspective and experience can help people understand what these situations can look like for families. Please listen and help share.