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This was bound to happen, I think

Kaylee 13 minutes, er, years apart. Left, first day of kindergarten, Sept. 2003. Right, last day of high school, June 2016. (Photos by Sue Matuszak)

So once again, I am waiting for the kid. She has yet to obtain her driver's license (working on it, slowly but surely, with an emphasis on the slowly) so this morning I'll do what I've been doing every morning for the past 13 years: drive her up the hill from West Duluth and deliver her to Hermantown High School.

The daily round-trip will soon be ending, however, because this particular day is the last one of her senior year. Graduation looms and then she's out of the house, off to college and starting up her next life adventure.

Away from her mom and me.

I think it's time to apply the brakes a bit.

"Lasts" are always sad. Last piece of Sammy's pepperoni pizza. Last Proctor joke in a weekly humor column. And now, the last day of high school is here and I am becoming chummy with the term "bittersweet." The "sweet" comes from celebrating the successes with her — plays, choir concerts, speech — while the "bitter" comes from those same celebrations slowly morphing into the soundtrack of "Cats" in my head. That is, nothing but memories.

The arranging of our lives around the kid is about to end. A few times we grumbled that we were looking forward to this day but that was uttered out of frustration, knowing that the actual end seemed to be out past Proctor, so far away as to be out of sight. There was no need to let the emotions conflict then. We focused on the petty frustration that was right in front of us.

But now, as it always does, that day has arrived. And we have not prepared ourselves. Not even close.

It would be easier if the kid were a slacker. Or a misbehaving irritant, only answering our questions with noncommittal grunts. Unfortunately, she is just the opposite. Outgoing, smart, creative and fun to be around. Dang it.

Not to say there haven't been days ... of course there have. But they are easily forgotten. Floating out of our parental recollections like dandelion puffs on the breeze, while the good ones remain planted firmly in place.

Look, I know this isn't a death in the family or some other life-shattering moment. But, folks, it's not nothing, either. This person at the center of our lives for the past 18 years is about to be gone. We won't know where she is every hour of every day. We only know she won't be here and ... oh, wait a second.

Here she comes out of the house, wearing her graduation cap and gown, a senior tradition at the school. Her mom takes a few photos. Hmmm, maybe I'll post a "First Day of School/Last Day of School" photo montage on Facebook when I get back. That's my full-time job, you know. Bragging about the kid's accomplishments, publicly cheering her victories while tossing in an embarrassing photo or two. It's what I do.

Check that. It's what I did. Now, I'll have to shift gears to brag about her adult accomplishments. And learn to step back and let her take care of herself.

Yes, that faraway, never-gonna-be-here day is, in fact, finally here. And you know what? I couldn't be more proud. Still sad, mind you, but extremely proud as well.

Go get 'em, kid. We know you can do it. And if you need someone to drive you somewhere, anywhere, your mom and I will always be here.

Keys in hand, ready to go.

Brian Matuszak is the founder of Rubber Chicken Theater and invites you to follow him and his theater company on Twitter at twitter.com/rchickentheater, like them on Facebook at Rubber Chicken Theater and visit their website at RubberChickenTheater.com. Congratulations to all the area seniors as they embark on the next chapter in their lives. Even the ones from Proctor!

Brian Matuszak

Brian Matuszak is the founder of Rubber Chicken Theater and invites you to follow him and his theater company on Twitter at twitter.com/rchickentheater, like them on Facebook at Rubber Chicken Theater and visit their website at RubberChickenTheater.com.

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