Slimantics: A graduation letter to my niece

 

Slim Smith

 

 

There are any number of things we associate with spring -- flowers, baseball, weddings, allergies, etc. 

 

But most prominent among all spring events must be graduations. Over the next month or so, thousands of young people will be graduating from high school and college and chances are, you're going to hear about it personally. 

 

It's rare that a person doesn't have a relative or family friend among the ranks of the newly-minted graduates. 

 

I received my first graduation invitation this week from Allison, a niece who lives in Houston,Texas, who will officially graduate from Texas A&M this spring. 

 

Allison is one of many nephews and nieces who have graduated over the years, but for reasons I can't quite explain this one really resonated with me. Previously, I had sent gift cards that included typical notes: "Congratulations! So proud of you" and never gave it another thought. 

 

But for some reason, I felt kind of sad when I got Allison's invitation. 

 

I realized I scarcely know her. That stirred in me a sense of regret. My nephews and nieces are extraordinary, smart, accomplished, interesting people; I wish I had made a better effort to know them as they were growing up. It bothers me, now that I'm older, that I didn't make a better effort. What was I doing that was more important than that? 

 

None of that is of much on Allison's mind at this point and, of course, that is how it should be. Of all the things that command her attention, the crazy uncle a few states over isn't one of them. 

 

So I sent her the following note, along with a check, with the hopes she has a sense of humor: 

 

■■■  

 

Allison: 

 

I regret to say that I will not be able to attend your graduation ceremonies. I'm sure this must have greatly disrupted your plans, but since this card arrives well after the event itself, I am sure the disappointment has, by now, worn off and that you still think of me just as often, and as fondly, as ever. 

 

My excuse for this delay is simple: I had to wait until I was sure the enclosed check would clear before sending it to you. 

 

This fact probably best illustrates the distinction between a B.S. in Journalism and a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering. Just so you know, I could have easily earned a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering, too, if 1. I wanted to 2. even knew what is was, 3. found it didn't require much study and 4. wouldn't interfere with my beer-drinking schedule. Few of those factors were much of an obstacle in attaining a journalism degree. 

 

Somehow, though, I think we both made the right choices. If not, by this point, one of us is pretty much toast. 

 

I encourage you to spend this small token of congratulations on something totally irresponsible, if for no other reason than to annoy your practical parents, especially my brother and your dad, Mick. 

 

When I was your age, my plans involved becoming rich and famous and retiring early to spend my remaining days on a sailboat on a calm, blue ocean. I am a bit behind schedule. 

 

I hope that your plans have a little more substance than mine. I hope you have achievable, meaningful dreams, but a few ridiculous dreams, too, which will allow you to surprise yourself and make people wonder what the hell you are doing. 

 

I wish you much success -- and just enough failure to make you someone people can stand to be around. 

 

I sense you are a wonderful young woman and I am rarely wrong about women (aside from a dozen or so exceptions that we won't get into here). So go out there and cure something I cannot pronounce (if that's what biomedical engineers even do). 

 

With great affection and vicarious pride in all you have achieved, 

 

From the uncle nobody ever talks about at holidays, 

 

Slim

 

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]

 

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