The nosebleed should have been my first clue. Waking at 5:30 a.m. with a massive nosebleed is never a good start to a day, let alone the most exciting and important day in the life of my son. I was alone in a hotel room and forced myself to stay upright in the bed until it passed. With a history of fainting from them, I did not want my final moments to be spent on a cold bathroom floor and my last thought to be that I was missing my son's graduation and what an inconvenience it would be for him to have to immediately plan my memorial service.
I awoke awhile later and quickly showered and dressed for the big day. I was about to go downstairs for breakfast when I realized that my car keys were not beside my pocketbook, where they normally are. I went to the reception desk and asked if there had been any keys turned in and there had not. I walked to my car looking in vain for dropped keys from the prior afternoon. Twice. I dumped my new purse, cursing to myself that it was too large and cumbersome and what was I thinking bringing it instead of something smaller and easier to manage. No keys. Lost is a strong word, but I have "misplaced" many keys along the way and was down to my final car key. It was an hour until graduation and serious panic was about to set in when I dipped into one of my purse's many side pockets and pulled out my car key. I exhaled and settled in for a quick breakfast. I was almost finished when I noticed that my room card was missing. I perused that damn purse and came up empty. I humbly went to the same girl at reception and told her that I had lost my room card. She gave me a blank look and then said she had checked me out because I had laid it on the desk when asking about my car key. I had to be checked back in to check out. By this time, I just wanted to leave Hotel California and never look back.
It was almost time for the big event, one that I had looked forward to and dreamed of for so long...my son's college graduation from NC State University. He would be the first college graduate on either side of his family. Not only was he graduating from one of the leading engineering programs in the world, his degree was dual...in both Computer and Electrical Engineering. I met my mom and her 15 years younger "companion" at the auditorium; they had driven in from Ohio and made it just in time. We had only a few minutes to visit before the commencement started, but it was long enough for me to size up her man friend and decide that he was an OK sort of chap.
With no warning, "Pomp and Circumstance", that grandest of marches, began playing. Faculty members streamed in, dressed in full academic regalia. There was a lump in my throat, that lump that music produces, the lump that grows and grows until tears flow and control is lost. My mind was whirling. This was happening too fast, no one had reminded me about the music, Ethan's dad wasn't here and should be and my makeup was going to be a mess and I didn't want to miss Ethan marching in and I wanted it all to stop right now! I wanted a do over! I wanted it so much that I all but stomped my foot and demanded it. Seeing my mom out of the corner of my eye brought me back to reality. I dove into my pit of a purse and miraculously found tissues and pulled myself together in time to see Ethan stride down the aisle as casually as if he were walking from his bedroom to the kitchen.
The ceremony itself was predictable. It was the first time I heard a graduation speaker use the expletive "assholes", which I didn't feel was necessary and judging from the audience's reaction, I was not alone. When Ethan's name was called I shouted "ETHAN!" and "WOOOOOOOOOO". He says he didn't hear me, but I don't know how he couldn't have. I think he is in denial. I did it for his dad. Anyone who knows me knows that is not typical Kathy behavior. Yeah, right!
After the ceremony and a few photo ops, we were all ready for lunch, Ethan's choice. We all piled in his Mustang and almost immediately I could not find my car key. I was momentarily frantic, all the while listening to Ethan rant "I don't understand you women! You all carry purses and you can never find anything! Logic tells you to put your keys IN your purse!" About that time I found the key in my lap and told Ethan he didn't want to hear what I had already been through with keys that morning.
He took us to the Ale House in Cary, a place I am certain he has frequented for more than the food. We had a lovely young waitress who promptly took our drink orders. The drinks were in huge glasses and her tray was small which ultimately spelled disaster. One of the drinks fell off the tray and spilled onto the table, the floor, my mother's companion, my pocketbook, and Ethan's lap. There was soda EVERYWHERE. Mom's companion jumped up and disappeared and I attempted to assist the waitress all the while telling Ethan "Get out of the booth and don't get any on your interview shirt!" Chaos ensued and there seemed to be no end to the soda inching onto every corner of the table and beyond. Mom and I went to the restroom, both of us relatively unscathed, thank you Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I asked to see the manager and explained that I did not want the young lady disciplined or fired because it had truly been an accident. He comped us our meal and even came around and gave Ethan his card and said to bring him his dry cleaning bill. Ethan said he reminded him of the Corleone family as he came to our table, bent down and said "I understand there has been an, uh, accident here". I must say that, despite the "accident", the food there was top notch. I consider myself a bit of a "wrap" connoisseur and I had the best turkey wrap I have ever eaten. It was so delicious that I am still dreaming of it, days later.
There was a Panera Bread beside the Ale House and I had a small gift card I wanted to use. I was in there for a brief time and came out to everyone except mom. Paul (her "friend") said that she was in the restroom at Panera. We all waited for several minutes. I finally asked Paul if he thought I should go see if she was all right. I was worried, thinking that I was going to find her laid out from a stroke or worse. The restroom was silent and I said "Mom?" She responded and I asked her what was taking so long. It was then that I smelled the smoke. I asked her if she was smoking. "Yes, I am! I haven't had a cigarette since yesterday, Kathy!" Me: "MOM! You are breaking the law! You cannot smoke in here! You could get arrested!" Mom: "I will just say that I didn't know" Me: "Would you STOP? We need to get out of here!" Mom: "I'm coming, I'm coming." When we got outside, I told Paul, "You know what she was doing and I know what she was doing!" He chuckled and I turned to mom and said "YOU! BEHAVE!" Mom said "Never!" and I realized that whoever said the apple doesn't fall far from the tree was spot on.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent taking even more photos and walking the campus. My heart was overflowing with happiness at the thought of having raised an engineer. I thought of Ethan's father and how proud he would have been. Ethan had a solid, strong interview last week that he thinks could lead to a great first job. I thank God for the gift of my son, the joy of family, and the best Mother's Day gift ever.