Congratulations to all the graduates from Francis Lewis High School (Queens, NY).

I was very proud watching my son graduate from high school. His mother and I were remembering when he was born. She called me while I was at work to inform me that it was time. When we first arrived at the hospital the hospital staff informed us that she was not ready to give birth. They suggested that we do some walking in an effort to get her body ready.  We walked up and down Queens Boulevard in front of St. John’s Queens Hospital. We would walk, go back into the hospital, they would check her and they would send us back out to walk some more. This went on for a few hours until they decided that they would induce the labor process.

A short time after they admitted her into the hospital and they gave her the medicine that would speed up the delivery, I watched as she went through the period of time when time between the contractions decreased. At one point I thought I would have to be admitted into the hospital. I made the almost fatal mistake of holding her hand while she was going through one of those contractions. I knew that she was a strong woman. I had no idea that her strength could break my hand. Her grip became so tight, that I thought I would pass out. Just before the lights went, she released my hand and I fell back into a chair that was next to her bed. The way I was panting, one would think that I was in labor. He was born at 9 PM that day. One of the nurses told us that the number of births that was delivered at that hospital was a record for that day.

The recent Supreme Court decision on the health care issue helps bring to light the need for a national health care movement. The hospital he was born in along with Mary Immaculate Hospital both in Queens were shut down in 2009. They were run by the Caritas Health Care Company. At the time of their closings both hospitals saw more than 100,000 emergency room patients per year. Their closings also created a concern that the other hospitals in the area would not be able to handle the void. We need to put aside our political beliefs because there are a lot of people, across the nation, who is in desperate need of medical care.

The graduation ceremony was held at the Hofstra University’s Sports Complex. This is a NCAA division one school and the gym was filled as if there were a championship basketball game going on. The graduate seating took up the entire floor of the gym and all around, in the stands, were proud family members milling around carrying congratulation balloons and flowers. Since everyone now has a cell phone, there were many taking pictures of each other as well as the arena we were in. There were over 1100 graduates.

The ceremony lasted for about two hours. The longest portion was when the school staff was reading the names of the graduates. They didn’t want us to yell and scream when our child’s name was called. There was no way they could stop us. Each name that was read was followed by a series of cheers from family members. Someone even had a vuvuzela soccer horn. That goes to show just how ethnically diverse the graduating class was.

The only disappointment was when someone in the graduating class had two beach balls and they just could not get the class involved in hitting the balls amongst themselves. They needed us from the 60’s and the 70’s to show them what to do.

When the principle of the school presented the class of 2012, I was close to tears. I’m sure there were a lot of other family members feeling those same emotions. We are all proud that these kids were able to successfully finish their public school careers. Let the parties begin.

The next day I asked my son how it felt to be a new high school graduate. He said it felt good but I could see in his eyes that he knew his life’s work (whatever that will be) is just beginning. During these four years I did my best to explain to him why it’s so important to finish. I also explained how this ending was just a beginning. That reality is what I saw in his eyes.

My work as a positive parent will now take on a different role. The training part is over.  My job now is to be more of a coach. He already has the skills. He knows what if takes to finish. It is my job to keep him focused and motivated. As he has watched his older brother, he has a younger brother who is watching him and it will become important for him to teach this young man how to finish.

Congratulations to the class of 2012!



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