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Graduation Goodbye


Of Rainbows and Fledgling Flights

By: Bill McFadyen

From the first day of becoming a parent, one hears the clichéd advice repeatedly. It comes from people older than you or at least from ones whose children have aged to a point beyond the full need of parental guidance. 

My dad was the master of the philosophical phrase. He had profundities for all occasions. Sometimes he invented occasions to go along with his favorite phrase.   

From the moment I began receiving advice to make the most of my time with our children, I thought of Pop saying, “Someone else’s wisdom is a lot cheaper than your own experience.” I tried hard to use that borrowed wisdom and to consciously take the time to enjoy being with my children. Somewhere, a few years back, I realized that I was no longer a baseball coach and that I no longer even knew when the annual Daddy/Daughter Dance was being held. 

So despite my efforts to rely on someone else’s wisdom, I recently completed the blur that began with holding my first child up to the hospital window so that we could look out at the world together to attending her high school graduation. 

I do not feel like the years have wasted away. Instead, I just have the confirmation of what I intuitively knew: time has blown by. 

As we walked to the window in her first moments out of the womb, I do not remember her rebelling against my embrace. That trait developed later in her life. I remember when she started kindergarten and we uninhibitedly marched to the Barney theme song every morning. In middle school, when it was my turn to drive carpool, she had less enthusiasm for my childlike frivolity, especially after the neighborhood kids got in. 

 I remember laughs and wails and hugs and dirty looks. Most individual days and hours are indistinguishable. At graduation, sitting in the sanctuary, waiting for her name to be called and her tassel to turn, I knew (intuitively, again) that those forgotten days did indeed come and go. 

As my graduation present, I wrote for her an allegory about a rainbow. It was an attempt to show her that on many more days than not, she lit the very sky above my head. Her older brother read it to her and our guests at the graduation party. It went like this: 


Since I was a little boy, I watched for rainbows. All my life, I waited impatiently through the storms, rushing to the window or into my back yard as soon as the storms passed. I watched the heavens for the parting of the clouds and on very special days, the colors assembled in perfect symmetry before my very eyes. The world could once again see God’s promise. 

One day, an Angel of the Lord came to me quietly in the night and whispered, “Because of your faithfulness and because God loves you so, you have been given a great gift. One of God’s rainbows is not yet ready for its place in the sky, so you are to be its keeper. You are to do your very best to show it how to shine in such a way as to represent God’s promise to His world.” 

Day after day and with the greatest of joys, I carried that rainbow with me in my pocket and also in my heart. On the days that it could not shine its brightest, I prayed that God would show it the way. On the days that it shined to its greatest potential, I took it out and showed it to all who were around me. Though I tried not to be prideful, I could not help but grin whenever I thought of my position as the keeper of the rainbow. 

On another day, the Angel of the Lord returned to me, and he said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. The rainbow is nearly complete in its brilliance, and God has need of it at some place in the sky where you will not be able to see it.” I took the rainbow from its place in my pocket and at the direction of the Angel of the Lord, I cast it up into the sky. And away it went, for some unknown part of the world to see.

 Just as I began to feel the hollowness of the empty pocket where my rainbow had lived, the Angel of the Lord came to me a third time. He said to me, in his gentlest voice, “You have always known, faithful child, that there is no pot of gold. But I tell you today, that in your heart, there has been placed a treasure that no king can match and no man can steal. It is the richness gained from your nurturing of one of God’s rainbows. That treasure will be with you always, even to the ends of the earth.” 

As the Angel left me for the last time, and as I watched him ascend toward the heaven, a great and beautiful rainbow filled the sky, lighting the way for the Angel’s return. As I marveled at the beauty of it all, just between the indigo and the violet, the rainbow winked at me.  

And I knew that it was mine. 

When our daughter had gone to the beach for graduation weekend, I gathered up our littlest guy (almost taller than his mom) to make an effort to start squeezing the marrow from his and my remaining time. We saw a Marvel movie, ate ice cream and bought some video game he could not live without. All the while, a far-off tropical storm caused rain and wind and clouds to dominate the weather of that day. We crossed the river bridge on the way home just as the clouds parted and the rays cut through the bluish openings. We both knew what was to follow.  

And then, there it was. The rainbow. Little Man said of it what I could only think and choke back: “There’s Maggie!”