May, 10 1990, we were blessed... cursed?.... no blessed! with a baby girl. She came about 6 o'clock in the morning and was one of Lisa's quickest deliveries. We named her Jessica Anne because her dad loved that name for a girl. We gave her that name despite my mother's objections. Apparently my mother had worked with a disabled girl named Jessica who had less than desirable habits. I knew the name Jessica from Shakespeare and loved assertive, smart and competent character in the Merchant of Venice. Anne is Lisa's middle name. It is also a family name and a salute to her grandmother Valerie Anne Green. She is the only child that has been named after a family member.
Jessica's High School Graduation
Jessica's personality was evident from her earliest years. She was strong willed; earning the nick name Kate.... another Shakespeare reference. She was compassionate and very moral. At three, we traveled to Boston for my sister's wedding. We flew in June after her birthday. We hadn't purchased a ticket for her because she could ride on our laps at the time. However the airline had a policy that two year olds could ride on laps not three year olds. We tried to convince Jessica that her birthday was in August in the event she was asked. She was not willing to play at all, "No Daddy! No Saugust... I'm May!" When she was in second grade when she came home from school. I asked her how her day was. She immediately started crying. I asked her what was wrong and she said, "I think I cheated. I was taking a test today and I looked up and saw the answer on my friends paper."
Jessica as Kelsey in HSM
I have enjoyed being Jessica's dad because she let's me be a dad. I enjoyed coaching her competition soccer teams. I have enjoyed participating in theatre with her and directing her in a Midsummer Nights's Dream (not a coincidence it was a Shakespeare show). Jessica is not only a beautiful girl in her appearance but a beauty in the deepest recesses of her being. She has grown into the woman that I always hoped she would be. She is now headed to college with a focus on attending Northwestern University in Chicago in a couple of years.
Yesterday, May 5th, 2011, I had the pleasure of graduating from Salt Lake Community College with an Associate of Science degree. It took me 14 years, but I did it. However, as sweet as it was, there were two highlights to that experience that touched me.
The first: my mother was able to attend. She is in the advanced stages of emphysema which has wrecked her body. My wife, my sister, and I worked all week to make sure she would be in a condition good enough to attend. My mother was determined, no matter how much pain she was in or how short of breath she was, to attend. For my mother the three hours it took from the time she left her house until she saw me walk was excruciating but it wouldn't prevent her from seeing her son graduate. Even as an adult, it is so nice to bask in the pride of an approving parent.
I do know that I could not have accomplished what did had I not had someone like my mother who believed in me or like my beautiful wife Lisa who not only believed in me but gave me all the support a spouse could possibly muster. I had a cheering section in the audience in my sister Shelly, my father-in-law William Green, and my 5 children. If felt so good to model what I had been preaching for the last 24 years.
The second was probably the most surprising when you consider my former career. I had a 10:00 am biology class. The first day of class this short wiry 30 something man sat next to me. He had a longer beard, smelled of cigarette smoke, and opened his thermos to pour his coffee. My law enforcement instincts told me that he was 'from the other side of the tracks'. It came up in conversation that I was a retired parole officer. He immediately said, "Oh. Do you know Scott Richards?" I told him I did and that I had just left a job where Scott and I were on the same unit. He then said, "He was my probation officer 12 years ago. If you talk to him tell him Jordan says hi." I knew it!
If that is where the conversation ended the story would be relatively uninteresting but typical for law enforcement/felon interaction. Jordan and I continued to talk through semester. He decided he would walk for graduation. At first, he didn't think it would be a big deal. It is after all just an associates degree. I had a similar opinion. He though it would be beneficial for his kids to see what he had accomplished. I could see his point.
Jordan's study habits were excellent. He got one of the two 100% tests during the semester. I had the other one. He was a peer note taker and took notes for the guy I mentioned in my article What We Do Not Teach. He also volunteered at the Decker Lake Facility for juveniles as a mentor. During the semester I started to really like Jordan. I liked his focus and his humility. He gave back to the community and had a drive for excellence. When he picked up his cap and gown they gave him his honor cords for his 3.8+ GPA.
I looked for Jordan while we were lining up for graduation. He also looked for me. He was the only person I knew out of the 1,000 or so graduates. We stood in line and discussed what was next. I was off to the University of Utah for the summer semester. Jordan would start at the U in the fall. My major: fine arts. Jordan's major: forensic anthropology. We celebrated our mutual "A's" in biology. I was impressed by Jordan. I was proud of what he accomplished and was humbled to graduate with him as his peer. Jordan represented, I think, the concept of grace.