We had arrived at the stadium almost two hours before the gates opened. The skies threatened rain. The chilly wind nipped at our ears. Our spirits soared. This morning, in rain or under the sun, my oldest son is walking through a time-honored rite of passage. Today Evan is graduating from high school. We are all happy to recognize his hard work and success. As the gates opened and we scrambled towards the coveted seats down directly in front of the massive stage, I begin to realize that we have so much more than a diploma to celebrate. While we stake out the sixteen seats for brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, and grandfathers; I drift through the other truths of this crossing that Evan is to make today.
As thoughts of his gentle spirit and determined integrity dance through me, I hear a tiny, clear voice floating above the crowd’s many strains. ” Where Evan?” “Daddy, where Evan?” Noah, our adopted, youngest son had been quietly riding my shoulder through the line down to the seats, patiently taking in all of the commotion until the whole family was gathered together. Now as Noah surveyed our group amidst the thousands, he had become alarmed. His beloved brother was not here. From the tone of his voice, something must be done.
The instant I heard Noah’s alarm for his brother, I was transported into his world. In Noah’s world, there was no graduation ceremony. Noah did not know that this was his brother’s big day and that Evan would soon march into the stadium with five hundred other proud conquerors. He knows nothing of the pride his mom and I have for Evan. All Noah knows is that six months ago he met a tall, gentle man of seventeen that Dad called Evan. Soon they where rolling on the floor, tickling and laughing and in love. Within an hour, Noah understood the miracle of a brother. This was quite unexpected because just months earlier he peeked out of his lonely shell and found a mom and a dad. For Noah, this event happened when he was almost a year old. Slowly he began to trust. Gradually he began to bond. His world changed from a ward to a family. Although only two years old, Noah understood the value of family. Now in this huge crowd, his brother was missing.
There was only one thing to do. “We will be back before the ceremony,” I quickly say to my wife. She gives me the quick sideways smile that says, “You aren’t making sense, but I won’t argue.” She is right. We probably won’t be able to find Evan, but I hoist Noah on my shoulders and off we go. The first security guard at the main exit gives me the, “You aren’t suppose to be here,” look and I shoot back with, “I am and you don’t have the authority to question me.. He bought it, and we dive right through several puzzled teachers and begin to part wave after wave of oncoming graduates. Noah is thrilled. He is on the hunt. We are tracking his brother. The next three security guards are more determined that we are trespassing, and several teachers clearly state that Noah and I are going the wrong way. I feel like we are salmon in an upstream mission. Each time the voice in my head says, “Go back and sit down out front,” Noah counters with “Daddy where Evan?” On we go, deeper into the sea of blue cap and gowns and nervous faces. Where is Evan?
We must have come though four hundred students. We turn another corner in this endless hall. Just after one more questioning stare, there is Evan. I am braced for Noah’s squeal when their eyes meet. They see each other, but there is no squeal. Evan calmly pulls Noah off of my shoulders and introduces him to the girl he was talking to. Noah responds with equal dignity and extends his pudgy little hand to her. Once again Evan, in his quiet steady way, has shown his maturity and spirit. In the middle of all this turmoil, he instantly shifted gears and met his little brother’s need. Noah is calm now. As we make our way back through the narrow hall of caps and gowns and cross the stadium to our seats, tears fill my eyes. I thank God for a son that is crossing into his manhood with strength, clarity, and love. I thank God that He gave us a second son that will match his big brother’s footprints as he, too, grows into a man of love and dignity.
The march is starting now. The procession is starting. I cannot yet see. I am too blessed, and only my sweet wife sees the tears. She smiles as Noah looks across the sea of people and says again, “Where Evan?”