Taking that last walk
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
I have been waiting for this coming Sunday for nearly 18 years.
Well, maybe not May 18, but the third Sunday in May 2014.
I don’t know what to expect when I watch my youngest daughter, Bailee, walking across the stage in the Pocahontas Area Community Gymnasium to receive her diploma.
What I am sure of is that it will bring a plethora of emotions.
Graduations, even when I don’t know a soul in the class, can bring out my emotions. There’s something about “Pomp and Circumstance” that pulls at the heart strings.
Seriously, I have been waiting to write this column ever since I wrote that first one about her shortly after she was born.
Unfortunately, that column has disappeared with a hard drive in Washington and no doubt now is in the great hard drive in the sky.
Even though close to two decades have elapsed, I can remember some of the things I said. It was most of the stuff a happy father would say — things like wishing her good health, a good life, prosperity while urging her to strive to be everything she could be.
Bailee was born in 1996, about three months after the Oklahoma City bombing. A photo of a little girl (Bailey Almon) being carried by a fireman from the ruins won a Pulitzer. That Bailey did not make it. Mine did.
Shortly after the bombing I had a name for my unborn child. Bailee for a girl and Bailey for a boy — named of course after the Bailey that I did not know. I thought it was a way to honor a Bailey who did not have a chance to have a good life, proper and to be everything she could be.
Although my Bailee has lived, prospered and worked hard in everything she has undertaken, it hasn’t always been easy. She was diagnosed with cancer at age two and has had numerous surgeries the last 16 years.
She has never complained, though, preferring to have her glass half full. Bailee also has never allowed her health (which has been good for the most part) stop her from accomplishments. She has played basketball, volleyball and softball, ran track, was a cheerleader, participated in school plays and in mock trial. That was during the school year. In the summer she detasseled, worked as a CNA at a nursing home, was a championship swimmer and was a barrel racer.
While it was a real pleasure watching her grow into a fine young lady, it also has been heartbreaking the past four years watching her from 300 miles away. I didn’t get to see her play sports, act in plays, dress up for prom or all the benefits most fathers receive. I feel as though I missed her high school years and I know I can never gain those back.
Perhaps some of those emotions of missing four years of her life will surface Sunday. I can’t get those years back, but next year college brings her much closer and although I cannot do anything about the past, I have the future in my hands.
I always thought of Bailee as the caboose. I knew she would be my last child and I couldn’t have asked for a better final gift. But still, it will be undoubtedly difficult seeing the last of four children I raised reaching a milestone.
Not only will she be picking up a diploma but so will another 20 members of the Class of 2014 graduating who I coached for years in girls’ basketball and softball.
It will be a whirlwind weekend. Pocahontas isn’t in the same area code. There’s a stop along the way to pick up Renee at the airport. She wants to be there, too, for her step-daughter to-be, and I want her to be there. Although I am sure I will pay for the trip on Monday, I am not going to miss the major event of her high school years.
Congratulations, Bailee, I am proud of you.