Last week I had a dermatology laser treatment for a facial skin condition. The week after classes end is a good time to get some of these pesky life-maintenance tasks taken care of, things that take up too much time and energy to do during the busy semester. But one thing I didn't consider was the ways in which the commencement season is the worst possible time for a laser treatment. For during the recovery period of five days or so, I'm supposed to avoid any "flushing triggers" such as sun, alcohol, and emotional reactions that cause skin reddening.
Sun: what was I to do about sitting in the hot sun for three hours during the commencement ceremony this morning?
Alcohol: what was I to do about DePauw under the Stars last night, when the campus is transformed into a fairyland of tiny twinkling lights and Japanese lanterns and the champagne is free flowing?
Worst of all, tears: what was I going to do about every minute, just about, of this intense week of saying farewell to so many students I've come to care about so deeply?
I did all right with sun, thanks to extra-protection sunblock and a partially overcast sky. I avoided the temptation of the champagne last night for the non-flush-triggering cupcakes on offer instead.
But I haven't been able to avoid tears: when I thanked with a framed picture of one of my beloved Indiana covered bridges at the philosophy department graduation reception, when I heard President Casey's moving speech to the class of 2013 at the Baccalaureate service, and when I processed into the commencement ceremony this morning with my regalia-clad colleagues. DePauw has the lovely tradition that as first year students arrive in August, they are welcomed with a Convocation ceremony where faculty line up in two rows to applaud them as they enter. At commencement, with beautiful symmetry, the staging is reversed. The faculty enter between two rows of applauding seniors, thanking us for four years under our tutelage.
So as I came through the line, there they were, the students I love so much - Sara, Katie, Nora, Alex, Mohammed, J.R., and so many others - there in their caps and gowns, clapping for me as I was soon to clap for them. No one could have been dry-eyed during such a gauntlet of appreciation, and certainly I was not.
Oh, well. I did avoid sun and alcohol. But the one thing I couldn't avoid was grateful tears.