Our oldest grandchild Jacob graduated from high school this week. Not that there was ever any doubt. Both his parents graduated summa cum laude from college, so even as this particular grandfather graduated laude how cum, good grades were Jacob’s birthright.

With our grandchildren all living so far away, it’s hard to get to know them all that well. Since social media has come along it has become marginally easier, but there’s nothing like going to grandma’s house for cookies, or to be babysat, or all those other grandparenty things that we would have done if we lived closer.

But, I suppose that’s to your benefit because this isn’t going to be one of those columns about how great my grandchildren are and, by inference, how much better than yours they might be. All I know is that they’re good kids, but I assume your grandkids are too. Nice gene work, people.

When I had first started working for my friend Dick Manville, whom I’ve written about before, we would spend hours over light tables laying out newspapers. This was in the days where you used gridded layout sheets, type on film, wax and scissors. You were on your feet for quite a few hours at a time, and, depending on where you were in the process, you had time to talk. Very early on, Dick said to me, “Don’t talk to me about your kids, and I won’t talk to you about mine.”

Since I still had some respect for authority at that time, and he was my boss, that’s what we did. As time passed, we eased up on the rule, but mostly because our kids went from achievements like coloring inside the lines to graduating from high school.

So fear not. I’ll keep my pride to myself … at least for now.

We were unable to attend Jacob’s graduation. His family lives in southwestern Pennsylvania, so far south, in fact, that you have to go through parts of New Jersey, Delaware and even a slice of Maryland, to get there. My daughter and Sheri and I decided that Jennifer should give the available tickets to family that was more local, since there was no guarantee that we would be able to go.

Still, the family decided to have a post-graduation party for Jacob the Saturday after his actual graduation. We thought we could make the trip if we didn’t have to rush and there was no pressure to arrive at a certain time. But we were wrong.

My health would just not accommodate us. As much as we wanted to see Jacob and his family, and hand out plenty of post-graduation hugs, my multiple myeloma and attendant issues cried foul.

So, that sucked, and we had to call and tell first his mom and then Jacob that we wouldn’t be able to be there. His mom cried, sorry about us not being able to be at the party, with a side worry about my overall health. Jacob accepted it, knowing it had been a long shot anyway. Still, it made me mad that cancer could do something like that to us. Bad enough that it can make living difficult on a daily basis, sometimes, but to keep us from family moments like that. If cancer was a person, you’d want to take it outside and, in my case, have someone strong beat it up for you.

On the other side of the cancer coin, though, was the fact that I’m here to see Jacob graduate. When we first received the diagnosis, a whole list of things popped into my head, along with the question of whether I would be alive to see them. There were five children to graduate from high school and/or college, there are weddings to be had, babies to be born, another Christmas — how much of all that was I going to be a part of? The answer has morphed from not many, to no idea, to probably quite a few.

All these things fall into the same category: Who says we will be alive to see these things, cancer or no? True enough. Still, it was a good feeling to check the first one off the list. The celebration wasn’t what we would have had it be, but it was a celebration nonetheless: the start of his new life and the next step in mine.

Jim Arnold is a former copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. To read more about his journey through cancer, visit his blog, findingthepony.blogspot.com.

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