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All Grown Up

May 25, 2012

Twenty-two years ago this past January, I rushed my wife to the Pierre hospital where she proceeded, in record time, to deliver our youngest daughter, Larissa. I was part of the delivery process, which basically means, I watched, as this little towhead made her entry into the real world. She hit the ground running.

With a love of snow cones, frogs, and snakes, she started out every bit a tomboy, although we did eventually go through the Barbie stage as well. She quickly achieved a level of proficiency on the soccer field, which meant more cold windy days spent cheering on the sidelines for her mother and me.

Through basketball games, track meets, piano recitals, trombone rehearsals, and even an occasional pheasant hunt to humor me, there was never a dull moment when Larissa was around.

I remember when she was little, her asking me about a lyric to a song we sang at church that went, “Life is hard, but God is good.” She wanted to know if I thought that life was hard. I told her that sometimes it is. She informed me that she thought life was pretty good.

I think if you asked her now, she would tell you that life is sometimes hard. It’s hard growing up in the shadow of an overachieving older sister. It’s hard dealing with the sometimes unrealistic expectations of parents. It’s hard when friends let you down. And, it’s hard to lose people you care about.

This weekend we will watch Larissa receive her college diploma. She will graduate with honors, the product of a little God-given ability and a lot of hard work. It hasn’t been easy, and it won’t be from now on. But for just a moment, as her mother and I reflect on the past 22 years with our little girl, life will be good, and we will be proud.

But, it will also be a little hard. It will be hard to believe that our little girl is all grown up. It will be harder to believe that her mother and I will now truly be empty nesters. That’s not easy for me to accept. Being a dad has been the best and most fulfilling part of my life. I guess the silver lining is you never stop being a dad, and I don’t intend to.

Congratulations to every South Dakota family who saw their son or daughter graduate this year and move on with their lives. If that’s still ahead of you, enjoy the ride, bumps and all.