Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Aunt Graduates tomorrow

It's that time of the year for universities, high schools, middle schools still in the dark ages (Middle school graduations, or commencements, are rapidly going the way of those who believe Ann Coulter has anything worthwhile to say, and under the the "Jethro Bodine Clause," which offers the practical reasoning that since even Jethro of "Beverly Hillbillies" fame made it through sixth grade, there's no legitimate purpose for throwing bashes complete with caps, gowns, and limousines to commemorate the successful passage of students from eight grade, similar to the logic that certificates and awards aren't usually presented for learning the proper way to flush a toilet.) Even preschools to hold ceremonies commemorating successful passage from one phase of learning to the next.***

Medical issues forced Auntie Jillian to pass on tonight's university-wide commencement ceremony, but the truth of that matter is that she really didn't want to be there anyway, and if the real medical emergencies of pseudomonas aeruginosa-induced pneumonia and perforated ulcers requiring two separate surgeries to remove and resect portions of her intestines hadn't materialized, Auntie Jillian would have invented a hangnail or cramps as an excuse to pass on the opportunity of hearing just one more member of the LDS church hierarchy bloviate on the virtues of integrity, regular class attendance, and the blessings associated with giving generously to the various alumni associations when telemarketers call at inconvenient hours to hit up recent graduates still deeply in debt with student loans, using their most effective guilt-inducing techniqies to wrangle donations from the near-destitute.

Tomorrow evening is the Law School Convocation, which is considered the "real" graduation among law school students. That ceremony Auntie plans to attend. The logistics of her attendance and participation haven't entirely been effectuated, although her father-in-law has many of the details hammered out. He's a former professor with the university who still maintains ties, so the Powers That Be at least pretend to listen to most of what he has to say even though he probably has no more knowledge than the family dog about the best way to get a young woman who is for practical purposes temporarily either an invalid or a cripple (take your pick of which term you find less offensive) and whose record number of post-surgery steps is, as of this evening, twenthy-eight. Her father-in-law counted the number of steps needed to reach her seat on the stage from the point at which the graduates begin their procession. His total, with his stride that is probably at least 1.77* times greater than hers, was one-hundred=ninety-seven steps. If you believe in miracles, please begin praying for one immediately. If you have any direct connections with Benny Hinn, please persuade him to fly to Provo and heal my aunt before tomorrow evening.(It would be ideal, incidentally, if he didn't make her fall to the floor in a state of unconsciousness immediately after being healed, as do most of his subjects, as there will not be enough time to clean and re-press her gown prior to the ceremony, much less to re-style her hair and makeup.) Any way we configurate the data, someone needs to alert Houston to the existence of a problem.

A wheelchair has been recommended as a way to transport my aunt from the point at which the graduates' procession begins to her seat on the stage. This isn't, all things considered, necessarily a bad idea. My aunt, however, was an NCAA Division I athlete, and has always taken pride in her strength, endurance, and vitality. She feels that people would be judgimg her because she is not a member of the majority religion, and the people judging her would henceforth reach the conclusion, spoken or otherwise, that her failure to follow the LDS "Word of Wisdon," which is a set of rules governing what can or cannot be eaten, drunk, or smoked, and would conclude that by her failure to follow the "Word of Wisdom," she herself had brought upon herself her physical misfortunes. That's what she says, anyway, even though, as a non-Mormon, she actually adheres to more of the tenets of the "Word of Wisdom" than do most practicing Mormons, and, on a non-sick day, can "run and not be weary, and walk and not faint" better than almost anyone, whether Mormon or Catholic or Branch Davidian (if there are any Branch Davidians left). This is all just what my aunt says. Her real worry is that people will look at hr funny if she is pushed in a wheelchair or somehow makes it to the stage any differently than anyone else. She's a girl. So am I. That's the way we think. I'd feel exactly the same way under identical circumstances.

Several of her law school classmates offered to piggy-back her or to carry her up to the stage or to transport her on one of those shairs (were they called litters?) on which royalty used to be transported by underlings. The university nixed both suggestions and other similar ones.

Her brother suggested that she sit in the front row of the audience and join the procession as it reached her. This idea has nor yet been rejected, which means that it will probably be the plan finally adopted. There are still concerns about the length of the ceremony and her ability to sit through it. A member of the law faculty who is also a doctor suggested placing her out of alphabetical order. (This would be a serious breach of protocol and might even require a signature from some head honcho Mormon, if not a vote from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS church, for it to be even considered, much less allowed.) Anyway, the idea would be to place her on the back row so that she could be discreetly removed from the group and placed on a stretcher or couch nearby for portions of the proceedings that don't directly require her input or participation. She might not receive the full impact of the messgage of just how important it is to continue to give generously whenever the annyoing phone solicitors call during the dinner hour demanding a pledge and a credit card number, but she at least stands a chance of still being conscious when it is time for her to traipse across the stage and to receive her piece of paper that others are supposed to believe is an actual diploma. Real diplomas will not be mailed out until sometime in June, after the university's equivalent to the CIA has investigated sufficiently to know that she hasn't publicly denounced any church or universitiy authorities, hasn't acted in any way to effect a veto Proposition Eight, or has not accrued any library "overdue" fines.

Even traipsing across the stage is more of an issue for my aunt that we would like it to be. Is she capable of walking across the stage unescorted or unsupported? Under optimal circumstances the answer would be yes, but nerves, temporary weakness, and the possibily of a jealous classmate sticking his or her foot out to trip her remain real possibilities. My uncle has offered to excort her, but since no one else is being escorted across the stage by a spouse, my aunt is concerned about the appearance of this. My advice to my aunt about this matter is that she most likely has a better-looking spouse than anyone else in the entire law school class. Why not take advantage of a legitmate excuse to show him off and make others jealous? She is at least considering my advice. Other members of the class have offered to be on standy-by, and to walk more closely ahead of and behind her than would normally be done so that they can support her, catch her, carry her, or do whatever is needed.

My final bit of advice to my aunt was somewhat controversial and, I'm sad to say, wasn't taken all than seriously, although I hope that she will rethink the matter and reconsider. Because of her unique situation, all eyes will be on my aunt, for better or for worse. Why not use this attention as a platform to make a statement. She could speak of Jessica Beagley and of her mistreatment of sweet little Kristoff, or she could briefly air her view about Donald Trump's unfitness for any political office, including that of the Mayor of Wasilla, or could address her views about financial assistance for university students, or could even offer her views concerning Rebecca Black's talent or lack thereof. It isn't every day that one has a platform from which he or she will be heard. When everyone is looking at you, use the unwanted attention to your benefit.

* 1.77 is a figure I came up with totally arbitrarily, but it sounded good, so Im sticking with it.

*** In my opinion, preschool graduation ceremonies are acceptable if for no reason other than that preschoolers are inherently cute, and any opportunity to display their cuteness is a worthwhile endeavor.


  1. Congratulations Jillian!

  2. Cool! Congratulations from the UK!

    In fact, I'll make a toast to you! With my special bottle of Laphroaig single malt Scotch!

    10.56am is a little early for this, but heck, it IS a special occasion! ;o))