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Look How Far We've Come

Innumerable, the number of times I’ve made this drive. I can’t remember the last time it felt this good. Hopping on I-40E, veering I-95S, and riding the interstate until I collided with I-26E. Usually, my ride concludes between the farthest point East and the most northern part of the city. This time, I headed to North Charleston. Although I woke up before the sun to make it to my destination by 8:30 am, I felt enthusiastic. Excitement filled my veins and joyous praise spilled from my lips.

Amelia’s kindergarten graduation was on the itinerary, but the miracle wasn’t in my ability to take off work. The testimony came with the fact that I received a call from her mother giving me first dibs on one of two slots available. It might not be a big deal to some, but for me, this was groundbreaking. It’s the result of answered prayer, patience, shifting focus, and mindset. Not only did I get that call, but I also got a text giving me instructions on how to purchase Amelia’s school pictures.

What a God I serve!

I remember a time, not too long ago when this level of communication was unheard of. It was so far out of reach that it seemingly couldn’t be attained in the realm where daydreaming meets imagination. A period of one-sided heated discourse, sending messages to a blocked number hoping for a response. Moments where this drive led to courtrooms and hopeless attempts at creating lasting memories.

Things have been turning around.

Arriving, signing in, and finding an open seat directly in front of the stage, I was ready to be the parent I always believed I could be. Growing up with a father who never failed to be present whether physically, emotionally, or otherwise, I would be remiss if I didn’t continue the legacy. Even though there was a miscommunication between the principal and the teachers bringing the graduates to the cafeteria, I had my phone camera ready.

Surely, her mother told her that I was coming, and I’d never been the one to renege, but butterflies occupied my stomach as I waited in anticipation. How happy would she be to see me? Will she break the single file line to hug me? How much will my presence affect her perspective of me? Of men? Of her expectations for future monumental moments in her life? I was elated to stand in the shoes that I’d been called to fill.

Being the tallest in her class, Amelia was the first child to step into my line of vision. With my camera rolling, I caught her eyes roaming for the people she cared about. It didn’t take long for her to find her mother and me sitting next to each other with our phones recording and smiles plastered on our faces. I thought about the times Amelia has seen us acting cordially, typically, there isn’t even an exchange of words or glances let alone being content in the same space. They were too far and spaced out to keep an accurate account.

Amelia and I continuously made eye contact as the class sang memorized songs and proceeded with their ceremony. I could tell she wasn’t fond of the boy next to her as he ceaselessly talked throughout the entire service. Part of me wanted to grab the kid by the collar for showing obvious interest in my daughter, another part understood being one with an early interest in the opposite sex, and another side of me was thankful that I procreated such a beautiful princess.

Conflictions of a father.

After getting her name called and posing so that I could snap a picture, parents were invited to the classroom to participate in the end-of-the-year party. I broke protocol as they were lining up to leave the cafeteria by sneaking in a tight hug and expressing how proud I was of her. They had refreshments for the kids and parents with a running slideshow displaying photos of different activities and trips the class went on for the year. They had individual snapshots and ones of the entire class.

Amelia revealed exactly how she felt about me being there when I entered the classroom. It’s impossible to remember all her classmates' names, but she made it a point to introduce me to each one. Grabbing my hand and dragging me around to the little tables that stood as tall as my knees. Weaving in and out of appropriate aged structures while doing our best to avoid the other parents that crowded the small room, I felt valued.

I’m not sure if she already took her mother through this process, but the fact that it was my hand she reached for when we both were present, added to my cherished sentiment. Not because I believed she was choosing me over her, or any malicious thinking on my behalf, but simply, after what I’ve been through as a father and the strain on my relationship with my Amelia…

Despite my creative potential or how far my eloquence will eventually take me, even when I reach my peak, I fear that in attempting to type the overwhelming sensation my words will never suffice. Not for a lack of ability, but for the manifestation of meditated verses.

Galatians 6:9 (NIV) “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Romans 8:24-25 (NIV) “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Taking a seat in a chair designed for kindergartners, I watched Amelia interact with her friends and tried to get her to grab me a couple more cookies. I didn’t want to look like the greedy new guy, but apparently, rule-following is in her nature. Another father laughed at me as he was tempted to ask the same of his child.

I scanned the room from my low vantage point and took in the scene. Happy parents, proud students, an ecstatic teacher who does a great job solely based on interactions between her kids and parents, and smooth classical music lightly playing in the background. I’ve finally become one of those parents that I envied, ones I used to call “real parents,” those that can participate without fail.

The music was perfect for my head space. Emotions bubbled in my stomach causing my eyes to moisten, imperceptibly wiping them and blinking to hold everything in. Even now, as I write and my babies are playing around me, I’m doing my best to hold it together. In that classroom, I felt the unabated weight of a year-in and year-out stronghold of stress and anguish strip from my shoulders.

This was the moment I realized that even though I can’t say with assurance what the end looks like, I can confidently delineate where this phase of my journey started.

Romans 5:3-5 (NIV) “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Reversing my route to head back home after a fulfilling day, I hopped on I-26W with a full tank of gas. I’ve driven these roads since 2012 and can name all the places where traffic was backed up because of road construction and point to where trees were cut down for new developments.

Since I was alone, I felt comfortable enough to break the dam that held back my tears. Glancing in the rearview mirror, I watched the water run down my cheeks like a kid imagining raindrops racing to the windowsill. The mirror depicted various experiences telling stories that are both communicated and untold. Victoriously shaking my head, I do what this season of life taught me. Focus on the road ahead. With awe-filled praise on my lips, I relished this thought.

Look how far we’ve come.


Elliott Quinton L.L.C

"Passionately eloQuint"

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"Faith Without Works is Dead"

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