20 years ago June 23rd, I walked on the campus of The University of Virginia as a pre-freshman in the Summer Bridge program for incoming Engineering students. It was an awesome time because it was the first time I had been away from home and my mom for any extended period of time in quite some years. When I was younger, I lived in Houston, TX and my mom would send me back home to NYC to spend the summer with my Grandfather, Uncles and ultimately, my Aunt (generally after she found out which house I was staying at). However, this wasn’t just a summer program, this was the beginning of my path in life and it was new and fresh. Along the way, I met my best friend of the last 20 years and a host of very close friends that have become my brothers and sisters for life. People, to this day, know who I am, have traversed some territory with me and know my family intimately. My time in college was probably the best four years of my life. If I didn’t have to do classes (well, maybe a few) I’d do it all over again.
A few weeks ago, a few of the men I went to college with, along with a real close friend went traveled back to UVa to watch a men’s basketball game. It was a simple day trip – A few brothas getting together to shoot the (bleep) and just spend an afternoon watching a little sport at the place we bonded and became men and friends. When it was all said an done, it reinforced what I already knew – I am the sum of my experience and the recipient of a dream. One that I now bestow upon and bequeath to my niece and nephew as they begin their college experience in a few short months.
With pride and relief, my niece was accepted into The University of Virginia and is in the running to being accepted at West Point and the Naval Academy. On top of that, she also got only one of two Congressional Nominations in her area. I don’t know how many more schools she’ll get into nor which one she will ultimately pick (*cough*UVA*cough*), but having choices is the BEST possible position you can be in and that she has in spades. Tonight, as I was picking up my mom-in-law from my bro-in-law’s house, I caught her getting ready to leave for her Civil Air Patrol meeting in her uniform and had a moment of pure satisfaction. When I first met her, she was 7 years old, with the widest smile, wily hair and trying to introduce me to her guinea pigs. Now she’s a tall, beautiful, young woman with a bright future and the knowledge that she can do anything she puts her mind to.
My nephew just accepted a full athletic scholarship to Pace University in Westchester, NY and I’m so proud of him I could bust. He was the apple of his late grandfather’s eye. His “Poppa” took him everywhere and only wanted the best for his first grandchild. The dream of his grandfather is becoming a reality and his grandson now embarks on the next stage of his life. When I first met my nephew, he was 13 months old, sitting in his Poppa’s lap, sucking on a chicken bone. Inside I laughed and visibly grinned. Now, 200+lbs, 6’3 and built like a Mac truck he’s on his way to a great future with an education provided by a great school. The best thing for me is that he’s only 30 minutes away from my mom’s house, thus I plan to periodically check in on my nephew and give him a hug when I visit my mom with the kids. I’m proud of him because he’s becoming a man, a man that will make all the cousins that follow him proud.
Over the next 16-18 years, another 10 more nieces and nephews will be making that transition from childhood to adulthood. From recreation to responsibility. From the givers of joy, to the bringers of hope. I will hug them all. I will see them all go off to meet their respective destinies. I will miss them all. That’s not just life, that’s the future converging with the present, the present honoring the sacrifices of the past and the past whispering into prophecy – a dream.