The last of my children graduated from high school.
My son and daughter threw their caps high into the air and cheered their liberation from one symbolic institution before contemplating their matriculation into other, much larger institutions significantly further away.
Or at least far enough away that they won’t be needing rides home from school each day.
For me, the culmination of their grade school years has been a melancholy series of lasts. The last lacrosse game. The last musical performance. The last banquet celebrating the last lacrosse game and last musical performance.
The last month of classes. The last week of classes. The last day. The last test.
The last check I have to cut for yet another unfunded school activity.
And as I drove to their graduation, I also inwardly celebrated my last trip as chauffeur. As I was driving this ceremonial trip, I contemplated all the years I have spent shuttling my kids to and from school or or ferrying them back and forth to friends or sporting events or concerts or club gatherings or the millions of other activities they were happily engaged in.
I did a quick calculation. With three kids spanning a total of about 20 years before they were able to drive themselves, I have probably logged close to one year of my life in the car driving them around to school-related functions. Maybe more. This is one year of mindless activity that I will never get back.
Not to be confused with the other 19 years of mindless activities in my life that I will never get back either.
But as is usually the case, I was wrong. This was not the ceremonial last trip to their school. In what is commonly known as Project Graduation, where high school graduates participate in an overnight junket to celebrate their last time together with school friends, I had one last driving responsibility.
I had to drop them off at school at 10:30 pm on a Sunday night after graduation and pick them up the following Monday morning. Because it was an overnight event, they were not allowed to drive themselves.
So my last official duty as a parental limo driver was a mandatory pick up at 5 o’clock in the morning.
Somehow it seemed a fitting end.
But now they have graduated and all the lasts are over. All three of my kids are out of school and home for the summer. And all are usefully engaged in summer jobs or practical endeavors before college tears them all from home sometime before Labor Day.
It is a proud parent’s dream.
That is until I realized that for the next two months they somehow have to get to where they need to be.
Here is a logistics problem. Five people have to be at five different places miles apart at different hours of the day, sometimes simultaneously. They have two cars and limited public transportation.
My solution to the problem is to sell the cars and buy five motorcycles. My wife thinks this is a little irresponsible. She is not wild about visiting clients on a Harley either.
My older son’s solution to the problem is to give him one car and let the other four of us fight it out for the second car.
My daughter’s solution to the problem is to buy three more cars, including a yellow, two-seat convertible Jeep Wrangler for her personal use.
Her twin brother’s solution to the problem is a daily lottery where two people use the cars and the three losers Uber, which, as he practically points out, is significantly cheaper than buying three more cars.
My wife’s solution to the problem is to let me figure it out with the caveat that when she needs a car she gets a car.
I haven’t quite solved this linear programming model, but I vaguely understand it will somehow involve complex car roulette with me doing most of the driving.
And probably riding my bicycle.
But it is only for two months. I can manage a couple more hours logged in the car each day. And then my high school graduates will be off to college and on their own. My older son himself will also return to classes.
And somewhere near the end of August I will load up the car and drive them all to school. They start at different times. At different schools. About ten hours away.
It would seem that my graduation as a parental chauffeur has prepared me for matriculation as a long haul trucker.
But this time I will not mind driving them to school and their next great adventure in life.
It is dropping them off and driving home that upsets me.
Because I will be alone.
And this will most certainly be the last time I can complain about driving.