I've been doing a lot of reminiscing lately, sifting through years and years worth of pictures, remembering past sporting events and thinking about how much my oldest son has grown up in the past year. Just last week, I found myself walking down the elementary school hallway and I stopped in my tracks and let a flood of memories overtake me. Tears suddenly filled my eyes as I thought back to Nick's first years in school. I still remember as if it were yesterday that hopeful but bittersweet feeling of saying goodbye to my son as he entered the door of Mrs. Sheehy's kindergarten classroom. I hardly made it out of the school and into my car before the tears started flowing. At that moment, I prayed that God would watch over Nick, provide him with friends and help him develop a love for learning.
The feelings I remembered having on that day back in August of 1993 are similar to the feelings I find myself experiencing right now, just days before Nick graduates as a member of Cassville High School's Class of 2006. I feel hopeful, but at the same time a little heart heavy, because I know my oldest son is leaving home to start life's next adventure. My prayers are also similar to those I prayed 13 years ago. I pray that Nick will find a strong group of friends who share his passion for life and who also share his values. I pray that God will protect him as he is away from us and keep him from injury as he takes to the soccer field in a new purple and white Bulldog soccer jersey. I pray that God will help him adjust to the rigors of college studies and guide him toward a career that he loves. And with each prayer, comes that same feeling of peace I had after leaving Nick with Mrs. Sheehy on his first day of school. Nick has flourished at Cassville and so many prayers have been answered. He is leaving his hometown with a strong foundation to build upon as he continues his life's journey.
My thanks extends to the entire Cassville school system and all the teachers and coaches who had a positive impact on my son. So many names flood my mind - Kathy Sheehy, Sue Cavness, Ann Nickle, Wendy Miekley, Sherri Brooks, Diane Linebarger, Rick Lawson, Lana Couch, Terry Jamieson, Lance Parnell, Jeremy Faubion, Karen Brown and Donna Richards - to name just a few. Thank you for the lessons you've taught my son, in and out of the classroom. Most of all, I thank you because you inspired him, challenged him and took time to understand him. I also want to thank Brad Hanson for the leadership he provides to our high school students. Mr. Hanson is a man who has gained the respect of my son and the entire student body by raising the bar and expecting excellence. He treats students fairly, and most importantly, leads by example.
This senior class is a special group. They're not the easiest group to corral and could be considered a challenge, but I believe those teachers who really tried to connect with members of this class discovered greatness. They realized that many of these seniors were extremely bright, unselfish and weren't afraid to ask questions. This group also takes a lot of pride in being different, which might be my favorite attribute of this class. I think the success of several of this year's sports teams is testament to the positive leadership, strong work ethic and humble attitude exemplified by so many in the Class of 2006.
As I look back over the past 13 years, I realize my prayers were indeed answered. Nick is excited to begin college and expand his education, because he fell in love with learning at a young age. He was blessed with a strong group of friends and a network of caring adults. This support system has served Nick well and I know he will miss many of his CHS classmates, especially the Ridgley crew.
I know I am personally thankful for all the parents Mike and I have come to know over the years Nick has been in school. It would be interesting to count up the hours we've spent together, watching games on the bleachers or in chairs lined up on the side of soccer fields. I will always treasure those times and have very fond memories of comraderie and support as we cheered on our Wildcats. It was also nice to know that Nick was well cared for and supervised while visiting in your homes. In turn, it was a pleasure to share our home with your children and they have earned a huge place in our hearts.
Parenting is a challenging task. We dream big dreams for our children and try to teach them all they need to know to be successful. The funny thing is that we often learn a lot from our children along the way.
Nick has taught me the importance of being true to myself and not compromising. He's taught me to hold onto my dream and pursue my passion no matter what obstacles come my way. He's taught me to trust God and turn to Him when life seems shaky. He's taught me to relax, laugh more often and not take life so seriously. He's taught me to love the game of soccer and watching him play the game he loves is pure joy to me. This past year, Nick has also taught me a parenting skill I wish I'd caught onto earlier. He taught me to be quiet and listen. Oddly enough, once I stopped asking him 10 million questions, he began talking to me about what was really important to him. The conversations we've had over this past year are ones I'll remember forever. My son is growing up and he's someone I love to spend time with, someone I admire and respect.
Good luck to all the graduates of Cassville High School's Class of 2006. May God smile upon all your future pursuits and may you dare to dream big. We love you.