With social occasions delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it was difficult for graduating high school seniors to find the right time to transition toward college or other plans beyond. As a result, the graduation party for a young man that I’ve known since he was born eighteen years ago was held this past weekend. He’s off to the same school as his sister in Holland, Michigan.
His name is Beau Cunningham. We were back door neighbors for much of his life. I watched him grow from a baby to toddler to curious elementary school kid. Then he started mowing lawns and got rather good at it, starting his own business before he was about ten years old, if I recall correctly. He ran his old Montgomery Ward riding mower until it couldn’t run anymore. Then I pre-contracted and pre-paid him for a summer of mowing my father’s lawn. That plan helped him pay for an all new mower that he put to work with multiple accounts in the neighborhood.
Occasionally we’d go out riding bikes together. One Sunday afternoon when his folks were busy taking care of some family business downtown, Beau and I rode to a mysterious little spot behind the government center in Geneva. He was eager to share the secret of a strange little crypt that was built by a sect of religious sisters years ago. It was a perfect summer adventure.
Beau and I also shared a love of running. He participated in middle school and high school cross country until his interests broadened and he developed all new contacts and contracts in other businesses. He saved his money to get a truck and life kept rambling on with a cute girlfriend or two along the way.
He’s going to major in business and communications at Hope College. His eagerness for college is clear. What strikes me as different from myself at that age is his greater sense of self-awareness. He’s always been a curious person. We’d often sit and have quiet talks on the back steps of the back porch at our house. Sometimes he’d have concerns to discuss or be trying to understand aspects of family, church or friend life. Other times we’d simply dig in the dirt and make heads out of clay. He also loved to walk our dog Chuck, and was responsible enough to do it.
I remember babysitting him after surgery to remove his tonsils. His mother approved a light diet of liquids with a cookie as a compliment to his evening. Somehow he negotiated a second cookie, and that’s indicative of his savvy outlook on life.We also played with cars on the carpet that night, smashing them together and making wicked collision noises. He needed to wick off pent-up energy after the surgery, it seemed. Somehow one of his father’s die-cast models wound up involved in the wreckage after Beau pulled it down off the shelf. I think an apology on my part was due the family. But blessedly the nicked up toy car was forgiven.
Standing next to Beau at his party this past weekend I could feel the youthful energy and determination of a young man entering adulthood. I also recalled the amusing day when he was three and he leaned down next to my ear while I was on the ground working on a project for his mother and he whispered, “You have no hair!”
It was true back then, and it’s still true today. That proves the one thing in life that I’d pass along to Beau Cunningham. The more things change in one way in life, the more they seem to stay the same in another. He and I have both experienced our share of shifting circumstances, but found our roots just the same.
I’ve always urged him to keep that in mind in life and things never feel so out of control. If and when they do, I’ve always turned to writing it all down on a sheet of paper to look it over. That always seems to help put things in perspective.
And if that’s not enough, start a blog like this one and process life for all you’re worth. It may be a relatively small audience that one reaches, but the audience of one’s own mind is sometimes the most important connection of all.