Well, they did it. Both of your brothers graduated this weekend! The eventful weekend began
on Friday, June 8.
The first event of the weekend was the University of Chicago reception for parents of
graduating students. The University took over the Museum of Science and Industry for the 7 to 10 pm
event. Casey was driving down from Waukegan. We arranged to meet her at Mischa's dorm at 6:30
pm. It was not to be.
Ian, Barbara and I departed Madison as planned at 3 pm. The trip was uneventful until the
tollway reached the north side of Chicago. There we encountered the worst traffic Barbara has ever
seen in her many trips to the area. The radio informed us that both a White Sox game and the Chicago
Blues Festival were adding to the usual congestion. By 6 pm it was obvious we would not arrive in
time for the start of the UC event at 7 pm, much less in time to meet Casey at 6:30, but we knew the
traffic would also delay her arrival. Fortunately Ian had brought along the family guitar (Barbara's old
12 string Gibson which she gave to you, which you left for Ian to use and which he has reduced to 6
strings). From the back seat he entertained us with the songs he has taught himself, both of them.
At 6:30 I plugged Barbara's cell phone, the one she takes on trips for emergencies, into the
Dodge Dynasty cigarette lighter. Barbara had not thought to bring her book of addresses and phone
numbers along, and while I thought I remembered the last 2 digits of Mischa's dorm phone number, the
rest was in my pocket calendar in the trunk. We started looking through Barb's purse and Ian's wallet
for Casey's cell phone number, with no luck. Ian suggested we call you in California to ask for
Casey's number. Then he discovered that he had Casey's business card in his wallet. It did not list
Casey's cell phone, but it had her voice mail number. A little after 7 pm Ian called that number and left
a message saying how far we had progressed on the tollway and leaving Barb's cell phone number.
At 7:45 pm the little yellow Nokia rang. Ian answered. It was Casey, calling from Mischa's
dorm. She had arrived after a 2-1/2 hour drive from Waukegan, twice as long as normal. Your mom
had not arrived yet. She had originally planned to arrive at Mischa's dorm by 4 pm, but had gotten off
to a late start. Mischa got on the phone and I talked to him, while Barbara drove. (We had switched
drivers earlier on the tollway.) When I reported our progress to Mischa he said it took 45 minutes to
reach campus from there under normal traffic conditions. We got Casey's cell phone number and
arranged to call when we reached Hyde Park. Mischa said he and Casey might try to meet us at the
Museum. I said "See you in about an hour" and hung up.
Soon after that traffic began to get lighter. By 8:10 we were only 5 minutes from campus. Ian
called Casey's number but was unable to get through. We passed the Museum and continued on the
few blocks to Mischa's dorm, arriving a little after 8:15 pm. There Ian called again and this time was
able to get through. Casey and Mischa were at the Museum, having gone there in time for the
champagne toast scheduled for 8:15 pm at the end of a speach. Mischa told us that the University had
arranged for free parking in the Museum's basement gargage, so back we went. We finally connected
up with Casey and the soon-to-be graduate about 8:30 pm, in the large hall under the dome with World
War II fighter planes hanging from the ceiling. The formal part of the evening was over but they were
still serving champagne, along with soda, cookies, brownies, lemon bars, and strawberries and other
fruit. A dance band began playing and a couple dressed as a clown and circus lady with high feathered
hat tried, without much success, to entice members of the crowd to join them in dancing. The Museum
was open for the students, parents, siblings and other guests to stroll through the exhibits, and that's
what many did.
About 9:30 Mischa used Casey's cell phone to call the front desk of his dorm, where he had
left a message for your mom. He learned that she had arrived, so he and Casey headed back there.
Ian, Barb and I followed not long after. We joined Mischa, Casey and your mom at the front gate of
the dorm and discussed the events of the day. Then Casey and Ian set out for Casey' house in
Waukegan followed soon thereafter by Barb and me in the Dodge while your mom and Mischa went
up to his room. We had arranged to meet Debbie at the dorm at 9:15 the next morning to go to the
graduation ceremony, since Mischa needed to depart for the 10 am event well before that.
Casey drove separately in to Chicago again, accompanied by Ian, since she needed to depart
soon after Mischa's graduation to get to Madison for the graduation of a friend from MATC that same
afternoon. Saturday morning traffic was no worse than usual, and Barb and I arrived at the dorm about
9:10 am, a few minutes after Casey and Ian. We waited at the front gate for your mom until about 9:20
am. Then I went in and called Mischa's room from the front desk. Your mom had fallen asleep on
Mischa's bed after Mischa had departed. She scurried down the 4 flights of stairs to meet us, and we
set off to the outdoor ceremony location on the other side of campus.
Mischa's graduation ceremony, Session III of four held by the University this weekend, was
conducted in a quadrangle surrounded on three sides by tall ornate stone buildings. When we arrived
we found the line of attendees was a block long, stretching around two corners. The day was warm
and sunny. As we waited in line your mom began looking for a place to get a drink of water, but the
buildings we were passing were locked. She had disappeared on one last such excursion when the rest
of us reached the end of the line and handed in our entry tickets. First Barb then Casey watched for
your mom to show up, but did not see her before the processional began.
Led by bagpipers, the graduating students proceeded in from the far side of the quadrangle
area down the center walk past the hundreds of chairs which had been set up on the grass on either
side. They settled in chairs in front of a long stage covered by a white canopy at the far end of the
quadrangle. We found shady chairs to sit in to one side. We were too far from the stage to see much
there, but we were near one of the large TV screens which had been set up on either side with
loudspeakers to broadcast whatever was said from the podium. Mischa saw me during the procession
The Convocation Address was given by Professor Martha C. Nussbaum. Entitled "Political
Animals: Luck, Need and Dignity", it gave her vision of a society for the students to work toward which
values all its members, including those whose physical or mental limitations have historically kept them in
Her address was followed by an anthem sung in latin by the University of Chicago Motet Choir,
which included Mischa's friend Zach. Three student speakers then followed, the last being Justin
Seidner. The students obviously enjoyed his talk the most. He described his feelings for the University
of Chicago in personal terms, those of a guy breaking up with a girl friend after 4 years. Finally,
some 878 students crossed the stage, had his or her name read, and received his or her degree.
Mischa received a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics.
The ceremonies ended with all singing the Alma Mater (mercifully only the first verse), the
Benediction and the Recessional, again led by the bagpipers. This was followed by looking for Mischa
in the crowd in the main quadrangle. He finally found us, having already located your mom. She had
entered the ceremony area by following a stream of people who were going through a hedge on the
side opposite us. Strange as it may seem, no tickets were collected in that line.
A picnic in the outer quadrangle was next. We all headed for the food tents where champagne
and lemonade were flowing and cookies and fruit were provided. Mischa soon decided that this was
not real food, so we discussed restaurants. We ended up walking to Edwardo's. (Déjà vu.
You picked Edwardo's in Madison for your high school graduation lunch.) We didn't order pizza because
we didn't want to stay too long. Mischa found $5 on the floor which he thought he would leave as a tip for
our waitress, but when your mom discovered his plan she insisted on giving it to the waitress in addition to
her tip since she had apparently dropped it earlier.
Next it was back to the dorm to help Mischa pack up books. Those going to Madison were taken down to the trunk of the Dodge and those bound for Mischa'a summer apartment in Chicago in about a week went to the Ram Van. Ian and I carried Mischa's small refrigerator down to the van and Ian and Mischa brought down his big TV. We decided to hold off on graduation presents until Mischa was in Madison the following day, since Ian wanted to get back in time for a high school pre-graduation party. There was one small exception. As we were about to depart, I gave Mischa a small box which bore the following note:
"Mischa A personal memento of a memorable occasion. Dad"
Flashback to Easter
It was a wonderful surprise to have you join us in Madison at Easter, when Daniel, Warren and Patty
were visiting, and Mischa was up from Chicago. That was pretty crafty, talking to your brothers from the airport on
your cell phone without letting on that you were about to take flight in our direction. The boys have enjoyed
recounting how you, on hands and knees, poked your head into Ian's basement bedroom where Ian, Daniel and Mischa
were all sleeping late (as usual), how you were observed through groggy eyes by Ian, and then withdrew. As Ian
reports it, the others then stirred and the ensuing conversation went something like this: "What was that?
I don't know. It looked kind of like Robin. Nooo!" It was quickly decided that Ian couldn't be right, but
seconds later you proved that he was.
The highlight of the whole weekend for me, injuries notwithstanding, was the ultimate frisbee game. Ian had
been practicing with his ultimate frisbee team, composed of members from three Madison high schools, in preparation
for tournaments with other high school and college teams in Wisconsin, a tournament in Massachusetts, and the concluding
high school Nationals in Tennessee. Ian picked you and me for his team while Mischa picked Daniel (with the highest reach
of all the Parks, important in ultimate) and Warren. Our opposition jumped off to a quick 1 to 0 lead, but then we came
roaring back, shutting them out for the remainder of the game as we climbed to a 5 to 1 lead by the time the game had to
be called on account of Easter dinner. In the process, I learned by painful first hand experience (make that
first foot experience) that one shouldn't guard Mischa too closely when he has the frisbee.
My left big toe learned that lesson very well when he accidentally stepped on it.
It didn't slow me down too much for the rest of the game, as Mischa ruefully commented after his team's loss, but that night the
toenail was black. Later, after fluid under the nail drained, it turned pink again, and there seemed some small hope that I would
keep the nail, but it was not to be.
As you know, Mischa has been playing flute and piccolo with the University of Chicago
Symphony Orchestra since his first year there. Barb and I have attended a couple of his concerts
each year, but Casey and Ian had yet to attend one as the dates for his final concert loomed in
May. Casey and Ian both agreed to attend the May 25, 2001 concert. Barb drove down separately
(since she needed to continue on to Syracuse the next day) and picked up Casey in Waukegan.
Ian and I were to meet them at the concert hall, and I knew how to get there. I had driven
down on my own for an earlier concert. I hate driving on freeways.
Without Barbara's experienced eye to check on me, I took the wrong exit and
went in the wrong direction. By the time I got turned around we were late for the concert.
Ian and I had to wait with other latecomers outside the doors until
the first movement of Beethoven's 9th ended, so Ian never did
get to hear one of Mischa's concerts from start to end. At intermission we discovered that
Barbara and Casey were sitting not far away in the balcony.
So what does Mischa's last concert have to do with my big toe, you ask. Well, that night Barb returned with Casey to her
place and Ian and I stayed in Mischa's dorm room. When we got up the next morning, Mischa had the opportunity to observe
my ailing big toe. The toenail was still more or less in place, but looking very white and sickly. It was no real surprise when
I found it loose in my slipper a few mornings later in Madison. By then I already had a plan.
What could make a more personal graduation present for Mischa?
"Gross" you say? The very word that issued from Mischa's lips when he opened the aforementioned small box. But its not quite as bad as it may seem. I had carefully cleaned and flattened it, and then given the back several coats of Barbara's nail filler and polish to keep it from curling over time. On the front I used a permanent marker to pen the inscription most of which is legible at right. The last lines are:
Score Dad, Ian, Robin 5 Warren, Dan, Mischa 1 + 1 toenail
Sunday June 10
Sunday morning for Ian meant time for another pre-graduation party. For Barb it meant time to
iron Ian's green graduation robe. All were to gather here at the house by about 11 am.
Casey arrived from her friend's house about 11:40 am. Mischa had planned to get here by 11
am but was still nowhere to be seen by noon. (He had helped his summer roommate Kiel move stuff
into their apartment until 2 am, and was up again at 6:30 am to finish packing his stuff from the dorm room into the van.)
Finally, about 12:15 pm, we had to head for the Kohl Center (new since your high school and college graduations at
the old UW Fieldhouse), where we had arranged to meet Emily,
Ian's girl friend, at 12:30 prior to the 1 pm graduation ceremony.
Barb, Emily, Casey and I had found seats in the Kohl Center and had just stood up for the
processional music when Mischa arrived, finding us in the nick of time. The program's most
noteworthy address (for our family) came from Ian's Boy Scout friend, Neil Pohl. His brief address
was filled with references to The Goonies, which he characterized as perhaps the greatest movie of all
After post-ceremony photos outside the Kohl Center we gathered again at home where both
Mischa and Ian opened graduation cards and presents. Then it was off to Fitzgerald's restaurant for a
graduation dinner, Emily included. After that Casey headed back to Illinois. The dogs remained at the
Fitchburg Animal Hospital kennels for one more night, returning the next night as things
began to get back to normal. Ian, the graduate, had one week off before he headed to "clay camp" to hone
his ceramics skills, and Mischa stayed in town for several days until his sublet apartment in Chicago was ready for
him to actually move in.