Saying goodbye to students and teachers

Mark DeLap weekly column

Some of the students that I first met when I came to Wyoming were only sophomores and I came at a time when we were all fighting the pandemic and the disappointment that many spring activities were canceled.

After over two years, the kids and people in the community have become family.

Although this year’s graduation left a lump in my throat, partially because I remember my youngest son’s graduation in 2017, and the ensuing path that took him to college away from home. It’s funny, when they are young and squabbling and fussing and needing money for…. Nearly everything, a parent sometimes will say…. “I can’t wait until they graduate.”

That statement is the biggest statement regret that we make as parents. Oh, the house is no longer chaotic, there are no dirty dishes in the sink or in their bedrooms, there are no half-eaten pizzas under the beds and I actually have a few dollars left over every week to treat myself to Arby’s… but the house didn’t become quiet, it became lonely.

I miss telling the dad jokes that made my kids say, “Dad… stop.” I miss embarrassing them in front of their friends. I even miss their friends. Well… some of them. I miss hearing their laughter on movie night and being the shoulder for adolescent tears when that first tragic breakup comes. I miss being able to ask, “when are you going to come home?” every time they would leave for a date. I miss the hugs at the award ceremonies and making their highlight videos as their graduation present.

Ah, but here at an older age, I still ask the question, “when are you going to come home?” Certainly not out loud or to their faces anymore, but it’s OK to think it. And what did I learn?

That I didn’t live in or savor and appreciate enough moments. If I had it to do over again, I’d watch them a little longer as they slept. I’d hug them a little longer before they left. I’d listen more intently as they spoke. I’d not “harsh their mellow” with a curt word in criticism.

I wouldn’t be able to create more time, but I’d be able to create more quality. I’d make better choices. I’d make better memories.

This weekend we all witnessed a miracle moment. At the flip of a tassel and the toss of a cap, these kids went from seniors to graduates. And they finished this chapter of their biography.

As the kids walked across the stage this past weekend from Platte County I thought about the incredible memories these kids have given to our community, whether it was a touchdown pass from Kade Preuit to Jake Hicks or a line spoken in a play by Bradley Rittel or a song that gave us all goosebumps sang by Grace Hanni or a thumbs-up by Gracen Mount for pictures or Rodee Brow flying around a high bar or a new picture taken by Caleb Haase that he just had to show me, or that “hell yeah” roar of Rawland Isabell – or the determined drive of Warrior Princess Libby Logan,  and the infectious smiles of McCrea Call, Devin Weber and Hyannie Fausto.

So many kids have made me feel like I have my kids back again and for that, I can never say thank-you enough. And to the teachers and coaches who are departing, how proud I am of those who have given their time to mentor and shape the kids of this generation.

One in particular that is a tough one to see go is varsity basketball coach Taylor Dick from Guernsey. After coaching kids and other coaches for over 40 years, I know quality in the coaching ranks. This coach was and is in it for the passion of the game and for the love of the kids. “Coach D is leaving to coach in Shoshoni – and we all know that he will always have the heart of a Viking. We scrimmaged together, we coached together, we laughed together and we weathered some tough losses together.

He is a quality young coach who resembles many of my own sons who began their careers with tough decisions to make. It will be a sad day to see him walk out of GHS for that final time.

And to all those kids who have so touched the heart of our communities and to the educators who have been called to plough new fields, I will miss you already. Goodbye, farewell, so long, Godspeed… and oh yeah… when are you going to come home?

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