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Rites of passage

By By Buddy Bynum / Editor
May 19, 2002
Father and daughter have certainly changed, the daughter growing up and the father growing old. As I thumb through the photographs I've carried for more than 18 years, I am shocked, again, at how quickly time passes. Could my daughter, Sarah, possibly be graduating from high school already? It seems like only days since she was born.
The memory of her near midnight birth remains vivid, the single most fulfilling day of my life. She was blessed with excellent health. Taking her home to our little townhouse where she would spend her first few years on this earth and introducing her to friends and neighbors was great. Putting her to bed, watching her sleep clutching "LeMutt," checking on her during the night, heating up baby formula and playtime are all treasured moments. I held her so tightly on her first airplane flight for Christmas vacation a few weeks after she was born that I think I may have cut off circulation to her legs; fortunately, there was no permanent damage.
Her mother and I read to her constantly. She began to learn from pictures, colors and words. We made many mistakes because it was a learning experience for us, too. Example: We took the advice of Sarah's pediatrician when he told us it was time to give up her pacifier. She wasn't ready and it caused some anxious nights.
There were birthday parties and vacations and dance recitals and homework and church and learning to ride a bicycle, with streamers in the handlebars. And trips to the dentist, including one particularly painful extraction. But Sarah recovered.
One of my most traumatic moments was walking her to the corner bus stop on her first day of school. She took it well, laughing with her neighborhood friends at the new experience. As I watched her climb up the steps to the bus and then watched the doors close and the bus pull away, I turned and walked back to the house all teary eyed.
The first day of school is a rite of passage, for daughters and dads.
Sarah did great in school, smart, attentive, willing to learn, coloring, drawing, painting, reading, writing. The development of her personality was just wonderful to watch.
There was elementary school and middle school and high school. There was teaching her how to drive late in the afternoons and on weekends in a deserted high school parking lot. There was gripping the armrest on the passenger side as she took to the interstate and learned to drive at night in the rain. I beamed with pride as she got her license by passing the driving test on her first try.
She constantly confirms my belief that from the day of her birth she was and is an extraordinary young lady.
As I sit down to write this, Sarah is preparing to walk over, shake hands with the president of her school's board of directors and receive her high school diploma, graduating with honors another rite of passage into adulthood. She has worked hard, made good grades, participated actively in so many school activities, made friends and flourished. She has honed her debating skills through participation in the National Forensics League program (the other NFL, I learned from trips to various competitions).
She is poised and self-assured, confident and optimistic about the future. I am clearly biased in this, but I will say the human race is fortunate to have her as a member, and I am blessed that she is my daughter
She is a wonderful child, the best any father could hope for. She is smart, has a great sense of humor, beautiful, smart, … wait a minute, I've said that already.
As my daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Bynum, prepares to move on to the next phase of her education and the challenges of life  she'll enter Ole Miss in the fall I have some private and these few public words of fatherly advice:
Drive safely.
Go to church.
Be honest.
Study hard and learn.
Believe about a third of what you hear. Your challenge is to decide which third.
Discover this great world and your place in it for yourself.
Always remember that your dad loves you unconditionally. Always.