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Maxed Out

Some (unasked for) advice for my niece

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By G.D. Maxwell

Dear Nicole:

High school graduation? Say it ain’t true. How can you be old enough to be graduating from high school? It seems such a short time ago my brother said he was going to have a baby, that is to say your mother was going to have a baby, his role in the whole process being, shall we say, limited to the preliminaries and taking videos once the main feature – you – arrived.

Being my parents’ first grandchild, you were, of course, perfect. Or at least you were expected to be. Tough billing to live up to but you seemed to pull it off. I’m sure it helped when your sister came along. I mean, babies are cute and everything but they’re hardly entertaining unless you’re one of those people who like to go on and on about various excremental experiences. Even a toddler has a big leg up, cognitively speaking, over a baby. I won’t go into the whole first grandchild syndrome but let’s face it kid, sometimes nothing beats coming first.

And now you’re the first to graduate the hell that is high school. For that, you have my admiration. That you’ve managed to do it without deep psychic scarring, a substance-abuse problem, becoming a gang member or morphing into one of those airhead math-is-hard chicklets is testament to your deep inner strength probably more than your nurturing environment, not to discount a nurturing environment but really, how many nicely-nurtured buds do you have who seem destined to be trailer park losers?

I don’t know if high school is as bad now as it was in the Dark Ages when I served my sentence there but from all indications, it’s probably worse. The only major obstacles I had to avoid were drugs, alcohol, jocks and indifferent teachers. From what I hear and read, you’ve had it even worse. Well Nicky, and this is the good news, university is much, much better.

Or, like so many things in life, it can be just as bad… or worse. It’s pretty much your choice though. Well, choices really. Lots of choices; all yours to make. It’ll be a refreshing change from what’s gone on so far in your life, which has mostly consisted of having other people make choices for you.

On balance, while it would have been nice watching you grow up and getting to know you better, I don’t regret having been absent most – all – of your life. Between the abysmal Age of Reagan, Bush the First’s Thousand Points of Light and Bush: The Sequel, it’s not like I really felt comfortable south of the 48 th Parallel. With Patriot Act I & II laying waste to the Constitution and Bill of Rights, hell, I’m not even sure I’ll be able to get across the border later this year to congratulate you in person.

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