My wife might have been tearful too but she was up in the balcony as space was limited and allocated to two family members on the ground floor of the Exam Hall where the degrees were awarded. She nominated my son to accompany me. I rarely get tearful so it required something extra special to bring it on.
There is a lot of pomp and ceremonious ritual serving as the backdrop to these occasions. I tend to have an arms length relationship with pomp, but it does beef up the ambience and adds gravitas to the achievement. The sonorous tones of Latin play a not unsubstantial part in proceedings and while I studied it at school, all but a few words have evaporated from memory.
From her earliest years I had no doubt that my daughter would succeed in whatever she chose to turn her hand to. She could problem-solve at a level above her years from around two and had a determination that abhorred failure. A fluent Irish speaker, having been tutored from Bunscoil up under the wonderful tutelage of the late Diarmuid O Tuama in Belfast, she was destined to master the Irish language. As it worked out she studied both it and French at Trinity. As I was never much of a culture vulture, the medium through which she was educated was never a priority for me. So long as she got a good education I was happy. I'm a convenience creature, preferring the world had one language and one currency. My wife who doesn't speak any Irish was the driving force there, wanting both her children brought up with the ability to speak the language fluently. Even today if we have a conversation in Irish in the house or on the phone my wife's face lights up.
Not that I had much influence over what my daughter sought to do, nor did I seek any. I take the view that if our children reach adulthood thinking entirely differently from the ideas we as their parents had, that is a barometer of success and independence. I think the only tree this particular apple did not fall far from was the atheist one. She has no interest in religion, once commenting to somebody who had advised her to pray that it would be futile: we are nothing more than highly complex bugs, and bugs don't pray. It was an answer much to my physicalist liking although I prefer the Brian Green phrase that we are nothing more than bags of particles. Bags or bugs, there is certainly nothing supernatural going on.
My own university studies took me down the road of politics. In this my daughter and I take completely different paths She has zero interest in politics. She is very much her own person, who doubles up in chefery when not studying. Now doing a Masters in Translation, she is on her way to the fair and I am on the way back. The tree of life just keeps on growing while shedding its human leaves to make way for others. As I depart she arrives.
After a long day at Trinity we eventually settled in my wife's favourite French restaurant. It was fitting on the day that was in it with my daughter having graduated in French. When there I am not culinary promiscuous, venturing no further than the delicious mussels that are served up. It was not without its funny moments - each time the waiters approached the table my daughter addressed them in French but none of them spoke the language. The food had more authenticity than the service, but nobody was complaining. Not that it matters what the staff speak or do not speak: the language of cuisine is not that prone to error.
My daughter and I have complementary but not matching daddy bear and baby bear tattoos. They symbolise the one path we have treaded and the different paths our lives have taken. As life should be. Our children will always fly off and as parents we hope the flight is safe and the destination they pick, reached.
Mortarboards off to my Bear - one proud father.