MY DAD loved to tell stories. The one about him joyriding his teacher's motorbike up and down Balrickard Hill when he should have been in class. The time he stepped on a stray sod and got lost until my granddad hollered across the misty bog to find him. It was fairy sod, he said, and you should never step on that kind of sod because They get their revenge. There were many more. I didn't get to hear them all.
I never thought I could tell stories like my dad. The truth is, I can't - or maybe I won't. During my time here at this University, as a writer for The Cavalier Daily, I've told other people's stories. Lots of them. Which is fine. But there's something to be said about sharing your own.
Storytelling is healing. I know this because people like to talk when you give them the chance, and it just is. Lord knows, I like to talk. Perhaps this has been my downfall. Too much talking, not enough doing. Too much talking, not enough studying. Too much talking, cutting it way too close to deadline (even as a Cavalier Daily editor, I was never very good at heeding the crack of the whip). But still, despite my talky-ness, I don't think I've shared enough.
There are some things I don't talk about.
I'd like to say that I made something, crafted something with my hands like my father made cabinets and end tables. But that's not what I did with my time here. I used my hands for something else: writing. But even that doesn't seem real sometimes.
What does feel real is the absence of my dad on move-in day. The absence of his tips on raising my dorm bed with cedar wood planks instead of cinder blocks because cedar smells good and keeps away the bugs. The absence of his voice on the other end of the line when I call home. His absence on Easter Sunday when everything else is coming back to life and he isn't. His absence today, graduation day, when I walk down the Lawn.
There are people today who also have loved ones who aren't sitting on those fold-up chairs down by Cabell Hall. Some of you are my friends. This is for you too.
This also is for my mother and sister. Mam, I don't have to tell you how much you mean to me. Deezer, you too. Chris, you make my mother very happy. Dee and I as well. Thank you for coming into our lives.
This also is for the University of Virginia, a far from perfect institution, but one that has taught me more than I bargained for. Not all is well here.
Race relations is a very sticky issue. Self-segregation is a horrible term; it points fingers and makes it the proverbial "their" problem, not ours. The existence of "self-segregation" should mean something: The University community is not welcoming enough, that too few students leave their comfort zones. Doing "the cultural thing" (as some of my very own friends called anyone's interest in going to speakers or forums or even Culturefest, for crying out loud) should just be "the thing."
Groups like BUCKS and UNITE should be lauded for their efforts. Madison House too.
Administrators and deans should not have to spend so much time fundraising. Not only is it exhausting, but it means they spend less time with students and even less time devoted to academics. This is because Virginia's Republican governor does not allot enough money to public universities.
The one hundred-plus cheaters in Lou Bloomfield's physics class should be busted. The honor system should prevail.
Students should explore Charlottesville. Those who complain that it sucks don't deserve to be here. Also, leaving the confines of the Corner and the Downtown Mall can be rewarding. Seeing the other side of Charlottesville and Albemarle County is an eye-opening experience. I shouldn't have waited until this semester to explore volunteer options. Tutoring a little girl out in the county has been a vital part of my own education.
But thank you, U.Va., for taking me. Thanks for giving me a crapload of money to attend. For giving me a work study job that not only paid the bills, but made me some great friends. Thank you for letting me grow.
And grow I did. Even though I spent too many nights awake late and early enough to hear the thwack-whump of Washington Posts landing on my neighbor's doorstep. Too much time gossiping about and obsessing over boys. Too much time in the basement of Newcomb Hall instead of the library.
But that's okay.
This thing - this whole thing - is for my dad. Without you, Daddy, I wouldn't be walking down this Lawn. I wish you could be here to see me. But it's okay. I'll drink a beer for you.
(Nicola M. White was a 2000-2001 assistant managing editor, and 1999-2000 Focus editor.)