Tony stood on his toes trying to see over the crowd, but all he saw was a sea of crimson mortarboards. There was no way he was going to find his daughter in this mess. He was anxious to see the newly graduated member of his family, but he seemed to be the only one in the family who was like that. Angela was too busy chatting with a family friend to even care that Tony wanted to see his daughter.
"Dad!" she called out over everyone, but Tony heard. Her sweet voice calling his name.
Tony turned around with open arms and was slammed into by the young woman running at full force. Tony spun her around like she was still his little 5-year-old girl with brunette pigtails. "I'm so proud of you, Maymie!" Tony exclaimed. "My little valedictorian is all grown up and is going off to college!" he gleamed with pride as he finally set her down.
Angela let Tony have a moment with their little girl before she congratulated her herself. "Oh, Maymie, your speech was wonderful." Angela said, scooping her daughter into a hug. "Your father and I feel so honored that you would even mention us."
"How could I not?" Maymie said, "you and Dad have been the reason I was able to graduate a year early and still be valedictorian."
"Oh honey, I'm just so proud of you." Angela wiped away a tear. "My little girl is grown up." Angela couldn't help but embracing her daughter in a tight hug again.
"Alright, alright, Angela, let the poor girl go." Tony said, putting a hand on his wife's shoulder. "We should be getting ready to go, the rest of the family wants to see you too."
Tony took Angela's hand in his and wrapped his free arm around the shoulders of his youngest daughter as they headed for the exit of the stadium toward their car.
"Where is the rest of the family anyway?" Maymie asked when she realized the family wasn't still with them at the school.
"Oh, you'll see." Angela said, trying to sound cool about it.
"Mom, you didn't set up another surprise party for me, did you?"
"I didn't, your grandmother did." Angela admitted.
"An-ge-la!" Tony groaned, "it was supposed to be a surprise!"
"Not much of a surprise when she guessed it on the first try." she shrugged with defeat.
"Well, Maymie, maybe you can just act surprised, Mona went to a lot of trouble setting this up."
"Anything for you, Daddy."
It was a pretty uneventful ride home. Maymie was on her cell phone texting her friends and Angela was going through her phone as well making sure she didn't miss anything for the coming week at work. Tony drove, all the while thinking about the last twenty six years with the love of his life and all the ups and downs it took to get them to where they were that day. When he and Angela eloped the night he quit his Iowa teaching job, he thought, besides the day Sam was born, that that was the happiest day of his life. Then, a few months later, Angela started getting sick and they both assumed the worst...cancer. Never in a million years would Tony have guessed that Angela was actually pregnant. Several months later, little Marie Mona Micelli was born and that day too was one of the happiest days of his life. Now, his youngest little girl had graduated from high school. He had no more dependents. Sam and Jonathan both had their own little dependents to worry about, but poor Tony, he was done. It was just him and Angela...not that that was a bad thing.
"Tony, are you okay?" Angela asked, breaking Tony's train of thought as they pulled into their driveway. "You look like you are trying to solve the global warming crisis or something. Is something the matter?"
"Oh, Angela, I'm just thinking about how we are done." Tony said sadly, looking off into the distance.
Angela was confused. "What do you mean we are done?" Maymie stopped what she was doing to listen in.
"We have no more children to raise, it's just you and me now. What on earth are we going to do with ourselves?"
Angela reached out and took Tony's hand from the steering wheel after he had parked the car. "Tony, are you panicking about being an empty-nester?"
"You guys aren't breaking up, are you?" Maymie chimed in from the back seat.
"No, of course not, sweetheart." Angela calmed her daughter's fears. "Maymie, why don't you step outside and wait for us. We'll be just a moment." Maymie obeyed. "Now, Tony, what brought this on?" Angela tried to meet Tony's eyes, but he was still staring off into space.
"It's just that, we don't have any more children to raise. We're done."
"Tony, you've known that we were done having children once Maymie was born and it's not like at my age I can even have another baby."
"I know...I know." Tony finally met her eyes. "Angela, I don't want to lose you."
"Tony, what ever gave you the idea that you would lose me? I'm more in love with you than I have ever been and that love only grows with each passing day." Angela affirmed.
Tony smiled. "I guess I had this silly idea that the thing that has kept us together this long has been our children, but I know that our relationship is so much more than our kids. It's based off of mutual respect, love, devotion, passion, you name it, it probably describes our relationship."
Angela smiled, patting Tony's hand in hers. "Yes it is." she agreed. Maymie picked that moment to knock on the driver's side window and point to her wrist as if to tell them to hurry up. "Are you feeling better about this now?"
"Yes, thank you for that, Angela." Tony said. "Now let's go surprise our little girl." He leaned over the center console and kissed his lovely wife of eighteen years. When he still felt the same heart skipping excitement when their lips met, he knew they'd be okay, even as empty-nesters.