PUBLISHED: 5:19 PM on Wednesday, May 30, 2007
A sisterly send-off
It's cliché but I can remember the day you were born like it happened yesterday. I turned 6-years-old two weeks before you arrived, and I was praying for a brother. I put all my energy into hoping you would be a boy and not a girl. Mom and Dad were going to name you after our grandpa - O.J. - and I really didn't want a sister named Ojae; brother named Ojay would be OK.

Mom and dad gave me the option of not going to school that day. With the C-section scheduled for a Monday, I could either go to kindergarten that afternoon, let Grandma bring me to the hospital or I could tag along for everything. But you know that story. I decided to go to the hospital, the only day of school l missed that kindergarten year. Ever since, I've teased you about cursing me to less than perfect attendance during my high school career.

  Proud sister Amanda Gragert, then 6, holds newborn brother OJay.
I don't think you know how anxious I was. Dad and I waited in the waiting room that early morning, and the second I heard a baby cry I ran down the hallway. I knew that had to be "our baby." Sure enough, the nurses were rolling a baby to the nursery. There was a label that read "Gragert," and the baby boy had red hair and a button nose. Ojay Gragert - my brother - had entered the world.

I held you that afternoon,you opened your eyes and looked at me. I told Mom and Dad you had blue eyes, which is more important than whatever I would have learned in school that day.

Fast forward 18 years: Your hair isn't red anymore but your eyes are still baby blue. You are a 2007 high school graduate. I haven't spent as much time with you during your high school years as I would have liked.

I went to college as you were entering junior high school, and then moved to Alaska as you started junior year at Hooker High School. I know it's a funny name for a school, and so do you. Growing up in Hooker, Okla. has its privileges.

Besides people always remembering where you're from, you've had the opportunity to get a personal educational experience and learn about human behavior. It's not easy going to a school where there are less than 40 people in your senior class and everyone knows everything about you - think of it as character building. Once you leave to go elsewhere, you will never have that cocoon of a small town like that again. You may decide to live in a small town but the people won't know every detail of your life like they do now. It's both scary and exhilarating!

I know this can be frightening but it's time to step out and take the opportunity to be you. You have always been your own person- now you get to do that on your terms. You'll go many places in life. As you travel and get older, you'll see that being true to yourself is the most valuable thing you'll ever do. It will be greatly appreciated by others.

Of course, I wouldn't be your nagging sister if I didn't hassle you with some college tips. Be sure to get acquainted instructors and peers. You might not always agree with the people around you but you'll learn a great deal. You may get a job opportunity, a funny story to tell or a lesson learned. Join organizations and volunteer when you have time and the heart to do so. It sounds trivial but the memories you make from these experiences will stay with you much longer than what grade you made on a final exam. While you need to take time to relax and play, take more time to study and learn.

And, for crying out loud turn in your homework, Dude.

Enough of that - the bottom line is I'm proud of you. You're my brother and I love you.

Watching you get your diploma is an amazing thing, knowing how much potential you have is an overwhelming feeling. I know you're going to take the world by storm. Along with your wonderfully delightful and subtle sense of humor and witty, dry sarcasm is a young man who has approached his time to shine.

Amanda Gragert is editor of Capital City Weekly and a 2001 graduate of Hooker High School in Hooker, Okla., which she said is a "location, not a vocation." Send e-mail to her at