How to prepare for the graduation season

Published 12:26 pm Thursday, May 2, 2013

Column: Thanks for Listening, by Scott Schmeltzer

Graduation parties are coming up soon.

The actual planning starts during the child’s sophomore year when the mother of the graduate states to the father of the graduate, “Honey, we need a new kitchen before (place name of child here) graduates.” Catching the father unaware that their child is even in high school, the father’s response is usually, “Huh?”

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Now, let it be known that us fathers have been warned but have no idea that the kitchen is just the start of the remodeling that will take place or need to take place prior to having a four-hour graduation party. Not since the three-hour tour from “Gilligan’s Island” has a couple of hours led to so many years.

Once the kitchen is done, then the living room, den, child’s room, garage (what if it rains?), and we have not even gotten to the landscaping or the extra room/mud room that will need to be put in.

Now being the good husbands we are, we have patiently waited until November of (insert child’s name here) senior year to get started on these projects because there were always 18 other things to do around the house instead. But now with six months until graduation we need to:

A. Go to the bank for a remodeling loan or …

B. Remodel it ourselves.

Many of us pick B thinking that we can save money, or being a man, want to show our wives how handy we are. Somewhere between picking B and early March, many men learn that their wives are brighter than they thought and that they themselves are not Bob Villa, but more like Tim the Tool Man.

Now it is up to us men to pull off the impossible: find a contractor, landscape person, electrician and plumber to finish the 12 half projects that we, with the help of “Building Stuff for Dummies” type books and a sister-in-law’s boyfriend, whom I had thought was a plumber type, started.

Getting a hold of all of these experts is never a problem. Getting them to come to your home is. First, you need to be persistent and call them and state how your marriage is on the line and that graduation remodeling is the most important thing in the universe. Second, contractors like money, so go back to A. Once you have done this your worries can take a brief time out.

Honey, (I did say brief) make sure that (insert child who will graduate) has enough money for senior skip day, senior T-shirt day, senior trip day, senior go somewhere with all of the other seniors day, sports, band, math club, did I say senior T-shirt day?

OK, now with the other three pennies that you own, it is time to find a rich uncle or borrow it from your child (they have more money than you do because you are paying for everything). OK just kidding, but if you do have a rich uncle, now is a great time to be nice to him.

It is April or early May, and your wife and (insert name of soon to be graduate) have some shopping to do. They have decided on a plan to “save you money” by of course spending even more money than you thought possible for napkins, cake, food, party stuff, a new computer to make a PowerPoint slideshow of every photo you own of your graduate, plastic plates, glasses, forks, spoons, coffee, pop, punch and, of course, a fancy reception sign-in book with a fancy pen.

For reasons of insanity, the husband never sees these receipts, because the wife has told them “it is around here somewhere,” and then they never talk about it again. It is like “Fight Club” — you just never talk about again, ever.

So, we are heading down the stretch, it is getting to the middle of May, and guess what? The camera you have owned for about three years is now inadequate to cover the graduation and all of the festivities surrounding it.

Honey, will you go buy a really nice digital camera and also a video camera or a cool combo of the two would really be nice because, well (this will be the 1,374th time you have heard this) this is the only time that (insert graduate’s name) will be graduating. This saying and then the guilt that comes with it is really what has got you to spend so much money in the first place, so we go and buy a nice camera.

Graduation is here, and the pomp and circumstance and all the picture-taking is taking place. You see your graduate get the diploma that they have worked so hard for, and you get all misty and a tear comes to your eye, but you fight it off by thinking of the bills. And then your graduate comes up to you, hugs you and tells you they love you and the dam breaks and you start to cry and all the work you have done seems well worth it.

On the way home to your graduation party, your wife turns to you and states, “I love you,” and then grabs your hand to squeeze it — this is nice — but you wonder to yourself, does she need more money for something else, or is this a true moment of love shared between two people because their child has just become a grown-up? The thought quickly passes because a raindrop has hit your windshield, and you both freeze and look at the storm clouds to the west that are now aiming directly at your remodeled three-year project.

You quickly say a few prayers to turn the rain clouds away, but it is inevitable. It is going to storm, and guess what? There is not one thing you can do about it. As a father, you tell everyone that it is OK, and you do whatever you can to make the best of it. (You also go grab a beer in the garage fridge — your secret stash) and drink it down.

The rain or snow (crazy, but you never know) pours down, but guess what? It does not ruin your party because after all of the planning, organizing, remodeling, card sending and money spending you have done. What really matters is your family is all there, and the love is all there and a little rain will never put a damper on your graduation plans, because as a family, you love each other and that, among all the food, drinks, balloons and people, is what shines through the most to your guests.

Congratulations to all the moms and dads who have a son or daughter graduating. You are the best.

Good luck with the weather.


Tribune Publisher Scott Schmeltzer’s column appears every Thursday.