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By Staff | May 15, 2009

My wife and I recently survived perhaps one of the biggest challenges of our marriage, namely, putting on a college graduation shindig for our youngest son.

This was a dramatic event in our lives, freighted with tons of emotion. The most obvious is our pride in Chris, who is the first in our immediate family to earn a college degree.

As we commenced upon our graduation party planning, we fell into specific roles: my wife was the emotional and mercurial Kirk to my unflappable and logical Spock.

My wife, being a Midwestern woman, expresses her love for family through food. The days before the graduation ceremony found us procuring alimentary resources at a rate that would rival the U.S. Army.

“Umm … I think we have enough food already,” I said to my wife as we launched yet another foray into the wilds of our local supermarket.

“You have a huge family!” she replied. “Plus, Chris’s friends are all young and have hollow legs.”

The day before graduation passed in a blur of frenetic preparation activities. Tensions were running high.

“You need to relax a bit,” I told my wife in my calm and logical manner. “Things will probably work out just fine.”

This comment elicited the opposite of its intended effect. “Thanks a lot!” she replied. “You’re worrying less just means that I have to worry more!”

Graduation morning finally arrived. My wife, my mother and I logically reported to the venue well ahead of time in order to secure good seats. The trouble is, about 8,000 people had had exactly the same idea.

The arena was a bowl full of people with nary an open seat in sight. As we stood wondering what to do, the strains of Pomp and Circumstance swelled and the graduates began to file in. My wife started to cry, saying, “Just seeing this is enough.”

Some people nearby decided to leave and we got their seats. Straining to pick out our son in the sea of robes and mortarboards, my mind drifted back to the beginnings of this commencement.

I recalled one day when my wife said she had something to show me. Chris was about three.

She took me to the bedroom he shared with his older brother. Chris’s side was immaculate, the bed made, his shoes paired and lined up neatly against the wall. “You did a nice job of cleaning,” I said.

“I didn’t do it,” replied my wife. “This is all Chris!”

OK, so he’s organized. That’s always good. Later that week, we noticed him wearing a toy tool belt which had been accessorized with a set of toy keys.

The truth suddenly dawned. He’s going to grow up to be a janitor! Or as they say nowadays, a custodial engineer.

My mind jumped some years forward. Chris was in second-grade and his teacher had told us that she thought perhaps he had a learning disability. He was subjected to a battery of tests, after which we were summoned to his classroom.

Six educators were waiting there for us. My wife and I both thought “Oh, boy! This doesn’t look good!”

We were told that the child indeed had a learning disability, but that he was also gifted. It was recommended that he get help with his language skills and also be entered into a gifted program where he would do such things as build toy rockets, calculate their trajectories and so on.

We walked out of the school that day in a somewhat of a daze saying, “Hunh! Gifted! How about that!”

It thus should not have surprised my wife when she got a cell phone call from him the other day. The audio was garbled, but she managed to make out the word “cords”.

“But you hate corduroy pants!” she replied.

“No, Mom,” he explained, “Honor cords. I get to wear honor cords when I walk.”

This made my wife cry for the about 500th time that week. Too bad I wasn’t there to logically point out that his being identified as gifted in grade school could have led to the logical conclusion of honor cords.

As I predicted, our little graduation soiree went swimmingly; a fine time was had by all.

The quote of the day came from Norma, one of Chris’s instructors. As she talked about the myriad possibilities that lay before our newly-minted engineer, Norma observed, “The more things you do, the more interesting you become.”

Amen! And thanks to Norma and all those who helped Chris navigate the rocky shoals of Higher Education.

Late in the day I chatted with a guy whose three kids have all finished college. “Now that he’s done, you’ll likely notice a new phenomena,” he advised. “It’s this little thing called ‘more money.'”

And then it was my turn to cry.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com

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