By Tim Hayes

We’re in upstate New York this weekend for the graduation of our oldest daughter from college.  Just as it’s been all along for the past 22-plus years, her experience today is the first among our three kids, and it promises to be an emotional, joyful, file-this-in-your-memory-bank day.

This is always a sentimental time of year, starting with the pinnacle of them all, Mother’s Day.  Hearts and flowers, cards and hugs, phone calls and tears.  And going out for dinner.  I had a friend in high school who worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken, of all places.  He used to say he came to absolutely despise Mother’s Day because he was frying greasy chicken non-stop for 12 hours that day each year, to keep up with all the cheapskates who forgot to make reservations at legitimate sit-down restaurants. 

Pretty sure he never got too sentimental on Mother’s Day.  Too busy trying to scrub the Colonel’s Secret Recipe out of his hair and clothes.

Then there are all of the high school and college graduations.  In our family this year, of the seven grandchildren, we have three graduating from high school and one from college.  A big summer of parties, gifts, chapters closing, and new vistas opening. 

Our high school held its annual Seniors’ Honor Choral Concert the other evening.  Traditionally toward the end of that event, the senior students perform a song by themselves on stage, usually a selection that deals with friendship and parting.  It would be a killer, no matter who sang it or what the context.  But when the seniors do it – walking up to the edge of the stage in a line and holding hands toward the end of the song, mere days from commencement – it’s so powerfully moving.  I didn’t even know half the kids up there the other night, and I got really choked up nonetheless.  Wait ‘til next year, when our youngest is up there as a senior.  A three-hanky moment, at least.  As I said, it’s a sentimental time of year.

Sometimes, even the summer isn’t very long before graduates fly away again.  We have friends with a daughter finishing high school, and two weeks later leaving for summer courses to get a jump start on her college career.  Far-away internships mean popping home for a few days, then loading the car and heading off again.  The partings get a little easier, perhaps, the older your kids get and the bigger and more exciting the opportunities presented to them.  I like to tell myself that, anyway.

It’s tough to not recall the days when they’d run to you the second you came home from a day’s work Downtown, screaming your name, hugging your kneecaps, so happy to see you.  The hugs now are maybe even sweeter, since they can’t come so often.  It’s so great being a Dad to such successful, talented, accomplished, independent, confident children.  Thank God for their mother, who gets most of the credit!  I sure do.

Which brings us to Father’s Day, the third leg of the early-summer sentimental trifecta.  We’re shooting for a new backyard grill this year as the big gift, as I am the recognized grillmaster around these parts.  But the grill and the yardwork and the “I-filled-your-gastank-and-got-you-a-car-wash-today” and the board games on a hot summer night and savoring the chance to actually sit together over a meal – those things are only the context. 

The real gift for me can’t be limited to one Sunday in June.  I feel it every day, knowing how much we all care for each other and how proud I am of my three kids.

Told you.  It’s a sentimental time of year.  Now, who’s up for some Kentucky Fried Chicken?

Copyright 2013 Tim Hayes Consulting