Tears of sadness, tears of Joy!

The month of May is quickly approaching and I must say, with two graduations, it is going to be a busy one. First of all, our very own Little Charlie, who isn’t so little any more, will be graduating from high school. As I ponder him leaving our nest, I do so with a heavy heart.

Meanwhile, Vernon, our eldest and wisecracking son, will be graduating from college.

As I contemplated these two events this morning, I came to realize how different they are. For instance, when a child graduates from high school you cry, and when they graduate from college? Well, I anticipate that you jump into the air like a high-strung cheerleader and whoop it up with glee.

After a child graduates from high school, he prepares to head off to college. He takes with him all of your best linens, drinking vessels and utensils. Because you want him to have a good life away from home, you let him take your best towels, your high-dollar pots and pans and, “Sure, you can take my favorite mixing bowls.”

Although they might never have played the game, you also arm some of your children with golf clubs so they can be social, there at their new campus home, and get their “game on.”

After a child graduates from college, I hear he generally returns to the nest for a spell. He brings with him what’s left of your garb and disperses it all over the house, where it shall remain until you have had enough and haul it to the thrift store.

It is after the college child’s return that you find out the golf clubs have multiplied tenfold and will live out their existence in the corner of the garage.

When the high school graduate starts out on his own, you realize that although your grocery bill will be less, you are going to take a huge hit to the old wallet.

I speak from experience when I say there is strategic planning that comes along with the asking for money. The conversation usually starts casually enough, and then you hear the, “Uhhhh, so, I’m a little thin in the wallet.”

There’s the play on your sympathy strategy, “I’m starving and have nothing to eat,” and the ever-loving quick cut to the chase with, “I’m broke as a joke!”

It always makes you feel like a cash cow who has been milked of her last quart.

Besides tuition, there are tires that wear out, fender benders and the month where money is stretched so tight that, “If you could help out just a little with the rent, that would be the bomb-diggity.”

But the college graduate? Well, I can’t speak from experience just yet, but I’m dreaming of getting that young man off the payroll, so to speak. I have visions of him paying his own cell phone bill, insurance, medical expenses and (dare I hope) automobile repairs.

With Charlie being the final of four Clinch brothers to graduate from high school, I have been feeling people looking at me as I experience all of the “last of the lasts.”

There was the last first day of school, the last football game, basketball banquet and most recently, the last time we will ever have a son going to prom.

“Will she cry?” folks often ask my husband as these events come to pass. Without missing a beat, he always replies, “Probably.”

And I do. Although I’m an ugly crier, I wear my tears like a badge of honor.

It helps to think of how Vernon’s graduation will be full of firsts. The first time he gets that degree he has worked so hard for. The first time he interviews for a good job in the real world, and the first time, for a long time, that he will be looking at his days without having to think about going to school.

Although it makes me sad to believe that all of our boys are grown, it makes me happy to think about all they will become—with real jobs, real responsibilities and a real life.

Hopefully real life will include triple-car garages and the golf clubs can multiply there.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her by sending an email to loriclinch2010@gmail.com.