My younger son is leaving for college in a couple of weeks.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently completed an odd little memoir provisionally titled Love and Duty. Perhaps the shortest of these epistolary essays, addressed to my own father, goes like this:
New York City
November 13, 2014
Tomorrow is my birthday.
I am remembering my own sons as newborns. Wondering how things might have been different for you, if you had had an experience like mine. That still hour of the night, when the whirling earth slows to a stop. When it seems that even the Ancient of Days has nodded off for a bit, chin on chest. The child’s exhausted mother now back in her bed and fast asleep. Tick, tick, tick goes the house. The gleam of his eyes. The weight of his little body in your lap or on your shoulder. Just the two of you awake in this whole, wide world. Just the two.
When my older son left home six years ago, I remember what I said to my mother over the phone: “It’s hard. But what makes it a little easier to bear is knowing that no one can ever, ever take that away from me.” That being the memory of, say, glancing into the rearview mirror to see a toddler in his carseat. Asking him what he’d done on the playground that day. Listening to his answer. The soft lisp of the words that tumbled out of him. This little fellow who, just three or four years earlier, the world was sure it could do without. This miracle, this beloved child, this fellow human being. My son, but also his own person, with his own destiny to lead, his own road to walk.
And soon the younger one will drop over the horizon, too distant for me to watch his daily progress down that road. But it’s okay. More than okay. Because no one can ever, ever take from me the memory of watching him splash in a wading pool with his older brother. Looking around from time to time to make sure his dad is still there.