Well, it’s happened again. Time for my sons to go back to their homes out of state (far out of state) and jobs after Christmas. And, no, I am not happy to get my house back and have the peace and quiet. No I am not happy to see their mother lose their company and affection and the joy she has in paying attention to them. This is the saddest day of my year. To drive up to the terminal and see them get out, grab their bags from the trunk and step into the doors brings my heart up into my throat. It’ll take a few days for the heart to return to its normal place in my chest.
My life is filled with such moments. Dropping them off at college is a video that plays in my mind in HD. The final turn away, the lonely ride back home, the sense that now everything changes forever.
Here is a poem that captures the moment, though the central figure is a daughter.
We drop you at O’Hare with your young husband,
two slim figures under paradoxical signs:
United and Departures. The season’s perfect oxymoron.
Dawn is a rumor, the wind bites, but there are things
fathers still can do for daughters.
Off you go looking tired and New Wave
under the airport’s aquarium lights,
with your Coleman cooler and new, long coat,
something to wear to the office and to parties
where down jackets are not de rigeur.
Last week winter bared its teeth.
I think of summer and how the veins in a leaf
come together and divide
come together and divide.
That’s how it is with us now
as you fly west toward your thirties
I set my new cap at a nautical angle, shift
baggage I know I’ll carry with me always
to a nether hatch where it can do only small harm,
haul up fresh sail and point my craft
toward the punctual sunrise.
“The End of the Holidays” by Mark Perlburg, from The Impossible Toystore. © Louisiana State University Press, 2000.
Go here to hear Garrison Keillor read it.