I think about Polonius’ famous parting words to his son Laertes, “This above all: to thine own self be true/And it must follow, as the night the day/Thou canst not then be false to any man." And I think about what I’ve tried to get across to my children their whole lives: Respect yourself and others. Seek balance. Play fair. Look at the big picture. Make good choices. “Make good choices” became a joke among us. A half-joke. We were kidding but we meant it.
You’d think with all of the goodbyes I’ve said in my life, I would be better at it. Most of my married life, we moved a lot. Every time I had built a life that I loved and lived in a house that represented all I had built, we moved. And every time we’d drive away from a place that one last time, I would mean to turn around and look back so that I could store that memory in my brain like a photograph that I would take out and reminisce over. At least that was the plan. But what happened every time was that I was always too busy to look back.
Which was okay. Sometimes it’s better to look ahead.
In the end, we hug somewhat awkwardly, and I say something that is not remotely profound. The words of wisdom I blurt out are, “Have fun.” Like I say, I am bad at goodbyes. Have fun? What kind of lame thing is that to say to your teenager? Do I really want that?
Well, yes, yes I do. Of course I do. Not the kind that hurts anyone, of course, but I do want my children to have fun, happy lives. Are my parting words really that bad? Who knows. These are responsible people who do, by the grace of God, make good choices. Now is not the time to teach them anything I’ve never taught before. So I drive away, thinking of the tall, wonderful, surprisingly self-possessed young person I’ve marveled over lately, and while I am smiling over that, I forget to look back.
And I realize as I am driving away that I’ve just left a person whose job it is to find their own wisdom. Which is, of course, what it’s all about, anyway.