From the Head of School

Bodie's Vantage Points

13 Ways of Looking at Being a Senior Parent

Volume X, Issue 7
(With apologies to Wallace Stevens’ poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”)
 
I. Relief: You did a good job, a good enough job. Sometimes you came in late, sometimes early, sometimes just in time, but you came in. You grew with them, at times holding back, other times not. Your wannabe re-takes come close in count to your got-that check-offs. You might do better the next time, but there’s always something sacred about this time.
 
II. You know the small-house quiet that awaits. Things right now seem as if in slow motion, and you look back over your shoulder in search of those quick, past years of carrying them, holding hands, not holding hands and then walking ahead: growing up measured in negotiated contact.
 
III. “Get a new hobby,” the young graduation speaker says to his parents, to all parents. And he’s right. You recognize what Wallace Stevens calls “the imagination at the end of an era.” You just don’t know what it looks like right now.
 
IV. Remembering those half-lies about the Tooth Fairy sends you back to old pictures, scrapbooks you haven’t had the time to put together, albums not opened in years. You recall the summer-day smell of the back of her neck. You know she sleeps with her arms overhead as if being held up.
 
V. After multitude mornings of telling her to turn off the fan in her room, the light in the bathroom, the toaster-oven, you start coming home to find them silent, off, cold, and you have to hold back from turning them all on again.
 
VI. Leftovers: single socks, a deck of cards with the jokers missing, stretched out Spence hairbands with the glitter missing, bent paperclips, old lab reports, ripped out pages from a notebook, lopsided slippers she no longer wears. She’s starting to clean out, and everything small is magnified into the largeness of her leaving.
 
VII. You read an essay that talks about tripping over the place where a family dog, long gone, used to sleep in the sun. Favorite chairs, claimed seats at the dining room table, who is first, who is second…bearings shift from ownership to absence and to new residency. Even the new dog will have to find a new place. Will her room be your new office?
 
VIII. Once small, erasable boundaries nightmare into those large, red theater ropes: her line and yours. There is no more stooping under or leaping over. Actually, you might not even be in the same theater anymore.
 
IX. She sharpened her claws on you because she could. She challenged everything you said because she could. She threw roadblocks between you and her because she had to. But is she ready? Come sharpen more. Come tell me how wrong I am again, you call out.
 
X. In Duane Reade, a little girl calls out “Mom,” in that lifting cadence of where-are-you, and you involuntarily turn quickly to answer. Diane Ackerman calls this “hot off the heart.”
 
XI. You remember that scene in the “Wizard of Oz” when the witch sky-writes “Surrender Dorothy.” Isn’t that what you’re doing right now, you wonder.
 
XII. Heimweh: “home hurt.” A perfect German word. But this homesickness is a definite two-way street. She’ll be homesick, a lot or a little, but home will be aching a little or a lot, too. Heimweh.
 
XIII. You grow closer and closer apart. The shoreline of wonder has just been stretched farther and longer. The word promise is bigger for you both. This is what you’ve been working toward…all along. You might even hold hands again. 
 
This is the 10th anniversary of Bodie’s Vantage Points. We invite you
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