I've relished the time I've spent here and the fact that I created this for myself. Most of all, I've cherished the time with my son, Teo. But now I near the dreaded time of departure, and I have to force myself to remember that my discomfort provides a great opportunity to invoke the Process.
Teo and I have a lot of leaving and separation to look back upon. At about age 12, about six years into our divorce, my ex-wife and I had to make a decision when her new husband was faced with the choice of losing his job or re-locating to Portland, Ore. Would Teo stay in Albuquerque with me or move with them to Portland?
My wife and I had made one vow when we divorced, and that was to keep Teo's interest first, ours second, in anything we did. But at first, the familiar crap came up. Who were they to take my son away from me? What had I done to deserve this? What had he done to deserve this? If only we'd never divorced in the first place. Yada, yada, yada. I downloaded guilt through a high-speed connection.
Teo has always been preternaturally mature and wise, at least we created him that way. After having him see a counselor, who agreed with us, we decided it best to leave the ultimate decision up to him. Some might say that was a dereliction of parental duty. I don't know. But it felt like the right thing to do at the time. As I realize now, there was no wrong decision. But we did not understand that at the time.
I still swallow hard when I think about the day he told us he had decided to go to Oregon. I felt bad for myself, but I felt worse for him for having to even make the decision.
During his years in Oregon, he came to stay with me for summers, and the occasional holiday. I visited Portland a couple of times. But for the most part, I watched my son grow up from afar and tried to maintain our bond.
Our relationship not only survived, but thrived, despite my position as a long-range parent. I don't know if we could have grown any closer, but we did not grow further apart. We settled into a rhythm and an intimacy. Our time together was sweet, but inevitably too short for my liking and the trips to the airport to drop him off were the emotional equivalent of a root canal, no matter how much practice I got.
After he went off to college in New York City, we saw even less of each other. His summer stays were curtailed greatly and we made do with weekly phone calls, holiday reunions and my rare visit to the Big Apple.
Although Teo mastered life in the city, he struggled through college, more than I even knew until recently. At some point three or so years in, he was ready to give it up. Or at least take a semester off and consider what he would do with the rest of his life. When he told us, it brought up a lot of judgments from both his mother and me and his stepfather. But we again decided it was his decision to make.
I knew this time that whatever he decided was right. No question. So when he decided to take a semester off, with the possibility that he might not return to school, I had no qualms. The fact that he returned to school later and graduated is nice in a Phase 1 sense. But really, I wouldn't have cared if he had gone off to live with Pygmies. I just wanted him to be happy and follow his heart.
Now when I see him at age 26, living in a foreign country like he was born here, I couldn't be prouder. I am happy that he's learned to figure things out for himself, and the biggest piece of advice he's asked me for is what kind of razor to shave with. You gotta thrown dad a bone some time.
I don't quite know what to make of our relationship now. As close as I feel to my son, he is still inscrutable at times. But he remains my best creation ever and my favorite reflection. His full name, Teodoro, means "divine gift" in Italian. I believe he's more than lived up to that billing.
I've thought about the way I played the Parent Game and about how my father played the Parent Game. My father was a good father, still is. But Dad came from a line of a stoic Italians (I know, an oxymoron) and didn't say much most of the time. It was difficult to know what he thought about me and my siblings. He worked hard and raised a big family. He'd show up at my baseball and basketball games to cheer, but rarely offered advice. He would acknowledge a good report card, then go back to watching TV before nodding off in his recliner.
About 15 years ago, I decided to write a letter to my father back in Ohio for Father's Day. I wrote to tell him that even though I had sometimes felt a distance between us, I appreciated him and loved him and I just thought he ought to know.
He wrote back a wonderful letter, the only letter I can ever remember getting from him. It's stored in a safe place. I think I will read part of it at his funeral, whenever that may happen. I haven't actually read the letter in years, but I distinctly remember him writing that whatever distance I might have felt, it was not for lack of love, but his desire to let me and my brothers and my sister find our own paths in life.
I have been at peace with my father (and that aspect of myself) ever since. I know that he gave me a great gift, and no matter how he passes, or when he passes, I won't ever have any regret about what our relationship was, is, or could have been. It's been just perfect.
I realize that I created my father to give me that gift of self-reliance, and I created Teo to receive it from me.
We can never truly know what we are to someone in their hologram, but I am happy to have passed my father's gift to Teo, and as I prepare for the long journey back and a few hours of sadness, I, too, hope my son is at peace with our relationship.