“This is the terminal: the light
Gives perfect vision, false and hard;
The metal glitters, deep and bright.
Great planes are waiting in the yard –
They are already in the night.”
Ominous-sounding word, terminal, a place for departures that suggest the end, the ultimate arrival.
“And you are here beside me, small,
Contained and fragile, and intent
On things that I but half recall--
Yet going whither you are bent.
I am the past, and that is all.”
Yvor Winters dedicates “At the San Francisco Airport,” “To my daughter, 1954.” Life is arranged asynchronously. The generations can never mesh. Children grow stronger as we’re getting older. I no longer think of Michael as “small, / Contained and fragile.” At thirteen, he’s taller by six inches than his mother and anxious to be taller than me. Knowing when to assert authority and when to lay back is everything – a new, more cunning application of humility.
“But you and I in part are one:
The frightened brain, the nervous will,
The knowledge of what must be done,
The passion to acquire the skill
To face that which you dare not shun.”
Here I am still learning to be a man, and my son is going off on his own. Winters nails it, the fundamental lesson we give them: “To face that which you dare not shun.” Responsibility, honesty, honor, self-respect, good manners – endlessly renewable tools for living.
“The rain of matter upon sense
Destroys me momently. The score:
There comes what will come. The expense
Is what one thought, and something more—
One's being and intelligence.”
Today he and his mother board a plane for Toronto, where they’ll rent a car and drive to St. Andrew’s College, where Michael will spend the next five years. We expected another five years of his company, which I increasingly enjoy. On Sunday we talked much of the afternoon about Plato and Full Metal Jacket.
“This is the terminal, the break.
Beyond this point, on lines of air,
You take the way that you must take;
And I remain in light and stare--
In light, and nothing else, awake.”
Along with his school blazer and tie, white shirts, gray flannels and all the name tags my wife has sewn into his clothes, Michael is packing the one tangible gift I’m giving him – Moby-Dick.