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A holiday homecoming can be over much too soon.


by James Merkin

My son returned to his university early this morning. Awake most of the night, I had no problem getting up. I wanted to make him a good breakfast, something to hold him, but he said cereal was all he wanted, maybe some juice. He was planning to eat later, on the road with Curt; he'd be picking Curt up on the way.

"Curt?" I asked.

"We?re in a lot of the same classes," he said.

So I offered to help pack his car and got up from the table; stacks of pancakes still steaming, ham and eggs sitting there.

But he said, "Never mind, it's all done; I'm not taking much. Curt's already got all the stuff we need in the apartment."

"I thought you were living in the dorm?" I said, puzzled, wondering when I'd missed hearing about that change in plans.

"Oh no," he said, "it's all arranged. I moved my things before Christmas."

"So Curt isn't just riding back with you; you're good friends?"

"Not just friends, Dad," he said. "We're together now. He's my boyfriend."

"Oh," I said.

By then he had his parka on, knitted cap, gloves; I could barely see his face as he walked away. He was halfway to the car before I could speak:

"Goodbye, son," I said, and he turned. "I love you, boy."

Thank God he heard me.

When he ran back into my arms I could see his eyes were just as wet as mine.


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Thanks to all of you for your kind remarks. Writing for this audience makes it all worthwhile.

Des is quite right to identify the second pivotal line as the key. It wasn't until I came up with it that I became confident this piece was a keeper.

I am struck by the oblique nature of communication within many families. Clearly this father and son do not confide in one another, and it is only by creeping up on a subject that they manage to exchange information. Yet their bond is a strong one, and it has been reaffirmed in this moment -- which for many of us has figured as the crucial moment in our own relationship to our parents.


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All of what has been said, James. A wonderful piece, and one that brought to mind my own experiences, and the feelings that go with having information that you are both eager and hesitant to impart, and that "waiting for an opening feeling".

I, too, loved the "thank god he heard me" line, remembering all the things that went unheard.



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