He sat in his car in a line of cars waiting for his son at the end of the school day. The school yard was a vacant desert. He heard the bell ring and then the grounds swarmed as class after class was dismissed. He spotted his son, backpack slung over his shoulder, walking in that adolescent gait that spoke of both change and the promise of adulthood. The son opened his locker, stuffed some books into his backpack, then shut his locker and twisted the combination as if to scramble something. The boy walked towards the line of cars and spotted his father. Their eyes met in an unexpected brief gaze of both recognition and distance, the wariness of the relationship of both father and son, guidance and friction interlaced like hands in a handshake.
A memory came to him as he sat in the car with his son approaching him. It was the day he refused to kiss his father goodbye. It was an awkward moment of gesture rather than words. His father was dropping him off at school. It was the eighth grade. He looked at his father then opened the car door and stepped onto the grass parkway fronting the school. No words, no comments, just this silent gesture that something had changed. He glanced back at his father. There was an animal look of both hurt and misunderstanding in his eyes. That was how it was between his father and him. No words. Only silent gestures. He looked again at his son now approaching the car. He wanted things to be different between his son and he but could they really be different? His son reached for the door handle, opened the car door then swung into the passenger side of the front seat, and slammed the door shut.
“Hi, Dad,” he said looking quizzically at his father, showing no comprehension of the mood that had settled momentarily on his father.
“Well, how did the day go?”
“O. K. “
“Just O. K.”
“To the library?”
“Can’t we go to the skateboard park?”
“We agreed this morning.”
“But Jason and Ted are going to be there.’
“To the Library.”
They pulled into the parking lot of the library. The trees in the landscaped parkway threw long dark shadows and the sun shone brilliantly against a monosyllabic blue sky.
Inside, he picked up a sailing magazine as he watched his son disappear behind a computer terminal. His son deftly maneuvered the menus of the online catalog then disappeared behind some bookshelves. He looked down at the sailing magazine. Sailing was his father’s sport. The desire for a sailboat fueled the motivation for an entire career. He enjoyed sailing even missed it. A summer day out on the water under a hot sun but he had wanted something else out of life.
His son came up to him with two checked out books. He noticed the titles. “Captain’s Courageous”by Kipling and a biography.
“Can we go now? “ his son asked.
“Sure son,” he replied nodding to the librarian and feeling an unexplained pang of melancholy.
On the drive home they passed the wetlands. The winter sun was just above the horizon and the tide very low. A great blue heron crossed their path in its slow winged flight.
They arrived home.
“How was your day, you two?” the mother and wife asked as she pulled a dish of macaroni and cheese out of the oven and set it on the dinner table.
“Take your seats,” she said.
The two sat at the dining table and passed the servings around, each helping himself. The father looked out the window at the moon as it rose above the house tops. It was rising large and luminous. He could see in faint traces the seas and lakes of the moon, names like “ the lake of autumn,” “the lake of dreams” and “the lake of solitude.” He thought about his son. He was growing up in a changed world. His son’s world would be much different than his own world just as his own world had been much different than his father’s world. He looked down at his dinner and then glanced again at the moon, a pale disk rising in the diminishing light of evening. He gave an inaudible sigh and then looked again at the dinner on his plate.
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