Shakespeare, in his Sonnets, famously imagined three strategies for escaping death: creating art, having children, and loving deeply. It’s a tribute to sex that it can sometimes be involved in at least two out of those three.
I considered this today as I took my son to board the bus for sleepaway camp.
There are two suddenly shocking moments in the life of a parent on the first day off to sleepaway camp. The first is when your child boards the bus and disappears behind the darkened glass windows of the vehicle. The second is when the bus actually takes off down the street and disappears from your sight.
As you stand in line for him to board the bus, you mentally prepare for the first shocking moment. You hug him one last time, wish him a good summer, and the next moment he’s inside the bus.
Peering through the dark windows of the bus, you can still wave to him and see him waving back. But you can’t make out any facial expressions. You see him turn to his friends. Every now and then, he looks back and waves again. Then he turns to his book.
The counselors are all aboard now and the bus closes its doors. The driver shifts the vehicle into gear. Your son starts to wave again, as do all the other kids. Now it’s time for the second shocking moment – the disappearance of the bus with your son aboard.
As the bus nears the corner, you think how he’ll probably outlive you. You pray he will. He’ll be on his own then. You won’t be able to accompany him forever.
As the bus finally rounds the corner and disappears, you keep looking at the place where the bus was, just a moment ago. You feel hungry, but you know it’s just your emotions.
There’s no end to goodbyes. They go on forever.
You think how he and his children — and all the generations yet to come — will all eventually know this same sudden shocking emotion that you’re feeling now.
As whatever vehicle they use in the future takes off down whatever kind of road, leaving someone standing waving goodbye.
Three known strategies to escape death: art, children, and loving deeply. It’s a tribute to sex, that most humble of human pleasures, that it can sometimes serve at least two of those three.
© Stephen Snyder, MD 2011
New York City