Loco Parentis: The Long Goodbye

Kids. I can’t wait until they’re out on their own. I want them never to leave

Marcy hated her trip to Europe; she felt everyone she encountered was judging her, and finding her lacking. (It is true she tried speaking Spanish in a pizza shop in Paris, despite explicit warnings from the tour guide that Parisians don’t cotton to that.) I don’t anticipate that Jake will suffer from any such feelings of inadequacy; Rome and Florence and Paris, like the teachers at his school, can take him as he is or be damned. Jake’s been different from the rest of the world for so long that it no longer even registers with him when people look at him askance — which they do, inevitably. My son sticks out in a crowd because he’s big and muscle-bound, but also because he doesn’t give a hoot. If he feels like farting, he’ll fart. If he feels like dancing, he’ll dance. So much of my parenting effort has gone to trying to get him to fit in, go with the flow, cause less general ruckus and distraction. He’s never seen the point in any of that; why should he, when inevitably, eventually, the world adapts to him?

And with that, suddenly, I can see him: pirouetting along the cobbled streets of Rome in his bejeweled green shirt, a 330-pound Colossus singing Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” in his high, clear falsetto, really excited to be on his way to view the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

I think he’d be great at college interviews, actually. I hope I can convince him of that.


IT’S MARCY calling from college, at midnight. “Is something wrong?” I ask anxiously. She mostly calls when she’s overwhelmed with homework and tests and her job; she unloads and then goes on with her life, having handed all that angst to me. The recent college grad with whom I share an office at work has overheard a number of these conversations. She told me the other day that she’d called her mom and apologized for having done the same thing when she was at Villanova; she’d had no idea, she said, of the stress those calls caused at the other end.

“No, everything’s good. I just finished a paper I’m writing for my Women in Literature class. I wondered if maybe you could read it for me.”

“When’s it due?”

“Tomorrow morning at nine.” She hears my sigh. “I know. If you don’t have time, that’s okay. It’s just … I think it’s pretty good.”

“Go ahead and e-mail it to me,” I say in resignation.

“I already did.”