Your kids are your pride and joy, your cross and anchor, your pillar and post, your hopes and fears for all the years. They need your love and attention, advice and consent, support and validation. And they grow. And somewhere along the way to adulthood you stop thinking of them in terms of yourself. They stop being primarily your anything and you can see them as themselves. Ed spent the first part of the summer hitch-hiking across Canada without texting or phoning much, which has been just fine with me. A friend asked if I was even a little bit worried when I didn't hear from him? No, I said, emphatically, I'd worry more if did get in touch a lot, because that would mean he was bored or broke. Or dead in a ditch, said my friend. Or that, I agreed, but of the three possibilities -- bored, broke, dead -- the first two are way more likely. My friend said she was glad I was not her dad, and I agreed. Ed finally called from Vancouver last week. I could hear the satisfaction in his voice, the sense of accomplishment. He'd made it all the way across the country. I decided to fly out and meet him, because I like Vancouver and seldom get a chance to see my friends out there and, well, because I missed my boy. Also because I believe in story arc, and Ed hitch-hiking home would be a long denouement. Sam and Frodo don't have to walk home from Mount Doom. Ed had got all the way to the coast, thrown his ring into the fire, and he should go home on the back of an eagle (well, a Boeing 737). So I fly out, and Ed and I end up one evening in the Alibi Room (such a great bar) and on my way back from the bathroom I see that he seems to be getting on very well with the table next to ours, half a dozen mixed twenty-somethings with Teutonic-type accents. Lots of laughter. And then, as I approach, I see everyone, including Ed, lean forward and snort something off the backs of their hands. Like this.
Seriously. Now I am not more of a hypocrite than I can help. I can't say I have never ingested anything off my hand - or someone else's hand, come to think of it. So I am not appalled at what I see. But I probably look a little quizzical. Hey Dad, says Ed, wiping his nose, you should try this stuff. It's great! Turns out they are snorting snuff, which I have always associated with pre-cigarette culture but which seems to be enjoying a renaissance what with smoking being so uncool (like horking up your nose is sexy? Not that I am judging. But, you know, really?) and socially complicated. Whatever. Anyway, we move the tables together and hang out together until the bar closes, another hour or so. Yes, I try the snuff too. I get a zippy feeling and a huge hit of mint -- seems I am snorting menthol, funny because back in the day these were so not the cool cigarettes. I am dazzled -- positively dazzled -- at how easy Ed is with me and all these strangers. He is confident, careless, funny, teaching some English and learning some Schweizerdeutsch, palling with the guys and flirting with the gals, unself-conscious, putting it out there and not worrying about looking like a dork. It's not a chrysalis-butterfly transformation, but Ed has modulated, modified, altered over the last few months. Or maybe the change is partly him and partly the way I see him. Yes, he'll always be my boy but he is also, clearly, totally, himself.